Colorado’s famous 14ers offer adventurous hikers a thrilling, unique experience coupled with awe-inspiring views. However, these majestic peaks also bring with them certain risks and challenges that require careful preparation and prudent decision-making. In our continuous effort to equip outdoor enthusiasts with valuable information, we are proud to present our latest infographic with 14 critical tips for safe ascents of Colorado’s 14ers.
This quick guide provides an easy-to-understand, visual representation of key safety points, drawing upon expert advice, seasoned hiker wisdom, and best practices. Read on to equip yourself with the knowledge needed to ensure a safe, memorable, and rewarding mountain experience.
Here is a rundown of our 14 tips for 14er safety with a bit more detail and explaination.
- Research the route and conditions. Review the map and photos of the route and check 14ers.com and other sources for conditions along the trail and summit.
- Pack the ten essentials and start early. These are the key pieces of gear needed to respond in emergencies. Starting early ensures you have time if obstacles arise and avoids afternoon thunderstorm risk.
- Be mindful of afternoon snowmelt. As the sun melts the snow faster, stream levels rise in the afternoon and can make crossing them more dangerous.
- Use trek poles for balance and stability. These help not only with stream crossings but also on the loose rock and scree that is common on Colorado 14ers.
- Take fewer, longer breaks while hiking. This conserves your energy more efficiently than taking frequent short breaks – which people tend to do.
- Stay on trail and avoid taking shortcuts. Most shortcuts take you into or close to dangerous terrain where falls can cause serious injury or death.
- Spend a night camping nearby to acclimate. Even one night spent above 9,000 feet will help reduce your risk of altitude sickness the next day.
- Watch out for AMS symptoms. These include nausea, headache, fatigue, confusion, and shortness of breath. If these occur and cannot be managed with OTC painkillers, descend immediately.
- Be down by 1 pm to avoid thunderstorms. Thes are common during the Colorado summer monsoon and are a major threat to those above the tree line.
- Watch for signs of storms. These include vertical clouds building upwards, wind shifting direction, and visible rain or storms on the horizon.
- Maintain 3 points of contact on rock. When scrambling, move only one foot or hand at a time to reduce your risk of slipping and falling. It is easier to hurt yourself than you might think.
- Look for cairns but don’t rely on them. These small rock piles can be helpful when you are near the route but need a little confirmation, but are best used in combination with maps, GPS, and major landmarks.
- Enjoy the summit views! An app called Peakfinder on your phone can be used to identify major peaks on the horizon around you.
- Bring your summit sign! It’s a great way to take a memorable photo and it’s safer than drinking a summit beer (it’s not fun to deal with lightning while buzzed). Remember to take your sign down with you instead of leaving it for others to use.