7 Reasons You Should Become a 14er Peak Steward
If you have an unquenchable thirst for mountain air and an incurable desire to educate others about the alpine ecosystem, then strap in. This is your call to a higher calling. And by “higher,” we mean 14,000 feet higher. Here are seven compelling reasons to become a 14er Peak Steward – a program of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative.
What is a Peak Steward?
Before we dive into the reasons for becoming a 14er Peak Steward, let’s define what exactly this role entails. The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) runs the Peak Stewards program, an impressive undertaking focused on protecting the delicate alpine environment of Colorado’s iconic 14,000-foot peaks. As a Peak Steward, you are a volunteer and an ambassador, playing a crucial part in educating hikers about the Leave No Trace practices.
Why is this important? Well, as visitor numbers on these beautiful mountains increase, so does the potential for damage to the fragile alpine ecosystem. Peak Stewards are on the front lines, ensuring that our Fourteeners remain pristine and beautiful for future generations. Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s dive into why you might want to take on this high-altitude role.
1. Immerse Yourself in the Alpine Wilderness
As a Peak Steward, you get to spend time on the beautiful Fourteeners. You’ll witness sunrises that Instagram would be envious of, and encounter wildlife that makes your heart flutter faster than a hummingbird’s wings. You’re not just visiting the mountains; you’re working to protect them, making you a part of their story.
2. Educate Hikers About Leave No Trace Practices
Armed with knowledge and a love for the mountains, you will educate hikers on the importance of minimal impact hiking. The “Leave No Trace” practices you teach will ensure that the alpine environment remains healthy and vibrant for future generations of both wildlife and hikers.
3. Flexibility in Your Volunteer Work
With the Peak Stewards program, you’re not tied down to a strict schedule. You get to decide when and where you want to serve, with a minimum commitment of four days per season. Perfect for anyone who prefers their alarm clock to be the rising sun rather than an electronic buzz.
4. Expand Your Alpine Knowledge
The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative provides a comprehensive training program for new Peak Stewards. It will give you a crash course (not literally, we promise) in alpine ecosystems, Forest Service regulations, and visitor interaction skills. You’ll know your lichens from your pikas, and be the font of wisdom hikers turn to on their journey.
5. Be Part of a Mountain-Loving Community
When you become a Peak Steward, you’re not just joining a volunteer program; you’re joining a community of passionate, mountain-loving individuals. You’ll learn together, work together, and perhaps share a thermos of hot chocolate together on a chilly alpine morning.
6. Make a Tangible Impact
Your role as a Peak Steward is vital for preserving Colorado’s Fourteeners. By educating the public and monitoring visitor behavior, you are making a direct impact on the health of these beautiful landscapes. You’re a superhero, just without the spandex (unless that’s your hiking outfit of choice, of course).
7. Hone Your Interpersonal Skills
Engaging with hikers and spotting those “teachable moments” will help you develop excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Not only will this be beneficial on the mountains, but these skills are transferable to other areas of your life as well.
Feeling inspired? Sign Up Today!
Ready to pack your backpack and lace up your boots?
Sign up or learn more to become a 14er Peak Steward today.
There are also other ways to support the peaks, including donating to CFI directly and volunteering for their trail construction and maintenance projects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A: Peak Stewards are volunteers who educate Fourteener hikers about Leave No Trace practices, monitor visitor behavior, and serve as ambassadors for the alpine environment.
A: You’ll need to undergo a one-day training program with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative that provides you with a foundation in alpine ecosystems, visitor interaction skills, and Forest Service regulations.
A: Peak Stewards commit to volunteering four days per season, with flexibility in choosing when and where you want to work.
A: Stewards often encounter dogs off leash, trail cutting, disturbing or feeding wildlife, and unprepared hikers. They help address these issues through education and “teachable moments”.
Alex is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.