GOLDEN, COLORADO – The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) has successfully wrapped up its 2023 field season, marking significant progress in several ongoing projects to preserve and maintain the state’s iconic peaks. CFI’s seasonal trail crews, lauded as some of the nation’s best, have been the backbone of these initiatives, collectively hiking an estimated 2,726,400 vertical feet this year alone, according to a post by the organization on their Facebook page.
Here are just a few of the peaks and projects CFI worked on during their 2023 season.
Trail Reconstruction on Mount Elbert
Among the key projects undertaken this year was the two-year trail reconstruction on Mount Elbert’s “Black Cloud” trail. The least trafficked route on Elbert, Black Cloud received a grade of “C” in CFI’s Statewide 14er Report Card due to severe erosion on its upper slopes. Partnering with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, CFI initiated work to reroute hikers through a more durable talus field and ease the trail’s steep grade.
Ongoing Work on Mount Shavano
CFI also returned to Mount Shavano for its second year of a large-scale, six-season undertaking. The crew has been hard at work building a new trail to the 14,230-foot summit. Given the enormity of the project, two separate crews have been deployed, one below treeline and another above, to facilitate faster progress.
This is the largest project undertaken in CFI’s nearly 3-decade long history. It is expected to continue for more than half a decade to create a sustainable trail to the summit. Partners on the project include the U.S. Forest Service, Salida Mountain Trails, local businesses, and many others.
Erosion Mitigation on Grays Peak
In a unique collaboration with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), CFI used a private helicopter service to fly large logs to mitigate erosion on Grays Peak. Over a single weekend, volunteers carried and installed several hundred-pound logs along the trail corridor. These are critical for addressing ongoing erosion and run-off problems caused by the growing number of visitors to these popular 14ers near Denver.
In addition to these major milestones, CFI did work on dozens of other trails and peaks throughout the summer. This included corporate partnership projects on Mount Evans with BOA Fit Systems, Plante Moran, and CCIG, bark stripping and log preparation work on Quandary Peak, volunteer peak stewardship at more than a dozen different trailheads, and much more.
The Heroes Behind the Trails
CFI’s 2023 professional trail crew staff comprised a six-person fixed-site crew on North Elbert, a two-person crew on Elbert’s Black Cloud route, and two separate crews on Mount Shavano. An eight-person Adopt-a-Peak team was also deployed, split into the Pika and Marmot crews.
CFI plays a vital role in preserving the fragile native alpine tundra ecosystems uniquely adapted to Colorado’s 14ers. With an estimated 279,000 hiker use days on these peaks every year, the need for sustainable hiking routes and ecological protection has never been more critical. Through partnerships with the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and countless volunteers and donors, CFI is working to keep these cherished natural wonders safe for future generations.
Protect the Peaks: Support CFI’s Impact
CFI’s vital work to protect and maintain Colorado’s Fourteeners requires ongoing community support. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys these majestic peaks, consider donating or volunteering to continue this crucial work. Visit Colorado Fourteeners Initiative to find out how you can make a meaningful difference in preserving these natural treasures for years to come.