14er User Research Project

It was Independence Day, 2019, and I was huffing and puffing up the South Colony Lakes Approach Road with my 30 pound backpack, on my way to summit Humboldt Peak the following day. As I filled out the Wilderness Permit sheet, I began flipping through the pages, curious about who else was in the backcountry that week. It was interesting, but the lack of information was limiting in providing any real insights.

As I crossed the creek and continued, I began to think about all the unknowns when it comes to those we share the mountains with. The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative recently began tracking and sharing data on the overall number of hikers on 14ers, which is illuminating, but still provides only a single metric of overall use. I thought it would be helpful to gather some qualitative data from 14er users to better inform our education and advocacy efforts. 

As I prepared for the project, I reached out to mentors in the Survey Research community, the U.S. Forest Service, CFI, CMC, and the 14ers.com online community. All have helped me design my survey and research questions to be of most help to stakeholders on this issue.

My Research Questions:

  1. What is the level of experience and skill among 14er climbers?
  2. Where are most 14er climbers coming from? In state or out of state?
  3. How prepared are 14er climbers in terms of research, attire, experience, and gear?
  4. Where did climbers first learn about the Colorado 14ers?
  5. What resources and websites do climbers use to plan their 14er ascents?
  6. What is the timeline used by those planning a future 14er ascent?
  7. How many climbers abort their summit-attempt, and why?
  8. How many climbers take time to acclimatize before their climb?
  9. Are climbers going alone or in groups? How are they finding their partners?
  10. Who is represented on 14ers and who is not (demographic variables: age, race/ethnicity, gender, education, income, interests, experience level, etc.)

About The Next Summit: We educate the public and advocate for mountain safety, conservation, and access with a network of partners and supportive communities. The 14er User Research Project is our main effort to inform outdoor education and awareness work in Colorado related to the 58 fourteeners.

About the Project Results: All data from the project will be posted to this site, along with answers to my various Research Questions. The final product of the Project will be a full Report with answers and data for all the Research Questions along with helpful graphs, charts and other visualizations. We hope to repeat the survey every 1-2 years to provide updates and track changes over time.

I am in need of help for this project! Specifically I am looking for volunteers willing to help survey Trailheads, donations to support survey incentivizes to boost engagement, and subject matter expertise to help craft our survey instrument, analyze the data and interpret our results. 

Reach out to me at alexderr@thenextsummit.org if you wish to help. Thank you!

The REI Anniversary Sale is here but not for long!


Get 30-60% off REI hiking & camping gear!

Don't Miss My Next Free Webinar: How to Climb a Fourteener in the Autumn

September, October, and November are great months to hike and climb 14ers, with fewer people crowding the trails. However, the weather is more variable, and there’s a greater risk. In my next webinar, I’ll share everything you need to know to have a safe and successful ascent during the Fall. Save a seat today!

Screen Shot 2022-05-11 at 5.32.40 PM

Download My FREE Fourteener Trip Planner

It's a great tool for planning each of your 14er hikes and climbs. Get a copy as our free gift when you subscribe to our newsletter.