With 53 peaks reaching over 14,000 feet above sea level, Colorado provides the most opportunities in the country for adventurers to summit a peak whose height has become synonymous with mountaineering in the American west. Here are ten tips on how to plan, prepare and successfully summit your next (or first!) “14er” in the Centennial State.

1) Think Ahead – Plan Your Route!

Colorado fourteeners present a variety of challenges based on route, seasonal conditions and personal capabilities. Know the route you are taking and be sure that it is within your limits. Check out the site

CO 14er2) Gear: Don’t Skimp Here! 

Depending on the route you choose, a wide variety of gear may be necessary for a safe and successful summit attempt. Technical routes in the winter often require crampons, ice axes and rope, while a summer summit bid may require little more than a pair of hiking boots and some determination. Know the specifics of the gear you will need and how to use it correctly.

3) Tell someone about your trip details, and stick to the plan.

Whether it’s a long day trip or multi-day expedition, notify someone of your planned departure and arrival times, as well as the specifics of your route. Keeping this information to yourself can make potential search and rescue efforts much more difficult.

4) Check The Weather Silly! 

Even in the summer months, weather above tree line can be unexpected and approach quickly. Always be aware of any cloud formations that could be the precursor to a thunderstorm. Never continue your summit attempt if weather conditions worsen throughout your trip.

5) Get an early start – avoid the afternoon showers!

Inclement weather often approaches in mid to late afternoon during thunderstorm season. Getting an early start gives you a better chance at successfully reaching your peak and still descend in safe weather conditions.

6) Don’t Go At It Alone

Even on straightforward, non-technical routes it is never a good idea to attempt a fourteener alone. Having at least one other person with you makes your trip both safer and more enjoyable.

7) Don’t Get Dehydrated – Drink Your H2O!

Staying hydrated is one of the easiest and most important things to do while climbing a fourteener, but dehydration remains one of the most common culprits of failed summit attempts. The amount of water to bring per person varies greatly by trip length, but three to four quarts a day is a good rule of thumb.

8) Remember – there’s less oxygen up there! 

Decreased oxygen levels at higher elevations can lead to dizziness, shortness of breath and headaches while exerting energy. The best way to beat these symptoms on your summit day is to stay hydrated, take frequent breaks and give yourself as much time as possible to adjust to the increased elevation.

9) This isn’t sea level! Wear sunscreen! 

There is less atmosphere blocking UV radiation at higher elevations, so be sure to cover sensitive skin areas with sunscreen. Hats and long sleeve shirts are also a good idea.

10) Sit back, relax, and enjoy the view! 

It’s hard to find a bad view at the top of any 14er in the state. Take time to soak in the breathtaking scenery and start planning your next summit attempt! We recommend bringing a sandwich and a flask of whiskey for a celebration toast upon your accomplishment!

Colorado 14er Resources:

14ers.com: Colorado Fourteeners, Routes, Trip Reports, and more… The largest collection of 14er photos on the Web.

SummitPost.org: Great chart of all of CO’s 53 14ers

14ers.org: A nonprofit organization working to protect and preserve the 53 mountains in the state over 14000 feet high.

Forum: Prettiest 14er near Denver: Looking for the one with the best view? This thread has a few discussions on the prettiest 14ers.


Image Credits:
1: Summiting a 14er | 2: Ascending a 14er | 3: mt. bierstadt trail

About The Author

Mitch Lex

Mitch grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona where he fell in love with kayaking, backpacking and just about everything else there is to do outside. Since moving to the Midwest, Mitch has continued to explore trails and rivers throughout the country. His greatest adventures include roaming with grizzlies and caribou on a NOLS course in Canada's Yukon Territory, swimming with dolphins while studying abroad in New Zealand, and guiding backpacking trips in southwestern Colorado and Utah. He sees the outdoors as a place where you can discover what is truly important in life while exploring a little bit about oneself along the way. Contrary to popular demand, he enjoys dried pineapple and Reese's pieces over M&M's and raisins in his trail mix any day of the week. Sorry GORP.

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