Climbing Colorado's Fourteeners

Pikes Peak and Mount Evans
Colorado's Fourteeners
Colorado's Fourteeners are just a short drive from civilization. (Photo courtesy of Pikes Peak - America's Mountain)

Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks offer the hiker and mountaineer one of the finest arrays of alpine challenges in the Rocky Mountains. You can be in the heart of Colorado's fourteener country in a few hours from its metropolitan areas, and the peak's proximity to population centers makes them even more precious. There is a lifetime of adventures waiting for you in Colorado's mountains. Climbing fourteeners has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the challenge of climbing all the fourteeners captures many people.

Besides the often-climbed standard routes up Pikes Peak and Mount Evans, there are many alternative routes and several technical routes. Most of the routes on Colorado's fourteeners are walk-ups (Class 1, Class 2, Easy Snow), but there are many wonderful scrambles (Class 3, Moderate Snow) and technical climbs (Class 4, Class 5, Steep Snow) on these peaks. Many of these beautiful routes have never been adequately described before. Most climbers on Colorado's fourteeners climb the standard routes and they are becoming crowded. However, you can still spend days climbing fourteeners and never see another person.

Climbing is dangerous, and each individual should approach these peaks with caution. Conditions can vary tremendously depending on time of day and time of year. The route descriptions here assume good summer conditions.

Environmental, safety, and social concerns have risen sharply in recent years. Tread lightly and carry your trash out. Use established trails when possible and don't cut switchbacks, especially in the tundra zone above timberline. Turn around when conditions or weather are against you. Respect other people and wild animals.

Before charging forth with your city energy and competitive urges, take some time to understand the mountain environment you are about to enter. Carefully study your chosen route and don't be afraid to retreat if your condition or the mountain's is unfavorable. Better yet, do an easier climb nearby and gain knowledge of the area. When both you and the mountain are ready, come back and do your dream climb.

The trailheads described here are places passenger cars can reach. Sometimes these places are well-marked parking lots at the end of a road, and sometimes they are just points on a continuing road where the road becomes too rough for passenger cars. Four-wheel-drive vehicles can shorten many of the ascents in Colorado, but, when you think about it, wouldn't you rather have more mountain, not less?

Colorado's Front Range extends from the Wyoming border southward 175 miles to the Arkansas River valley west of Pueblo. It is Colorado's longest range. When you approach the Rocky Mountains from the east, the Front Range provides an abrupt scenery change. The land is flat, then roars up like crazy.

Two of the most well-known and popular peaks for climbing in the Front Range are Pikes Peak and Mount Evans. Both are close to Denver and allow the motivationally challenged the opportunity to drive all the way to the summit. The standard climbing routes to the summits of both peaks can also become quite crowded. As such, a variety of routes are offered here that give the climber in search of a more personal encounter with these mountains the opportunity to plan according to his or her own needs, not those of the masses.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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