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Hiking 101: What do I need to climb a 14er?

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com

Thousands of people come from around the country each year to climb Colorado’s 14ers. A “14er” is a peak above 14,000 feet.

Depending on who you ask, you’ll be told there are 52, 53, 54, maybe 56 14ers in Colorado. 14ers.org recognizes 54 peaks. 14ers.com counts 53. 14ers.com Web site says to be officially ranked as 14er, “the peak must rise at least 300 feet above the saddle that connects it to the nearest 14er peak.”

So what do you need to climb a 14er? The two main categories would be fitness and gear.

Let’s talk about fitness first. While some people fly in from New York, Washington D.C., New Orleans and many other places and climb a 14er the next day, you should give yourself at least a couple days to get acclimated to the elevation in Colorado. Consider a hike at 10,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park or in Colorado’s high country to see how you feel. If you get a headache or nausea, it is time to descend. And while you may run 5K’s at sea level, hiking at 14,000 feet is very different.

Now let’s talk about gear. You’ll see people climbing 14ers in shorts, a cotton t-shirt, a hoodie and a single bottom of water. Bad idea. Cotton absorbs water and doesn’t dry quickly. Storms are a normal day on a mountain, you don’t want to be soaking wet and cold. The temperature is also a lot colder at 14,000 feet than your hotel room in Denver. 14ers.org has a good gear list  that includes rugged boots for the rocks and possible ice and snow, and extra food and water since 14er hikes typically take longer than expected. Here’s another gear list from 14er.com that includes a list of cold weather gear. Think you won’t see ice or snow since it’s summer? There was more than 6 inches of snow in places on Grays & Torreys the first weekend in August in 2009.

Maybe the best advice is to remember is there is no such thing as a easy 14er. The Summit County Rescue group says in just one week in July 2009 they were called out four times. Rescue teams say that’s because people read Quandary is one of Colorado’s easiest 14ers and underestimate how difficult it will be.

When you’re ready to climb, here are two good Web sites with information about climbing the 14er peaks: 14ers.org peak’s page & 14ers.com peaks page. Want to bag two 14ers in one hike? Try Grays & Torreys.

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