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14er

By Matt Payne, Examiner.com 

Imagine this scenario:

You get home from work on Friday night and get the urge to climb a 14er. Your friends you usually go with are all busy. You take one last desperate attempt to find a hiking partner by posting on 14ers.com, and to your surprise, 6 people respond wanting to go. You pick the first person that responds, meet them at the trailhead for Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point early Saturday morning and begin your long hike up to Lake Como. After you pass Lake Como and reach treeline, you begin the steep ascent of Blanca Peak. Your hiking partner, just feet in front of you, begins to have an epileptic seizure, causing you to go into panic. How will you respond to their medical crisis on the side of a 14er? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have been alerted of this condition up front so that you could learn how you should respond, or decline the hike altogether?

Unfortunately, scenarios like this are all too common in the high country. In fact, the above scenario happened just last year – the person with the seizure ignored pleas of their hiking partners to head back down and continued on after their seizure, and eventually required a helicopter rescue, but not after needing her newfound hiking partners to spend the night with them through a thunderstorm at 13,000 ft. These sorts of fiascos can be avoided if everyone involved as new hiking partners did some honest questioning up-front.

I am not suggesting that people with medical conditions should be avoided like the plague, rather, that careful selection and questioning of new hiking partners will afford you the time and resources to make important (and potentially critical) decisions on who to hike with or not. I’m going to be honest, I may be overly selective of my hiking partners. I’ve had one too many bad experiences with strangers to know that the best thing for me to do is to ask questions. Think of it like dating. Would you marry someone before dating them? Not me. Nor should you blindly hike in strenuous situations with people you don’t know (at least without some base knowledge beforehand).

Here’s what I’m suggesting – and I hope you’re still with me on this. Find out what kind of experience your potential partner has in the level of activity you are going to be engaging in. Doing some roped climbing? It may be comforting to learn that your partner actually knows how to belay. Climbing a long 14er? Get a feel for how many 14ers they have climbed and which ones. I’m not suggesting you be an elitist, rather, get to know the person’s experience and ability beforehand so you can A) decline the invitation, or B) know that you’ll need to take it slow, or step up your game (if they are a much better hiker than yourself).

Here are some questions I like to ask:

1. Do you have any medical conditions? If they do, this allows you to learn how this may impact your hike and/or your response to that condition if it should present itself during the hike.

2. What mountains have you climbed before (or hikes have you done, etc)? This allows you to gauge the person’s abilities and accomplishments. Someone with far fewer accomplishments than you may turn out to be a superior hiker; however, it may be useful to learn that they are afraid of heights before you attempt to climb Little Bear Peak.

3. What kind of pace you do like to hike at? This allows you to gauge how compatible you are with the other hiker. Perhaps you’ll need to agree up-front on a signal to stop or that you want them to wait up for you, etc. These are important things to learn.

4. What do you do for a living? It’s always nice to get to know the person you’ll be spending the day with!

5. Do you have (x, y, z) piece of equipment that we’ll need? This will allow you to make sure the person is prepared and if they need you to bring anything for them to borrow.

This all may sound a little silly to you, but trust me, you don’t want to find yourself in the situation I described above unwillingly. Your hiking partner’s life (and possibly yours) may well depend on how you select your hiking partner and what kinds of questions you ask before the hike begins.

And just to be clear, one last time: I am not suggesting you become an elitist. Just this past summer I hiked with two different people that I did not know before the hike, neither of which had hiked a 14er before. However, I had no reservations on hiking with them because I was able to learn about them and their abilities, health, etc. As it turned out, they were most excellent hiking partners that often left me in the dust!

Finally, I would also suggest that a simple round of questioning is a great way to break the ice and learn about the person. You never know, they may just turn out to be a friend for life!

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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