Did you know that there are 53 fourteeners in Colorado? I’m assuming that most readers have no idea what I am talking about. A “fourteener” refers to a mountain peak that measures over 14,000 feet. The state of Colorado has 53 of these specific peaks. Climbing to the top of a fourteener is one of the most popular things to do for hikers and climbers while in Colorado. Of these 53 fourteeners, the peaks range in skill level from easy to difficult. Most of the climbs are easily hiked, but a few Class 3 and 4 climbs are known to be very difficult. Not many climbers can claim that they have made it to all 53 summits.
For those who have climbed a fourteener, or those who aspire to, California artist, Wendy Gold, has just the gift to celebrate and motivate every climber. Gold’s Colorado Fourteeners Mountain Hiking Push Pin Map features 53 of the incredible mountain peaks and includes 100 pins to plot or mark your climbing adventure.
What You Need to Know about Climbing the 14ers
Adventurers of all skill levels head out to hike these impressive peaks all year round. Some of the 14ers are a relatively basic hike while others require serious mountaineering skills. For some locals and hiking fanatics, climbing some or all of these peaks is a challenge they take on for bragging rights alone! Also, pinning the peaks you've hiked is the perfect way to do that.
Whether a novice or a pro, there are some additional things you need to be aware of while climbing such heights.
Beware of Altitude
Did you know that altitude alone can make you sick? Along with breathtaking views comes shortness of breath due to the thinning air as you climb upwards. When your body is not receiving enough oxygen and your body isn't adjusting well, this is known as "altitude sickness." It affects everyone differently. Unfortunately, you won't know how your body will respond until you're up there so it's best to be prepared.
First, drink plenty of water while climbing and in the days prior. Second, plan to consume high-carb snacks while climbing. Third, keep alcohol and smoking to a minimum on the day-of and in the days prior. Finally, rest or even turn back if you need to. The 14ers will be there another day!
Leave No Trace
Colorado is lucky to have these beautiful mountains. Therefore it's important for visitors to maintain their beauty for all to enjoy. That's where Leave No Trace comes in. Basically what you take in with you, take out with you. And anything you find there, leave it there.
These basic conservation principles are the same no matter where you are trekking, and most are familiar with it. However, year after year an increasing number of travelers visit the 14ers which naturally impacts the ecosystem. It is up to those who love to hike these mountains to minimize damage.
Stick to the Trails
Sticking to trails will also help conserve the natural environment on these peaks. While taking a shortcut may be tempting, trampling over plants will damage them and disturb wildlife. If you plan on camping, be sure to use designated camping areas and set up at least 200 feet from any bodies of water. This helps natural areas stay that way.
Additionally, sticking to the trails is safer. While switchbacks and winding trails can be exhausting, the trails have been made for a reason. They are designed to be the optimal path for you and for the preservation of the peak.
Our 10 Favorite Fourteeners
Below we have listed ten of our favorite fourteeners. Read on and get ready to climb.
1. Crestone Needle
Located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Crestone Needle is one of Colorado’s most famous fourteeners. Its toughest challenge is route finding because of the fact that it traverses class 3 and 4 routes. Locals enjoy doing the route in reverse for the rappel down the crux wall.
Considered to be one of the hardest Class 3 climbs, Snowmass Mountain has a long snowfield that needs to be crossed in order to reach the summit ridge. Experts strongly advise bringing tools such as ice axes and crampons. Early summer is the most recommended time of the year to make the trip.
3. Maroon Peak
Due to infamously loose rock and a number of hikers and climbers dying while on the peak, Maroon Peak is known to locals as “Death Bells.” As a result of these challenges, Maroon Peak is considered to be the ninth most difficult peak.
4. Little Bear Peak
Little Bear Peak sounds a lot easier than it is. This 17.5 mile trail is lightly trafficked and only recommended for experienced climbers. A climber left a rope in a difficult section. Locals advise not to use it, in case it breaks. Loose rock and dangerous exposure are just a couple of the challenges of this peak. Therefore, most choose to climb during the snow-filled season to avoid these difficulties.
5. Sunlight Peak
Sunlight Peak is 14,059 feet high and a Class 4 climb located in Colorado’s Needle Mountains. Climbers either take a train or backpack several miles to get to the Chicago Basin. They are distinguished by their broken slopes and spiny ridges. Climbers who reach the summit are rewarded with a beautiful view of Vestal and Arrow peaks of the Grenadiers.
6. Capitol Peak
Capitol Peak, arguably one of the most difficult fourteeners, is home to the notorious Knife Edge. This is a one-hundred foot section of the peak. Knife Edge has a one-thousand foot drop off on either side. If that doesn’t sound difficult enough, just past the edge one finds a climb up crumbling rock. Locals recommend a lot of planning before tackling this peak.
7. Mount Wilson
Mount Wilson is 14,246 feet high and is Colorado’s sixteenth highest peak. It is named for A.D. Wilson, who was the chief topographer during the 1874 Hayden Surveys. Mount Wilson is located in the San Juan Mountains and offers many different trailheads to start at. Locals strongly advise wearing a helmet when climbing Mount Wilson. This is due to loose rockfall. And also because of the isolation of the mountain and the fact that the climb is far from civilization.
8. Mount Shavano
Mount Shavano is one of the southernmost fourteeners. It is usually climbed together with Tabeguache Peak. All routes are in the Class 2 category. One of its biggest attractions is known as the “Angel of Shavano.” On Mount Shavano’s east face, during the spring and early summer, the snow-filled gullies look to some like an angel with outstretched wings.
9. La Plata Peak
La Plata Peak measures in at 14,336 feet. It derives its name from the Spanish word for “silver.” It was first climbed on July 26th, 1873 by the Hayden Survey Team. The rugged but magnificent Ellingwood Ridge is one of La Plata's main attractions. It is a technical, two mile route which requires a lot of experience to travel.
10. Blanca Peak
Situated 14,345 feet above sea level, Blanca Peak was first ascended on August 14, 1874 by the Wheeler Survey team. However, the team stumbled upon a stone structure. Spaniards or Ute Indians might have built the structure, some speculate. The Navajo people consider Blanca Peak one of their sacred mountains. Blanca has three access points: Huerfano River Valley for the technically skilled; Blanca US 160 is the traditional route; and Lake Como is the standard route.
Mapping the 14ers with a Wendy Gold Push Pin Travel Map
If you ever get to climb one of these fourteeners yourself, or you know someone who has, Wendy Gold’s push pin map of the Colorado Fourteeners makes a terrific gift to celebrate the achievement. This hiking travel map features 53 official Fourteener mountain peaks and includes personalization with the name of the courageous climber. The map is professionally printed on archival quality paper or cotton blend canvas and is available in three sizes. Included with the map are 100 map pins for marking your hikes, travels, and adventures throughout the Fourteeners. Each map is handmade in the USA and makes a fantastic keepsake for maintaining the memories of one’s travels through the magnificent 14er mountains.