Heather & Dan
All told we have made it to the top of ten 14ers with one combo DNF during our three weeks in Colorado. Inspiration and information came from two main sources. The inspiration and the catalyst for thinking we could get as many done as we did came from a great article in Adventure Travel Magazine, a British adventure magazine, by James Dziezynski.
The information came from 14ers.com, this site has everything you need, from routes to trailhead locations to the condition of the roads. One of the most important things it gives is the difficulty of the hike/climb. Each route is graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being the easiest, though I should point out that there is no such thing as “easy” 14er. 1 is a straight forward hike, 3 hands are required as there are portions of scrambling and unroped climbing, above this ropes are often required on 4’s and essential on 5’s. 2’s and 3’s were our playground on this trip, however it is still not something to be undertaken lightly, as Heather was researching for her Longs Peak blog we learned that an 18 year old guy had fallen to his death on that route, just a week or so after we completed it.
We have discussed some of the routes in detail on past blogs, here we wanted to give a snap shot of them all, and include both mine and Heather’s interpretations of the hike, to make it more interesting, we did not share what we had written until we put the blog together.
Mt Massive 14421-class 2, 14.5 miles, gain 4500ft, Sawatch Range
Dan – Yeah it’s big, yeah it’s the second tallest 14er in Colorado and the third tallest in the contiguous US, but when the mountain next to you is taller, all be it by only 12ft maybe you should add an “ish” to the end if your name. Naming rant over, for a first 14er this one was great, the trail was well marked, and there was only a little rock scrambling to the summit.
H – It was a long hike for our first attempt, and I discovered my fear of falling, and that I really dislike strong winds that take my breath away, and that I stupidly wore shorts, its bloody cold at +14,000 ft. But, I was super pumped when we finally made it and people who climb mountains are super awesome, they seem to get nicer the higher you go.
Mt Elbert 14433-class 1, 9 miles, gain 4700ft, Sawatch Range
I will give Massive credit for giving my legs a good workout, about halfway up Elbert my calves were cramping, after a good stretching normal service was resumed.
Both Massive and Elbert served as great intro 14ers, as neither is too technical.
H- I felt more prepared going into this one, I was certainly dressed for the weather, but not overly well rested. I’m proud of the fact that I hung out while a thunderstorm went over head and didn’t cry or run away (my usual response to thunderstorms). It was a good hike, except for the false summit (even when you’ve been warned that thing just gets you). I was also really happy for all the other people who pushed on in the miserable weather.
Torreys and Grays
Grays 14270 & Torreys 14267- combo, class 2, 8.5 miles, gain 3600ft, Front Range
This was also one of the busiest hikes we did, it was entertaining to watch people fly by us in the first mile, only to pass them when the real climbing began. I am a Clydesdale* but I am a fit one that knows how to pace himself, I think I may have damaged a few egos.
H- This was a pretty good hike, I still struggled with the altitude but I like to pass people so I was relatively energized for this one. And I still don’t get why the closer I climb to the sun the colder and windier it gets.
Longs Peak 14255-class 3, 15 miles, gain 5100 ft, Front Range
Dan – For the effort the view is not that much to write home about, so probably good the first 4 hours are in the dark.
This is the most technically challenging of the 14ers that we tried, lots of exposure, scrambling and unroped climbing. I loved every second of it, this summit was more about the journey than the destination. It was a little stressful at times trying to pry Heather off rock faces, that girl can grip a boulder like barnacle on boat.
Mostly what I will take away for this one, is just how proud I was that Heather overcame all her fears and kicked Long Peaks ass.
H- For my full description click here. Short version is the mile and a half summit is scary as heck for someone with a fear of falling (just yesterday I had another falling dream) and it was very windy and cold and tiring which makes for a bad combo. I’m still embarrassed that I cried, and was frustrated that I still had not acclimated to the altitude. Oh and very proud that I climbed it anyway.
Humboldt 14064-class 2, 11 miles, gain 4200 ft, Sangre de Cristo Range
Dan – Hmm what to say about Humbolt. On the weather front this was the best hiking day we had beautiful clear blue skies. In the basin the surrounding mountains looked so beautiful and those views were only amplified from the Summit.
The hike itself was deceptively hard, after a nice gradual trail the last 1000ft were a pretty taxing, both from a rock hopping and route finding perspective, also I think Heather was getting annoyed at my propensity just to head directly up on this one.
H – Humboldt was a beautiful hike, if you ignore the rock scramble to the top. We had our best day yet, sunshine and warm! Again we met some wonderful people on top of the mountain. Mountains are a good place to find good people. Side note: my batteries died in my gps so no profile pic.
Ellingwood and Blanca
Redcloud and Sunshine
Redcloud Peak 14034 & Sunshine – combo, class 2′ 12.5 miles, gain 4800 ft, San Jaun Mountains
Dan – The journey to this particular trailhead was feat in itself, we decided to take the cinnamon pass route, which is a 4×4 only road, all was going swimmingly until I got the rear passenger side of the tire off the ground. Heather climbed out of the truck to help assess our options, while I sat in the driver’s seat crapping myself at the thought of rolling our house. A few manoeuvres later and we were through with minimal damage.
I digress this is supposed to be about 14ers not off-roading. This pair of summits were our first in the San Jaun range, the range is magnificent, the reds in the rocks pop every time the sun hits them.
The hike itself was along well worn trail and the going was easy, it was particularly awesome as Heather kicked ass, after struggling through the earlier ones she found her grove. We also got to hangout with Porter, his owner Joe and Joe’s buddy Matt at the summit then later that night chatting around their campfire.
H- After I got over the shock of Dan nearly killing us on the 4wd road that I suggested**(I should never look down at Dan in the truck). We had a really nice night of sleeping in a parking lot with lovely neighbours (mountains=nice people). This climb was the best for me! I had no altitude issues, we made great time and it was fantastically beautiful, even when we watched some not so nice weather roll in, plus we met two awesome dudes and a dog that we hung out with, great hike.
Handies Peak 14048- class 2, 8 miles, gain 3650 ft, San Jaun Mountains
Dan – This was billed as an easy hike by the lovely Texan Family we met, and I quote(ish) “it is gradual with lots of flat bits to recover on”. Such a lovely family with a very warped view of flat. The trail went unrelentingly up for 4 miles. The incline was not crazy but the effort was continuous.
In reality it was a pretty easy and we dispatched with the ascent in a little over 2.5 hours, but it certainly was not as advertised.
H- Sometimes nice people lie. This hike was harder than we were led to believe, it wasn’t bad, but we hadn’t prepared ourselves mentally. It was still a beautiful hike (so many wildflowers!) and we made the summit in pretty good time and beat the rain back down the mountain!
Mt. Sneffles 14150- class 2 (difficult), 6 miles, gain 2900ft, San Jaun Mountains
Dan – I chose this one specifically because it is by far the cutest sounding name of any 14er. Sneffles sounds like a bunnies name. This should have been my warning, my experience with bunnies is that they are actually vicious bastards despite their size.
It was the shortest hike we did and it chewed me up and spat me out, the problem came from my route finding on the scree clad gully, everyone else stayed to the left, I decided the right side was for me, to say it was a little dicey would be an understatement. After reaching the top of that gully my legs were jelly, my breathing was out of control and I wanted to barf. Now all I had to do was another gully this time with the added bonus of snow, fortunately it was pretty narrow so I couldn’t go rogue. The summit was worth it, and it gave me an insight what Heather must have felt on the first 6 14ers. The descent was brutal but mercifully quick, it is 36 hours later as I type this and my legs are shot still.
H- Last 14er, I was pumped, but then we had to walk up a road for two miles to get to the trailhead and this man passed us in a jeep and didn’t offer us a ride (hey mountain people are supposed to be nice!) and I got dejected. However we hit the trail and had a rest and met really nice guy, Richard, from Alabama and before I knew it we were climbing up a gully. Usually I suck at this and pick the worst route possible, but it seemed Dan did this today! Then there were two men ahead of me (including the jeep guy) and a bunch of young ones behind me and I decided that this climb needed a female winner, so I pushed and pushed and won the climb to the saddle (very satisfying even if you are the only one who knows you’re racing). While waiting for Dan on the saddle I got mad “props” from the young guys who were impressed with my killer climb! Anyway they young ones passed us on the next climb, but it was still a great summit. The weather was nice and the San Juan’s are stunning (and my favourite mountain range so far).
* runner speak for fat
**not laying blame here, we were both erroneous