Some donâ€™t have to imagine what itâ€™s like at 14,000 feet.
â€œIâ€™ve climbed about 25 fourteeners or so,â€ said Evan Blumberg, a CSU graduate student and outdoors enthusiast who specializes in traversing the stateâ€™s tallest mountains. â€œYou get a big sense of accomplishment when you reach the top. Itâ€™s a lot of hard work, and you get an awesome view.â€
But climbing fourteeners is not without its risks. The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative â€“â€“ a group that protects and preserves the natural integrity of the stateâ€™s highest mountains â€“â€“ tallied 10 hiker fatalities last summer. Eight fell to their death, and two were struck by falling rock. Even still, reports the initiative, estimates show that approximately 500,000 visits occur annually on the 54 fourteeners in the state at an increasing rate.
So how would one avoid death-by-fourteener?
- 1. Donâ€™t smoke so much weed you forget the route to the summit.
â€œOne of the things I know people like to do is go up in the high mountains and maybe drink some beer or other do other recreational chemicals,â€ said York (would not supply a last name), chair of the Colorado Mountain Club in Fort Collins, who has also been sober during all outdoors activities.
â€œThey get into this false sense of confidence and canâ€™t make up for a lot of circumstances that can happen,â€ like falling to your death or getting crushed by loose rock.
Itâ€™s also important to know where youâ€™re going when on the mountain.
â€œDefinitely know the route. Bring a map if you donâ€™t know the area,â€ Blumberg said, adding that heâ€™s never mixed substance abuse with mountaineering.
Straying from the trail could bring you to close encounters with snowy terrain â€“â€“ a fantastic first step on the way to falling to your death.
â€œIt can be snowing on you at the top,â€ York said.
Even in the summertime when temperatures are searing in most parts of the state, on fourteeners blizzard-like conditions can still prevail, and trails will remain icy.
- 2. â€œKnow the conditions of the route ahead of time,â€ Blumberg said.
Drinking too much the night before you want to hike could cause you to start later the morning after and thatâ€™s really bad.
A late beginning on your way to the top could become problematic as daytime runs out. Static electricity builds on mountaintops faster because its elevation, making for spectacular thunderstorms in the evening. And if you reach the summit then, there arenâ€™t many places to hide from the lightening bolts that will be hurled at your head.
â€œStart pretty early in the morning,â€ York said. â€œBe at the summit and on your way down by 1 p.m. Typically by about 1 p.m. in the afternoon, the storms start to gather around the peaks of the mountains,â€ adding that bad weather can come in earlier than that.
â€œIâ€™ve been caught in storms in the mountains,â€ Blumberg said.â€œSometimes theyâ€™re unavoidable.â€
- 3. Bringing a flask for the 9-hour long hike isnâ€™t the best idea. Instead, try 2 liters of water.
Blumberg remembers what it was like to conquer his first fourteener.
â€œIt was really hot and dry. You get really thirsty, and you run out of energy faster,â€ he said.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol while hiking depletes the body of nutrients necessary to traverse demanding alpine terrain.
Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at email@example.com