About 500,000 people climb Coloradoâ€™s 14ers every year, those 57 peaks that exceed 14,000 feet.
And to counteract the inevitable damage that occurs from the high level of use, the Colorado 14er Initiative, or CFI, is involved in dozens of projects to restore and renovate high alpine trails.
â€œClimbing 14ers is an amazing experience because of the unique ecology, and the aim of CFI is to ensure that people can keep having this experience in the future,â€ said Greg Seabloom, a CSU alumnus who now works as the projects coordinator for CFI.
This weekend, a group of CSU students, sponsored by the Outdoor Adventure Program, or OAP, made its yearly trek to Mt. Bierstadt to volunteer for CFI and restore a segment of trail at a staggering altitude of 12,300 feet. They even made a summit push the following day.
â€œItâ€™s actually a great way to acclimate, because we get to spend a day getting used the altitude, camp low and then return to high altitude for the summit push,â€ said Adam Papilion, a senior natural resources major who works as a guide for the OAP.
Mount Bierstadt, at a height of 14,060 feet, is located in the Front Range within a two-hour drive of Denver. According to Seabloom, during peak season from June to October, 300 to 400 climbers try to make the summit daily.
â€œThis is a trail that requires a lot of work in particular because itâ€™s such an accessible mountain and a relatively easy peak,â€ Seabloom said. â€œPeople really do take advantage of it.â€
For the restoration of trails, CFI uses materials entirely found in the surrounding landscape, including logs and rocks. The main aim of trail work is to keep trails narrow but passable so hikers donâ€™t interfere with the fragile landscape, as well as to keep runoff from destroying the existing trails.
â€œThe CSU studentâ€™s were awesome. Trail work is not an easy task, but they were really prepared and enthusiastic about what they were doing,â€ said Michael Berger, 24, an employee for CFI who was with the students during the day of trail work.
CSU students were responsible for moving heavy rocks, building a wall on the side of the trail and building natural barriers to keep hikers out of the tundra.
â€œItâ€™s great to be involved in this because it really is important to give back in any way you can,â€ Papilion said.
â€œAt the CFI, our main aim is to promote stewardship for our volunteers with the mountains that we all love,â€ said Seabloom.
â€œEvery time that I get on a mountain, I see how much hard work has been put into the trails that Iâ€™m using, and it makes me take better care of them,â€ he said. â€œEverybody who goes outdoors should go out there and do trail work at least once.â€
Outdoor Life writer Allison Sylte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.