“The adrenaline and stress of an adventure are better than a thousand peaceful days” ~Paulo Coelho
Colorado, well… Who’ve been here knows. That’s heaven for outdoor and adventure enthusiasts. You can do here everything- starting with little hikes, mountain biking, going through kayaking and white water rafting, ending with more “extreme” like for example backpacking or rock climbing.
And of course, thing that I will focus on today: 14ERS(for those who don’t know, Rockies- Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America, peaks reach 14 000 ft, those mountains are called colloquialy “14ers”)
In that post I want to share my little experience with 14ers, say something about trials I did and give you a little guide, after what I’ve heard, read and experienced.
As I wrote, “little experience”, I’ve done three 14ers so far, but that was enough for me to fall in love with high mountains and go deeper into whole mountaineering staff.
First two 14ers I did were Grays&Torreys, two peaks in Front Range that are just next to each other so you can do them in one day.
Two days before I told that to my host family and they were like “who are you going with, it’s dangerous, people dies on those mountains”.
So I got super scared and was super excited in the same time. I’ve read hundreds of blogs and webpages to prepare the best as I can.
After my two weeks alttitude sickness when I came to Denver I was super afraid of alttitude so I took with me about gallon of water(finally I didn’t feel anything, despite it was hard to breath at the beginning), I bought a lot of snacks, I packed everything what I should have in my survival kit and everything what my 12-years scout career tought me about.
I haven’t predict one thing. My shoes. My amazing, great hiking shoes, I love with my whole heart. Blisters that they gave me I’ll never forget. Going up on very steep ground, when my heels were pushing on shoe was a torture. I stayed far behind my friends, trying to step on as flat rocks as I can find, trying to do anything what would take pain away for one second, bandages, additional socks. Nothing helped. I was going forward, because I knew I have to get to Grays. But I wasn’t sure I’ll go to Torreys.
And then I got to the peak. I saw it. I saw a view 360, I breathed beautiful “oh f**k” out and I knew I’m gonna do Torreys. I forgot about pain, I forgot I was left alone and I had class 2 trial to do by myself. I felt adrenaline in my veins and than one thought in my mind “I’ll do this”.
And I did it. I got to the peak. And I came down.
And I was the happiest person in the world.
We took standard summit route EAST SLOPES (class 1) to get to Grays and then SOUTH SLOPES (class 2) to get to Torreys and go back down. It was less than 8 miles round trip, I made it with my hurt feet in 5,5 hours. Both trials are very popular and actually easy, steep but not loose so you have hard ground to step on. Going down from Torreys there was one part of trial still covered in snow (beginning of July). That was kinda scary when you looked down and you knew if you slip you’d fall tens of metres down on those rocks…..
For more experienced hikers I’ve heard it’s great to do KELSO RIDGE to Torreys. It’s class 3, from people who did that one I’ve heard it’s lot of fun.
My third 14er was Mount Evans also in Front Ridge. That one I almost did twice.
First time we decided (maybe it was more my decission) to do CHICAGO LAKES TRIAL, with trialhead on Echo Lake, 17 miles roundtrip, we decide to backpack there. Unforunately we left Denver too late, we got to trialhead to late, what cause we didn’t make enough miles first day, we woke up too late in the morning, it took us to long to put down tha camping, but the most important I was thinking what I can do, without thinking what my friends can do.
So remember kiddo, no matter how strong you are, think first about your companion!
That time we got to Mount Spalding, 13er (by mistake we took it as Mt. Evans, you have no idea how disapointed we were) and then my friend said “enough”.
But even without 14er, I can call Chicago Lakes Trial one of my favorites, beautiful, not very easy and challenging. I can for sure reccomend it!
As you can see, we had a lot of companion on the trial. Amazing thing what we found almost at the begining of the trial was the labirynth.
To connect you with nature.
To connect you with mountains.
To connect you with yourself.
Second time I went there with decission “I’m gonna do that mountain, no matter what”. This time we decided to do standard route WEST RIDGE via MT.SPALDING and come back with NORTHEAST FACE, what cut our route to 4,7 miles. At the beginning we were super scared, because sky was almost black, but afer not even 30 minutes og climbing all clouds were gone (this is what I love about mountains!). Route is great, a little hiking, a little climbing, a little hopping on boulders, northeast face is much more steeper and loose, but it’s also much faster.
What’s funny I had very bad luck with that mountain, between those two trips I had plan for another one, but at 4 am in the morning when we wanted do Mt. Evans, my friend texted me she doesn’t feel well. The day when I finally summited the mountain, for the first time since I have my camera, so for last 6 years, I have forgotten it for a trip….
At least I had friends
Like I said before, scared by my host family I’ve read hundreds of articles and after Grays&Torreys I’ve listened and talked to much more experienced people, so I decided to write down a little guide for greenhorns like me.
First of all: THERE IS NO EASY 14ERS!, even class 1 and 2 are deadly in the winter, so if you’re not experienced hiker and you don’t have very experienced friends, don’t try summit a 14er in winter.
Also remember most of 14ers are very steep, have elevation gain at least 1,500 ft and are at least 5 miles hikes, but most of them is around 10 miles round trip, so if you don’t have a SHAPE to walk on flat for at least 3 hours and run without brake for 30 minutes, better first try some workout and then start climbing.
ALTITUDE IS A KILLER. Even people with great condition have problems with breathing, get tired much faster and there is no cure for that. Only practice. What you can do is make sure you spend at least couple days on higher elevation, if you come from sea level, don’t try get to even 10 000 on the second day. Start hydration the day before. That helps. Believe me.
Take LOTS OF WATER AND SNACKS, every favour, sweet and salty, on the top you will be like pregnant woman- your taste can change second after second. I will not tell you what snacks are good, it all depends on what you like. Personally I like to take some protein bars, trial mix, cheezit or goldfish, bar of chocolate as a treat on the top. Good shots of energy are energy gels and bloks, you can buy them in REI, I feel much better afer them.
Theoretically you should eat a snack every 45 minutes.
You need to electrolyze water. If not it will just go through your body without giving you anything. And you will need to pee all the time. Good for that are NUUN TABS, but if you don’t want to spend money on that, pinch of salt in your water will be enough.
In mountains weather changes VERY QUICKLY. It can be sunny one minute, and it can snow minute after. I experienced that already on G&T. Always check a weather days before!!! I can bet most of the time you’ll see information “chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon”, and that’s not a joke. In the afternoon clouds come very low and there is always big danger of lightening, that’s why you HAVE TO BE BELOW TREE LINE BY NOON! That’s why you need to start your trip enough early. All three times I started climbing 5.30-7 am, there are 14ers you need to start at 3 am, there are some you need to start at 1 am, there are some, like Longs Peak where you should get to boulders the day before.
YOU WILL WALK SLOW. Doesn’t matter you can do 10 miles hike in 3 hours. Those hikes aren’t on 14 000 ft.
What gear you should take? NO COTTON. NO. I felt it on my own skin, having only little t-shirt made of cotton on G&T. It got wet from sweat and I was freezing no matter how many other clothes I put on. WEAR LAYERS. You don’t want to sweat, but you don’t want to also get cold. So you need to have way to control and change temperature of your body. Take comfortable shoes (believe me), comfortable backpack with lots of pockets (when you walk you really don’t want to stop every 5 minutes to find something in your backpack). Bring also ADDITIONAL SOCKS AND GLOVES, when your feet get wet, they will also get cold, so it’s nice to have some dry socks; wind is awfully cold up there, it’s amazing when you can cover your hands.
SURVIVAL KIT. Good hiker, traveler, adventurer knows there’s always possibility you’ll lose a trial, you’ll get surprise by weather, you will get attacked by mountain lion and you will have to run and you will have no idea how to get back to your car. Just kiddin’, DO NOT run away from mountain lion. But no matter what, you need to be prepered for spending a night up there. You need WAY TO MAKE A FIRE, waterproof matches or lighter, EMERGENCY BLANKET, it’s small, light and in crisis it can safe your life, SOURCE OF LIGHT, MAP, COMPASS, KNIFE, FIRST AID KIT.
TAKE A FRIEND. Don’t go for your first and second (and maybe third neither) alone. Most of the mountains are crowded even in the middle of week, but it’s nice to have someone to talk to and somewone who actually cares what’s going on with you and if you’re fine and alive.
TELL SOMEONE ABOUT YOUR PLANS.
For those who don’t know I reccomend webpages
At the end I want to share with you one thought. Lot of people around tells me my ideas are stupid, crazy or can be dangerous. I have to tell you- adventures are dangerous, because you can get addicted and then you’ll never be the same.
P.S.: Featured image (and also three other pictures where you can see me) haven’t been taken by me, but by great photographer Leticia I had pleasure to meet in Denver, who’s the same crazy about life and world as I am.
I hope I didn’t forget about anything.
If you have any questions or advice for my future trips let me know, I’ll appraciate that!