Depending on how you count it, there are 53 or 58 peaks over 14,000 feet in Colorado—the outliers being a couple of summits that don’t drop more than 300 feet between themselves and an adjacent taller peak. The state’s highest, Mt. Elbert, sits at 14,433 feet tall; while the shortest, Sunshine Peak, barely scrapes past the height requirement at 14,001 feet tall. But we have many more ways to count these mountains.
The percentage of the U.S.’s 14,000-plus-foot mountains located in Colorado. There are 89 peaks across all the states, Alaska and Hawaii included, that surpass the magic 14,000 foot mark.
The number of 14,000-foot peaks within 20 miles of the memorial to victims of the infamous cannibal, Alferd Packer. It’s no wonder the infamous Packer got lost in the San Juans near Lake City, forcing him to eat members of his party in 1874—14ers clutter the area, including Sunshine Peak (14,001 feet), Red Cloud Peak (14,034 feet), Handies Peak (14,048 feet), Mt. Sneffels (14,150 feet), Uncompahgre Peak (14,309 feet) and Wetterhorn Peak (14,015 feet). Packard was the only person ever convicted of cannibalism in Colorado. The media sensationalized his case: In one report covering the sentencing, Judge M. B. Gerry allegedly said, “Stand up yah voracious man-eatin’ sonofabitch and receive yir sentence. When yah came to Hinsdale County, there was siven Dimmycrats. But yah et five of ’em, goddam yah. I sentence yah t’ be hanged by th’ neck ontil yer dead, dead, dead.” The reporter may have taken some creative license.
The height, in feet, of rocks that would have been piled on top of 14,421-foot Mt. Massive to make it taller than its neighbor, Mt. Elbert, the state’s tallest mountain at 14,433 feet. That’s what fans of Massive tried to do in the 1930s. Fans of Elbert retaliated by climbing Massive and knocking down the giant piles of rocks, thereby ensuring Elbert retained its title.
It’s not the only instance where interlopers planned to interfere with geology to make a 14er taller than Elbert. At 14,420 feet, Mt. Harvard is the third highest 14er in Colorado and the fourth highest in the lower 48 states. In 1962, Harvard alums concocted a plan to make Harvard the tallest peak in Colorado with a 14-foot-high pole that said: “Mt. Harvard, 14,434. This sign is erected at an altitude of 14,434 making it the second highest point in the contiguous United States.” They dragged the pole to within a few hundred yards of Harvard’s peak but abandoned it as darkness encroached. In 1963—former U.S. Senator from Colorado Tim Wirth, his brother John—both Harvard graduates dragged it to the peak. The pole disappeared in the the 1980s.
The year that Mexico made the Sangre de Cristo Land grant, including 14,047 foot Culebra Peak, to Stephen Luis Lee and Narcisco Beaubian. The mountain has been continuously owned since then and is reportedly the only privately owned 14er in the U.S.—if not the world. The current owners of the Cielo Vista Ranch allow hikers, but they do charge a fee and restrict access to the peak June through September.
Everyone loves FKTs (fastest known times), and there are at least three different big FKTs for climbing all of Colorado’s 14ers. As of early summer 2018, the undisputed champion is Andrew Hamilton, who climbed all of Colorado’s 58 14ers in 9 days, 21 hours and 51 minutes in 2015—around his 40th birthday. Hamilton also has the unsupported Nolan’s 14 record, climbing the 14 Sawatch Range 14ers in 53 hours and 42 minutes. Oh yeah, and he’s the only person to climb all of Colorado’s 14ers in a single winter season in 2017-2018.
Hamilton doesn’t have all the FKTs on Colorado’s 14ers—yet. In 2016, Joe Grant ran, hiked and biked every Colorado 14er in 31 days, 8 hours and 33 minutes. While Hamilton’s overall attempt included driving (at the speed limit mind you) between the 14ers, Grant biked to all of the peaks and then trail-ran and climbed the rest of the way.
Perhaps the toughest trek through the 14ers took the longest, however. In 2013, Junaid Dawud and Luke DeMuth thru-hiked them all, traveling roughly 1,300 miles and gaining about 300,000 feet of elevation over 70 days between July 20 and September 29, 2012. It’s likely the fastest anyone has thru-hiked all the 14ers.
The number of people the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative estimates hiked Colorado’s 14ers in 2016—the latest year the data is available. We hate to sound bossy but, when you’re out there, be aware and be courteous of others. Also consider supporting the initiative. Every year the group does incredible work to help make the trails safer and more sustainable. In 2017 the non profit maintained 16 miles of existing trail and cut 2.21 miles of new trail on Mount Elbert.
Number of 14ers (14,286-foot Lincoln, 14,238 Cameron and 14,148 Democrat) the Elevation Outdoors crew hiked to raise funds for Big City Mountaineers via the Summit for Someone program. bigcitymountaineers.org
Chris Meehan is the author of Climbing Colorado’s Fourteeners: From the Easiest Hikes to the Most Challenging Climbs. You can find it here: bit.ly/2MvQrFR. His forthcoming book is a Colorado adventure guide, so if you have any favorites to share, write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.