Never been up high but itching to give it a try? Here are a few words of advice and a few good bumps to try.
Gear Up: Conditions can change in a hurry up high, even if you are on an “easy” peak. A pack in the 30-liter range should fit all your gear without overdoing it. (Smaller packs are an option if you have your gear dialed in from previous trips.) Be sure to bring a rain shell and layers, no matter how hot it is at town or the trailhead. It’s also always a good idea to bring a warm hat. Light, collapsable trekking poles may look dorky, but you will thank yourself for bringing them on the way down (plus they help keep your arms moving and prevent swelling hands). Carry high-calorie snacks and plenty of water. And bring food and water for you dog, if you are bringing a canine companion.
Watch the Weather: Do not underestimate how fast the weather can change in the alpine. Start early (3 or 4 a.m. for peaks with long approaches) and be off of the summit by 1 p.m. Be sure to account for how long it will take you to get down from your present location when the weather starts to do downhill.
The Easy Fourteeners: Ok, no Fourteener should be labeled as “easy,” but there are a few that will set you up for success your first few trips out. We will leave Mount Evans and Pikes Peak, both of which have paved roads to the summit, off the list. The top of the list is Mount Bierstadt (14,060 feet), which is a seven mile-round trip with a modest 2,580 feet of elevation gain. Plus, it’s a short drive from downtown Denver. Close by Breckenridge Quandary Peak (14,265 feet) is basically a long walk-up (even if you have to slog over 3,500 vertical feet to the summit over seven miles). It’s also the best peak to consider if you want to ski down from the summit of a Fourteener (in the right conditions and with the proper gear and training). Another relatively easy option, that offers the chance to tick off two Fourteeners in one shot, can be found in Grays (14,270 feet) and Torreys (14,267 feet) peaks. The twin summits are located just off I-70 on the Denver side of the Eisenhower Tunnel and require an eight-mile round trip from the trailhead with just 3,000 feet of elevation gain, plus a 575-foot scramble down from the top of Grays and then back up Torreys to link them. If you want to make a Fourteener even easier, we provide you with the GPS coordinates and a free View Ranger app to get you to the summit of 14,420-foot Mount Harvard (see page 16).