4th Person Dies Attempting to Summit 14,000-Foot-Peak in Colorado This Summer

Steven Agar | ClimbingClimbing
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Knifes Edge, Capitol Peak 14er. Credit: justacoloradogal.com

There is a growing movement to promote safety and educate hikers, due to the fourth death on a 14er this year, reports The Denver Channel.

Jake Lord was attempting his 23rd 14er, Capitol Peak, last Saturday when he fell to his death.

With over 260,000 summit trips every year in Colorado, a figure which is increasing as more and more people attempt to ‘bag a 14er’, experts are keen to emphasise that these ‘approachable Everests’, even the easy ones, can be treacherous.

Some are tough, technical climbs whereas others are walk-ups. Either way, all require a level of fitness, dedication, preparation and planning before attempting an ascent. Here are some basic rules to follow to stay safe and still have fun on your hike:

First of all, pick your 14er and research and plan your route. The ‘easiest’ 14ers are likely to be busy at the weekend, but for beginners this safety in numbers can be of great benefit. 14ers.com is the ultimate online guide to the 53 official 14ers and is full of routes, advice and reports on Colorados greatest peaks.

Gerry Roach, author of “Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs”, recommends the following:

“Grays, Torreys, Bierstadt, Evans, Quandary, Lincoln, Democrat and Sherman are close to Denver and easy enough for a first climb.”

Check the weather, and start your hike early. Daily afternoon storms during the summer mean that it is best to summit early, and begin your descent to be back below the tree line before storms set in. Lightning kills people every year in Colorado’s mountains. James Dziezynski, author of “Best Summit Hikes in Colorado” advises being on the trail by 5am, if not earlier for a more technical climb, and goes on to say:

“I definitely become aware of weather around 10 in the morning, because that’s when you start to see those storms building. And a general rule is, you want to be into tree line around 1:30 in the afternoon.”

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Storms are common most afternoons in Colorados mountains. Credit: Anthony Quintano, mojagear.com

Knowing what to pack and wear is another important point. Among the essentials are water (64-100 ounces), snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, rain jacket, warm layers, hat and gloves, map and compass, first aid kit and a head lamp. It’s also advisable not to go out in shorts. As well as sunburn you can get drenched by rain or frozen in freak snow storms, and the higher you get, the colder it gets. What you wear on your feet comes down to personal preference, some prefer boots, but others opt for lighter trail runners or shoes although the latter can increase the risk of a twisted ankle, or cold wet feet in a storm.

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What to pack for a day hike. Credit: azutopia.com

Altitude can have an adverse effect on anyone, regardless of age, fitness or previous experience. The only real cure for altitude sickness is to descend, but keeping hydrated and taking ibuprofen can also help. If possible, spend the previous night at or near the trailhead to help acclimatize.

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Mt. Elbert, Colorados highest peak. Credit: Wikipedia

And finally, respect the eco system, leave no trace. Stick to paths, don’t cut switchbacks. Don’t pick flowers, keep dogs on leash and take all trash with you.

If you don’t feel ready to attempt a 14er, there are plenty of 13ers and 12ers to attempt and use as training for 14ers. Dziezynski says of the smaller peaks:

“They’re a little lower than the mileage on most fourteeners, but they’re a great place to figure out your body, figure out your pace.”

For a more detailed summary, check out the full article at the denverpost.com


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