With the fall and winter months approaching quickly, Colorado mountaineers are whipping out the crampons and double boots in lieu of the trad rack and trail runners. But if you’re new to the big mountains, the cold and snow can be quite intimidating for good reason. If you’re looking to bag some winter 14ers but don’t want to risk your life to do so, this list list can help steer you to some solid safer climbs. Whether you’re looking for a more intense climb than the summer hikes or love the solitude of the off-season, winter 14ers can be an amazing experience.
However, before even considering attempting any of these winter 14ers, I would recommend that you have experience with climbing 14ers or at least 13ers in the warmer months, or at minimum go with someone who is familiar with the mountain and the cold. For nearly all of these climbs, I recommend having at minimum microspikes and trekking poles. It was a very rare day that these aren’t essential pieces of gear. In addition to that, most of the climbs call for snowshoes, especially after a storm or on the less travelled routes, and many of them necessitate an ice axe and the experience with using one. 10 point crampons are rarely if ever necessary on most of these routes.
This is not meant to be an all inclusive guide to each climb, just merely an introduction to help you decide which climbs to do. Always check weather and route conditions beforehand. I’ve linked to some helpful resources at the bottom.
James Pearson making the first ascent of The Walk of Life with runout poorly protected featureless slab with a HUGE whipper. Doesn’t get any better than this. “You start off and you climb almost 10 meters with no gear and then you get a really, very bad nut which is, maybe you’d hang your coat of it.”
You’re five miles into a hike with a group of friends. You’ve never been hiking before and it sounded adventurous and fun and a great way to to get out and have fun with friends, enjoy being outside, and relax for a bit. And you’re having a great time with the exception of a weird feeling in your hands. Your wedding ring and watch are getting tight and your skin feels taut. Your arms feel bloated and you look down and sure enough you’ve got big old sausage fingers. Are you dying? Do you need to turn around and race to the hospital? Maybe you have cell service and after you post a quick pic to insta you do a quick WebMD search. It says you have heart failure or this weird thing called thrombosis. Now you’re worried and want to go back so you can do more internet searching before you head to the ER. When you get home you dig deeper in your internet searching and get more specific. Instead of just searching hand swelling, you search had hands swell while hiking and find an Outside Magazine article, where you may learn that you’re suffering from hyponatremia. You find a facebook thread of loads of confident expert internet commenters recommending the cure-all tip of hydration or electrolytes.
But nearly all this information you’ll find is absolutely, jarringly, painfully wrong, so I hope this article becomes the one to top out on the google searches so maybe some people will learn the real answer, and learn a real solution. You don’t have heart failure, you’re not alone, and you don’t need to hydrate. Continue reading Why your hands swell while hiking: the real reason→
“We talked about how we were the only two people in our family with any background in healthcare. I said to him, ‘In a little less than three years, I’ll be Dr. Cobb, how crazy is that?’ He looked up from his lost gaze and said ‘I hope I’m here to be able to call you that,’ and for the first time in my life I understood that he may not actually make it that long, that he was dying.”
I wrote that sentiment two years ago today and while my granddad never had the chance to call me Dr. Cobb, reading through these words today made me feel immensely better about his passing. A little over two months ago he died of respiratory failure after contracting pneumonia. I was studying for my board exam when my mom called me to let me know I should come into town. I packed up my things and was there with him and my family when he breathed some of his last breaths. Continue reading Questions of a disoriented third year medical student→
So with the first realization that I might not get to stand on the summit, I was pretty friggin bummed. But I still had hope despite the horribly gloomy outlook. Snow was coming down hard now and we were getting destroyed by the wind. But I understood that the weather wasn’t the problem. We could bundle up and proceed no problem. But where we were, where we had to go, and where we had come from all had a risk of avalanches, especially after large snowfall. We climbed for probably another 45 minutes to an hour and it got much worse. Continue reading Chimborazo Part 3: The descent→
But in classic high altitude diuretic fashion, I had to rise to pee about 10 times in the middle of the night. Compared to the night prior when the refugio was full, now we only had about 10 people for the nearly 40 bed bunkhouse. When the other climbers got up at 9pm to pack and have breakfast and get started I got up to go pee. An Australian climber who would attempt the summit the day after me woke up too and stumbled down in his boxers. As he walked by me he mumbled, “Good morning,” and then kept on walking. Oh the joys of an oxygen starved brain. Continue reading Chimborazo Part 2: The climb→
I looked over at Raul, the snow blasting my face, and saw him shifting his jacket to better protect his eyes. He was constantly shifting, looking down the mountain at the train of headlamps below us piercing the bitter darkness. The snow and spindrift split through seams between my jackets and pants. It bombarded my neck and ripped at my exposed cheeks. But I wanted this summit. I’d never summited a mountain over 14,500 feet and here we were at 18,500 feet, just 2,000 feet shy of the summit. We could roll and be back down before dawn at the pace we were hitting. The snow would let up and I’d hope for a moment, and then it would return and crush any prospect of continuing up the mountain. We needed to go down. And we needed to make that decision while we still had time.
A few days ago, as I sat watching my granddad take some of his last breaths, I couldn’t help but want to fight and resist the reality that was quickly transpiring. He had developed pneumonia over the last few days and it was progressing quickly. As he reached for each breath with every muscle in his body, I thought of all the medical measures they could do to save him. But he wouldn’t want to be saved at all costs and despite my desire to have him around for eternity, I respected that. But it was so hard for me, as someone who has been learning about all the ways to interfere in the process to just sit back and accept what was happening. Continue reading My granddad, Donald Cobb→
So a couple months ago the gf and I went on a road trip to Eastern Kentucky to visit the largest cave system in the world and the sport climbing capital east of the Mississippi. “Go on a 10 hour road trip with your new girlfriend, Grayson,” they said. “It’ll be fun and totally stress free,” they said. Actually no one said that.
It actually ended up being a pretty awesome trip. But on the second night at Red River Gorge we had just finished an awful day of climbing and were driving back to our campsite and came upon a stray dog in the middle of the road. A stray, limping, seriously pregnant stray dog. Mind you, Erin and I are sleeping in my car, my little car, with my two dogs and we know no one and hardly know where we even are. Well you can read more about that here, but I’ll get to the point. Continue reading Update on Betty the dog→
It was four in the morning. My arms hurt, my car reeked, my dogs were restless, my girlfriend was frustrated, and we had picked up a smelly stray dog on the side of the road in rural middle-of-nowhere Kentucky. We were 500 miles from home, exhausted, with three dogs and two people trying to sleep in a muggy Subaru Outback. I thought taking my girlfriend on a road trip would be a good idea. I thought it’d be fun. I had made a sleeping platform, tried to think through all the potential hiccups, bought a memory foam mattress for my car, and planned the adventure far beyond the details I usually attend to on my solo endeavors.
Later that morning I called my dad to vent. I told him the trip was going disastrously and that Erin wanted to go home. He assumed that the quarrels were between the relatively new couple but I told him, “No, we’re not fighting each other. The world is fighting us.” But it did get better, and now that I’m home writing this, with a couple days to process, I can confidently say that it was one of the most fun adventures I’ve had yet.
We started our trip with a quick hop up to Northern Virginia to celebrate St. Patty’s day with Erin’s family in Fairfax. On Friday, while Erin and her mom were getting some last minute cooking done for the party, I got out of their way and hit up Carderock for a couple hours on top rope soloing on the slabby rocks. With a solid layer of snow on the ground from a storm a couple days earlier all my gear came home soaking wet and muddy. But it was a good time and it was nice to get outside on one of the warmer days of my spring break.