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.
We set out at 8pm with a sensible goal of getting a few miles into the Blue Ridge Wrangler, a 185 mile bikepacking loop, just to get away from the road for a night of camping. Neither I nor my friend Scott had ever bikepacked before and we were about to ride away from the comfort of our cars. Onto unknown trails. Thirty minutes before sunset. On gravel bikes.
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.
A few days ago I hiked up from the valley in southwest Virginia to scout out rock climbing Tinker Cliffs and check out the possibility of setting up some solid routes. From a mile down in the valley, the possibility for rock climbing on Tinker cliffs appear endless. And up the 3+ mile Andy Layne Trail to reach the summit of Tinker Cliffs, I found exactly that. The beta for the Cliffs is sparse, with the Mountain Project info limited to a few comments on a forum and other sites simply hinting at the possibility. So I wanted to hop up there and see what rock climbing Tinker Cliffs would look like up close.
Day 1 in Iceland was amazing! I’m backtracking my updates because I am finally spending the night in a hostel rather than car camping. Super nice to be clean for the first time in a week but hell, not my worst stretch without a shower. First day rolling into Keflavik, my buddy Scott and I bolted to the West Fjords of Iceland, a desolate remote area with gravel roads and few sparsely populated towns. I’ll spare you dragging this on and let our daily recap video do the talking for us.
In the dry, cool gusts in the Bear Lake parking lot in Rocky Mountain National Park, I took off my steamy boots and replaced them with my booties, exchanged the puffy down jacket for a soft fleece, and my grimy fleece cap for open air. I headed for Estes Park with my heat blasting, and as soon as I knew I had cell service, pulled out my phone and called my mom. She panicked when I recounted the details of the day but I continually reminded her that I was safe. It was nice to tell the story from the comfort of my heated car and come to grips with what had actually happened and addressing the mistakes while they were fresh in my head. I guess it was sort of the start of my coping with what I had done. I faced the fact that it happened and I could choose to make something of it and grow or ignore it and shame myself. Continue reading Misadventures in Rocky Mountain National Park, Descending Taylor Glacier: Part 4→
But when I stepped down into this untouched snow gully, I sank up to my hips. The snow was loose powder and I knew it could calve off and slide at any minute. But it was my way out. I counted on the narrowness of the gully and the steepness of the slope to be my savior. I figured it was far too steep for an avalanche but knew it could still slide. At this point the grade was so steep I was practically climbing a wall of loose snow concealing firmer ice below. Continue reading Descending Andrews Glacier, Climbing Taylor Glacier: Part 3→
I worked my way up the shallower lower slopes beneath Taylor Glacier through deep powder with my snowshoes on and trekking poles in hand. The snow was deep and fluffy so the going was easier with some flotation on my feet and something to balance in my hands. But when I turned around I realized I had already ascended my way onto something so much steeper than I felt comfortable with. A slip on this grade on the slick ice of Taylor Glacier would mean broken bones at best.
“To my family and all my friends, I love you all more than you can ever imagine and am so sorry that I have put you through this. I never meant to get myself into these situations but sometimes my attempts to live life to the fullest ended up putting me on the edge. I was attempting to climb Andrews Glacier today but made a wrong turn toward Sky Pond. But instead of turning back and trying again tomorrow I attempted climbing Taylor Glacier instead. If you’re reading this then I must’ve slipped and fallen. Once again, I love you all and know that I was out here doing something I loved. I beg you to forgive me for the selfishness of these adventures but know that now, knowing the situation I’ve gotten myself into, I would much rather be back with each and every one of you over being in these mountains.”Continue reading Climbing Taylor Glacier: The worst mistake I’ve ever made: Part 1→