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.”
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.
There we were, scrubbing horse crap off my dog, chronicling another installment of the misadventures of Snotty Booger and The Grace Face. Scott held Rosie’s ass in the air as I scrubbed the horse shit off the back of her neck. After a long day of climbing at Pilot Mountain State Park from nearly dawn till dusk, there we were in the park bathroom bathing my dog and she was not happy about it. She tried to wrestle her way out of it, sliding her soap covered paws around the bottom of the small sink with her ass unflatteringly held in the air by Scott. Speckles of horse poo trickled down into the sink and the odor of feces became replaced by the aroma of the cheap hand soap that I scrubbed into her fur. I wasn’t about to put this poopy face mutt back into my backseat for the drive home and was feeling sympathetic toward Scott for having to ride back there with her. In lieu of a knob, the sink had one of those horrible satanic plungers that you have to depress every three seconds to keep the water running. And I honestly struggled to understand how water so cold could remain in liquid form. But hey, guess what you little turd neck, play stupid games, win stupid prizes. I freed her when the soap and poop particles were all gone and she bolted around the bathroom like a maniac, dodging the vicious beastly hand dryer on the wall and shaking as she stormed around. Continue reading Climbing at Pilot Mountain→
My granddad just turned 83 a few days ago. And as a former cop, he didn’t get there by being a dummy. He has always taken care of himself, paid attention to risks around him, avoided alcohol, and kept himself busy. I’ll never forget seeing him clearing downed trees in his driveway despite being in his 70s. But one thing that has always stood out to me was how he refused to fly on planes. He had helped clean up a plane crash with the bodies of 74 corpses of young soldiers just outside of Richmond in 1961. But despite improvements on air travel and being told about the safety of flying, he decided he would never accept the risk of it, and there was no changing his mind. Continue reading Assumption of Risk→
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→
To be the highest person in Colorado, a state where you can’t go a day without smelling weed, despite abstaining from any mind-altering substances, was my goal of the day: to stand on the top of Mt. Elbert winter summit at 14,439 feet. And despite some gnarly weather, I was committed to accomplishing it. Continue reading Mt. Elbert winter climb→