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.
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→
A Mt. Sherman winter summit had been a goal of mine nearly since I arrived in Colorado. It is an easy climb but had eluded me because of deep snow on the road to the trailhead. Just outside of Fairplay, Colorado, the road is dirt for nearly 15 miles and unplowed for the last three miles. I barreled my car into a snow drift a week ago and was back to see if the road was any clearer. But while solid tracks went further than last time, my car was high centered on a massive snowdrift miles from the trailhead again. I had stopped at Pizza Hut on the way in to use their Wi-Fi to gain some beta on the climb and drove straight here a little after 8 to get an early night’s sleep. Continue reading Mt. Sherman winter summit→
I didn’t know much about Mt. Yale winter climb; it was without question the least researched 14er to date for me. While I had done overkill research for most peaks, I really decided to do this peak last night, realizing I was just down the road from the trailhead and the road was paved and plowed the whole way. After getting stuck for nearly 24 hours on the road to Mt. Sherman, I was committed to either purchasing new tires or sticking to the tamer trailheads for now. I figured the tire stores would be closed for the weekend so figured I’d attempt a three summits in three days with Sherman yesterday, Yale today, and La Plata tomorrow. Continue reading Mt. Yale winter summit→
I made a short video of a pretty crazy day I had up on Mts. Belford, Oxford, and Missouri. It was a pretty big day attempting a triple summit with winds gusting up to 60 and wind chills down to 30 below. Started at 9am and got back to my car at 7pm, contending with blasting snow for the last few miles out. Check out the full write up on the day here: http://graysoncobb.com/belford-oxford-missouri/
What do you do when you find yourself on the pinnacle of one of the highest mountains in North America alone after sunset with windchills down to 40 below? From personal experience, you get down as quickly as you can. Which for me meant sliding on my ass down a 40 degree snow filled couloir that I had just ascended.
I’m driving toward the Missouri Gulch trailhead, 8 miles off the main highway and even further from the nearest sign of life. There are thousand acre ranches on either side but they look as lifeless as the sand brown grasses scattered amongst the dense snowpack. It’s well into the night and my my visibility is limited to the narrow beam of light my car spits out in front. The moon is a thumbnail on the horizon, with clouds occasionally hiding it from view. The road is packed dirt with occasional keep-you-awake patches of ice and snow scattered about. I’m acting like I’m in a hurry but really I have nowhere I need to be other than prepping for the big day tomorrow and then making a pitiful effort at sleep before an early rise. Continue reading Missouri Gulch Trailhead→
A few months ago, three weeks into my attempt on the Appalachian Trail record, I met up with a lifelong friend and rival in high school track, Bo Peaseley. We had been texting over the previous few days, trying to coordinate a meet up. He was thru-hiking north and I was heading south. I arrived at the shelter late at night and thought he might be headed my way. A few minutes later he rolled in and we caught up for a few minutes before hitting the sack.
So when I got a text from Bo saying he was moving out to Denver and he wanted to climb some 14ers I thought it fitting that despite living in the same city back on the east coast that we run into each other in rural nowhere once again. We talked about climbing Bierstadt, but considered, if we were feeling up for it, the Bierstadt, Sawtooth, Evans combo which included two 14ers and a wicked ridgeline traverse along narrow ledges to connect the two. Continue reading Bierstadt, Sawtooth, Evans→