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.
I finally got around to putting together a video of me packing up my Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 running vest. Several people wanted to see exactly how all the stuff I needed for my attempt on the Appalachian Trail unsupported record last summer could fit into a 10L pack. I hope this provides some insight into the possibility of some crazy ultralight backpacking!
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→
Hiking down Stratton Mountain I felt elated and completely at peace. A couple miles from the summit I saw a couple hikers setting up hammocks just off the trail. Enjoying the relaxing pace I had adopted this evening I sat down for a minute to check my mileages on my phone and ask them about the trail conditions down the hill. As was becoming the norm they couldn’t believe I was camping with such a tiny pack. Both engineers from Boston, they asked where I was from. I told them Richmond and one of them said he was dating a girl in Richmond. I found out she went to a rival high school and graduated a year before me. Simple things like that bring back little pieces of home and made the trip much more bearable. It was a cool little reminder of the connectedness in this world. In my loneliest moments, I always found there was a little bit of home everywhere, whether in some familiar looking woods, or in a phone call home, in a stranger’s friendliness, or in a crazy connection. Continue reading Massachusetts Appalachian Trail, Day 19, 42.3 miles→
“To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again. The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits.”
As I was hiking up Speck Mountain around dusk last night, I started looking for campsites on the slopes of the mountain. My standards for a campsite are very, very low. But I was quickly realizing that tonight I would have to drop even my lowest standards. The shelter was still 2 miles away over a decent climb, my tendinitis was worsening and the sun had already set. I managed to find a spot off the trail that gently sloped downward. I was too tired to care anymore. Exhaustion overpowered my rational thinking and I began to set up camp. Continue reading White Mountain Lodge and Hostel, Day 9, 28.2 miles→
This summer I am going to be attempting to break the unsupported Appalachian Trail record. I have been asked a lot of questions about my trip and wanted to clear up exactly what I am doing by addressing some of those common questions here.
What exactly are you doing?
Self-supported Appalachian Trail record thru hike attempt. It is done backpacker style without a support crew. I will resupply in towns and pick up packages I mailed to myself but cannot have prearranged support from friends or family nor will I be able to accept rides into towns.
I grew up with the idea that this was a backpacking trip: four kids, sleeping pads, some food and water, awesome misadventures. Honestly, when I saw my first backpacker with the heavy load on their back, I was shocked. I couldn’t imagine what they could possibly be carrying. Since I began my solo trips, I’ve tried to keep my gear as simple and practical as possible, mostly for functional reasons (less stuff to break) but also because for me it’s safer and more fun. Continue reading What ultralight backpacking means to me→
Overall my recent training hikes have been very uneventful hiking. But I do need to evaluate what slowed me down and each individual ache and pain. Back when I was racing triathlons I was extremely resistant to making excuses. I blew off every reason that could have slowed me down or made perform less than my best. But while in a two-hour race my stubbornness probably helped, with such long distance hiking, denying any ache or pain can turn into a brutal lesson.
On my spring break trip I had developed achilles tendonitis in my left heel. By the end of the trip it was creaking and severely inflamed. Because of the grueling punishment I had put my body through, I couldn’t be certain of exactly what had caused it. I suspected going from the flatness of Norfolk out to the high mountains of Smoky Mountain National Park had put additional strain on my tendon on the uphills and that stretching may alleviate it. I had also wondered if it had to do with my ridiculously small climbing shoes I had been using for several months at the climbing gym in Virginia Beach. And of course there was the distressing possibility that my body simply didn’t want to tolerate 40+ mile hiking days. Continue reading Evaluating setbacks→