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→
After sampling multiple closed cell foam and air mattresses on trips ranging from single nights in the Appalachians to multi-day trips on snow, I can confidently say I’m not really sure why someone would use any other camping mattress besides the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite and Xtherm. On 90% of trips, one of those two mattresses will be my go to. But it’s not without its downsides, so I will look to highlight why I personally think the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite is the best mattress on the market but also some of its pitfalls.
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→
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.
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!
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→
I knew a rim to rim to rim Grand Canyon hike would be grueling ever since I battled with the terrain nearly two years ago. I came out here for a med school interview at University of Arizona and drove my rental car up north for some hiking the next day. After a two day stint on the south side of the canyon, I fell in love with the place, and with the prospect of crossing from the south to the north and back all in one day.
I googled the distance to the canyon from where I was in central Colorado a week ago, saw it was surprisingly close, a mere 10 hours which I judged as less than a day rather than in absolute, holy crap that’s a decently long drive, terms. I hit the road, driving only during the day to not miss the sights along the way and enjoyed driving out of the deep snow and into the mesa filled desert of southwest Colorado, New Mexico, and then into Arizona. It was overwhelming seeing the 14k foot peaks disappear behind me; it really put into perspective what I had been doing the past few weeks. It was hard to comprehend exactly how big those mountains are until I saw their peaks towering behind me in the distance. Continue reading Rim to Rim to Rim Grand Canyon→
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→