Colorado Fourteeners, 2009

For six months we have been planning our summer vacation. We are attempting to climb all of the 14,000 foot mountains in Colorado this summer. There are 54 official mountains and 5 others that do not quite meet the criteria for being official peaks (300 foot elevation rise above the saddle connecting to it's neighbor.) Our goal is to do all 59 in seven weeks, but we are sitting at home in Tennessee. It is easy to plan for success.

Another quirky rule to the Fourteeners game is a 3,000 foot ascent. We will not be able to complete the routes by that standard. The 3,000 foot rule was set to bring fairness to the game. You can drive to the top of Pikes and close to the top of Evans - if you stroll to the top from the upper parking lots, is that an ascent. No, you have to climb 3,000 feet. However if you were doing Mounts Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross from Kite Lake - you would have to start below Kite Lake and then climb Democrat, return to below 3,000 feet, climb Cameron, return to below 3,000 feet, etc. We will not follow the 3,000 foot rule.

Through our planning we have decided on the following standards:

  • We will start from Honda Element trailheads. We have a four-wheel drive truck at home, but we are not in Colorado to drive up the mountains. Most of our starting points will be from 2WD trailheads - our Element is AWD but does not have much clearance. Damaging the car by bottoming out on a rock would end our summer.
  • We will try to recognize the 3,000 foot rule but more importantly we will use the natural trailheads. For example, to climb Mount Bierstadt, the Guanella Pass trailhead does not give a 3,000 foot ascent, but it is a natural trailhead. We will start from Guanella.
  • Some ascents will be car to car, others will require backpacking up to sixteen miles (Chicago Basin.)
  • When we can we will do multiple peaks. We will not descend 3,000 foot before ascending the next peak.

Our general plan is to spend about a week in Colorado acclimating and training and then begin the journey. Starting on Pikes Peak we plan to end on Longs Peak six weeks later. In between these two famous peaks we hope to negotiate the summits of the other 52 peaks. Our daily schedule will be to wake up by three, walking by three-thirty. We will move continually and hardly ever take breaks. Breakfast will be prepared the night before and eaten while moving. No coffee. Lunch will begin as soon as breakfast is finished and will continue until the end of the hike. On most hikes we will carry a water filter.

We are going to camp at the trailheads or backpack until we find a suitable location to sleep a few winks before our early morning departures. See the detailed routes for specifics. Through the years we have perfected sleeping in our Honda Element. It makes for a very comfortable traveling base - especially with Therm-a-Rest Dreamtime pads. Our packs for most overnights weigh less than twenty pounds.

My mother in law after hearing our plans said, "that doesn’t sound like much of a vacation to me." We will not be spending the nights in hotels with jacuzzis. Our concerns will be more basic, like when will we get to go to the next store, do laundry, or take showers.

We will update this site when it is practical. We cannot afford a satellite phone, so our updates will be dependent on coffee shop access - if they will let us in without showers.