Colorado Fourteeners Trip Review

Well, we did it!

Our goal was to climb all of the Fourteeners in one summer and we finished on July 31, 2009 with an ascent of Longs Peak. We originally wanted to climb the five unofficial peaks also, but that dream vanished in the Chicago Basin when we were unable to climb North Eolus (due to scheduling issues.)

Then we were left with climbing the 54 and, before long, that was fine with us. The only mountain we really wished that we had climbed that we did not was El Diente. The ridge leading over from Mount Wilson looked fun and, in fact, easier than descending Mount Wilson. If we were not in the middle of a storm, we would have gone down that way.

We did not follow the 3,000 foot rule, but by repeating many of the climbs which we had done before we now are way on our way to finishing all the peaks accordingly.

Then there was the Mount Evans deal, which we only followed the 1,500 foot rule or so. (We have actually climbed the Sawtooth before for a legitimate ascent of Evans). On this trip we only climbed up from Summit Lake. Though the elevation gain of our climbs up Bierstadt and Evans was more than if we had done the Sawtooth from Guanella Pass, the mileage was shorter. We would have liked to have climbed Evans by another route toward the end of the trip, but ran out of time. Amy said it was so cold that day on Evans that it had to count for something. Rationalizing further, Summit Lake to Evans was almost the same as the upper parking lot of Castle to the summit. But... I did not like that upper parking on Castle either (we did not park there).

Towards the middle of the trip when things became a bit wearing, we felt like calling it quits. The weather sucked (the entire month of June was cold, with lots of rain and snow) and we were being spanked on a daily basis. It was not a lot of fun at that time. We felt like we could finish, we just did not want to climb anymore. With the help of our friends and the encouragement of everyone we met, we continued.

Finally, in July, the weather improved and every time we needed a good day, we seemed to get it. We pushed on with our climbing.

We took five days longer to complete the peaks than we originally expected. Along the way we decided to split up the Bells combo and Bierstadt/Evans combo, we took two days to do Capitol and two for Snowmass (backpacked in for both), and we needed a couple of extra rest days.

Reasons for Success

Planning - We did a good job researching the routes and preparing for almost every situation we encountered. The web site was invaluable. We used the trip reports and routes as our primary resources. Roach's book was so outdated it was of less value to us. Our other source of information was the trip reports from All of these sources as well as first-hand beta from the climbers we met on the trails, kept us well informed.

Fitness - We trained all Spring. At times it got a bit hectic, but we were fairly fit starting the trip. We also took various backpacking trips to push our fitness levels, practice endurance, and test gear.

Health - Somehow we stayed healthy for the whole trip. We had no real sicknesses or injuries. A dislocated finger was the biggest injury. Each day as we climbed if one of us started getting sloppy, the other would remind to slow down and concentrating on what was at hand (usually just walking). We practiced controlling our speed, finding the easiest path, being cautious, being careful, and looking after each other.

Pace - As in, pacing ourselves through the mountain life we had chosen to live for two months. We tried to control our physical effort so that we would have energy for the next day. We had to constantly remind ourselves that we needed to eat, drink, and sleep for the next days efforts. On the nights we felt too tired to eat, we had to push to make the effort to fix a meal in order to have enough energy for the next day.

Time Management - We woke early (not using an alarm) and moved as fast as possible. Hardly ever did we take breaks; we kept moving at a steady pace. If one of us was feeling low, we would stop for a standing eight count to eat a little and then continue. On the summits we were there only for enough time to snap a few pictures and then headed back down again. Every minute we spent climbing was a minute we could not spend resting at camp.

Encouragement - Our friends kept us going. We were tired and ready to quit, but they wanted us to succeed. Everyone we met on the trail seemed to want us to succeed, too. We were in such a positive environment, we could not stay negative for long.

Desire - During the whole trip we cancelled one climbing day. It was Holy Cross (June 21), we were wet, tired, and I had serious blisters that needed a day off for healing. I was hoping to find new shoes. We cancelled the climb before we started it, then climbed it a couple of weeks later. Also in Chicago Basin we had dog issues on the first day when we were going to climb Sunlight and Windom. We had to climb Windom the next day and did not climb N Eolus. When we left camp that morning we knew we would not climb N Eolus, unless it was a simple side trip. After climbing Windom and Eolus, we had to return to camp, pack, backpack out 16 miles, and meet friends in Ouray - we did not have time to climb N Eolus too.
Every day that we left the trailhead, we summited the mountains we were trying to climb! We climbed 40 days and made at least one summit on each of the 40 days. When folks told us of how bad the conditions were, we just changed gears and kept moving. We had the experience and equipment to solve almost any problem as long as we did not defeat ourselves. As we climbed, we tried to only worry about having the strength to make the next step and then the next one, we would take care of the problems when we got to them - just keep moving one step at a time.


Back home we miss the mountains. We miss the daily movement and adventure. We miss the trails and rocks. It is hard to have been so driven and then turn off the force and walk away. Perhaps we should have planned for an un-acclimating phase.

We enjoy being reunited with our house, family, Jake the dog, and friends. It is also really nice to be using our big computer again!

As I work, I have all ready been distracted, thinking about our next small and big trips.

Once again, thanks to everyone - our family, friends, and folks we met along the way. We had a great trip and are glad to share it with you. Our Summer of 2009 trip is over, but the tales will continue for years to come.