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The Fourteeners (14ers) are mountain peaks with at least 14,000 feet or more (4267 m). The summit of fourteener can be reached through different classes of mountaineering routes based on nature. With a total number of 53, Colorado has the most fourteeners. Alaska is in second place with 29.
Not every 14,000 ft summit qualifies to be a fourteener. They possess few criteria to be independent. To value the summit, these three criteria are used:
- Tropic elevation- summit height above geodic level.
- Tropic prominence- measures how high the peak is from its surroundings.
- Tropic isolation- measures how far the summit lies from its nearest point of equal elevation.
These three determine the independent summit. One commonly used rule for summit ascertainment is that a peak must have at least 300ft of prominence.
While hiking and climbing fourteeners, people have to evaluate some factors. Hiking can be havoc without proper training and research. Every summit has at least 14,000 ft to conquer, and its elevation changes lead to body acclimation.
Fourteener has been explored for climbing, hiking, and enjoying scenic beauty from the top. Other than elite emotions, the elevations may cause altitude sickness. This occurs due to the lack of oxygen, and your body fails to acclimate to the scenario.
Altitude sickness may differ from person to person. The most common concerns are headache, vomiting, short breath, fatigue, and weakness. This all leads to hypothermia.
To avoid altitude sickness, the body has to acclimate with proper workouts. You have to maintain your body hydrated and nourished for smooth functioning in the altitudes.
When climbing the peak, switchbacks are vital to guard the safe return. It helps in eliminating turmoil in a trial. Mountaineering routes are classified upon the range of difficulty. There are five classes for 14ers. The class rating will aid in acquiring more knowledge regarding route troubles.
1. Class one- For hiking. They offer the most convenient routes for hiking. They make the trail easiest towards the summit without any chaos. Class one are routes with no scrambling and climbing throughout the trail.
2. Class two – Easy scrambling. Peaks that came under class two are slightly different from class one as they have to scramble to reach the peak. Most of the Colorado fourteeners fall under this category. Unlike class one, you will need to use your hands for scrambling the rocks and boulders. The falls aren’t risky nor deadly.
3. Class three – Advanced scrambling. There is an increased risk compared to the above classes. The exposure of scrambling makes the fall deadly. Not only experts but beginners can also conquer the peak with limited skills.
4. Class four – Simple climbing. Usually, class four are dangerous due to the lack of ropes in the trail. It is the same reason that makes the peaks special to climb to for experts.
5. Class five – Technical climbing. Here, ropes are used to explore climbing by skilled technical climbers.
Top Five 14ers
There are plenty of fourteeners around the world. While most of them are located west of the Mississippi River, Colorado has one among the states.
Adventure enthusiasts of all skill levels will hike the peak varying from easy to difficult trails. Based upon the prominence and elevation criteria, the top five 14ers are:
- Mount of the Holy Cross or known as the Halo Ridge route
- Pikes Peak
- Maroon Bells or Maroon Peak
- Mount Sneffels
- Capitol Peak
Mount of the Holy Cross or Halo Ridge Route
It is situated in the northernmost Sawatch range due to its unique snowcross shape, prominently known as the Mount of the Holy Cross.
The 14,000 mountain was declared as a “Holy Cross National Monument” by Herbert Hoover and has been a muse for artists, including painters, photographers, and poets.
A photograph of the mountain was first publicized in the National Geographic Magazine. An oil painting of the mountain created by the artist Thomas Moran, on the other hand, is now part of the Museum of the American West collection.
The cross shape of the mountain is visible from Vail Mountain ski area, but they were first spotted by another fourteener called grays peak in 1869.
Due to the forge of the mountain, numerous hikers lost the way to the descent route. Many of them lost their lives due to a lack of knowledge regarding climate change and the trail’s surroundings.
Class route: Class 2 with Easy Scrambling
Elevation: 14,005 feet
It is located in Colorado at the western edge of the Great Plains and ranks 32nd among Colorado fourteeners with easy accessibility and locations.
This has always been the first choice among hikers due to its breathtaking views and easy trails. Lieutenant Zebulon Pike first spied it in 1806.
Because of climate change and lack of layered clothing, he abandoned the hike in between. Even though he failed to complete the hike, the mountain is named after him.
It has been the regular stage for bicycling and running the contest and one of the prominent automobile races venue. Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is also held there each summer.
Class route: Class 2 with Easy Scrambling
Elevation: 14,115 feet
Maroon Bells or Maroon Peaks
Being the epitome of rock mountain beauty, Maroon Bells is the most photographed fourteeners in colorado. The same reason framed it to be featured in the Colorado 14ers map 10 of 16. Till now, no photographs did justice to its scenic beauty.
Located 10 miles away from Aspens, it has shown the harmony of colors irrespective of seasons. It is named after the blissful hue and bell-shaped summit of the peak. Due to unstable rocks and boulders, it is also known as “deadly bells,” and without proper training and qualification, it could drive you to the edge of death.
In autumn, it’s always a treat to your eyes with the symphony of blue and golden skies.
Class route: Class 3
It has been popular among hikers who like to have terrific experience in rock climbing. It offers everything you want from a hike, including lush scenery, an alluring summit, and mesmerizing beauty. They have relatively less exposure, and a simple route steers easy access to mountains. You can indulge in an adventure without being risky through active skills and research.
Mount Sneffels’ name originated from the novel “Journey to the Center of Earth”. Back in 1874, Hayden Survey visited the peak and proclaimed by seeing the peak, “there’s snaefell!”, referring from the book. Later the locals mispronounced the mountain as sneffels.
Class route: Class 3
Elevation: 2,900 feet
Capitol Peak is acclaimed as the most terrific fourteener among the fifty-eight peaks in Colorado. The significant risk factor is prominent with the unstable rock and boulder nature. Proper backpacking skills are necessary to reach the peak. The 8.5-mile long hike amplifies danger in the hike. The vile edge between capitol peak and K2 adds more concerns to the route. It is commonly known as “knife-edge”. Many hikers had lost their lives on this deadly edge. There is a warning for climbing the mountain without proper scrambling and climbing experience.
Capitol Peak was named by a group of explorers who claimed the peak surface was reminiscent of the U.S capitol building. Conquering the summit is a salient accomplishment.
Class route: Class 4 – Climbing
Elevation: 5,300 feet
Before conquering the fourteeners, always research and train your body to acclimate. Depending upon your experience, select the class routes.
Before backpacking always follows the following aspects:
- A hydrated and nourished body
- Train your body to acclimate to changing weather and high altitudes
- Carry lightweight foods contains more carbohydrates and energy
- Always layer up the clothes
- Proper workouts
- Take a rest in between
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