Prepping For Your First Fourteener

A rite of passage here in Colorado is tackling a fourteener. A fourteener is a mountain whose peak is at or above 14,000 feet. This has been on my bucket list since moving out to Boulder for college and I can finally say I’ve checked it off my list. I wanted to write this guide to help you not make the mistakes I make, but also give you a few tips and tricks. So without further ado, let’s get into the guide!

  1. 1. DO your research.

    This honestly might be self-explanatory, but it is very important you do a little research before you set out to summit your first fourteener. I recommend checking out 14ers.com for a full list of Colorado 14ers, routes, peak conditions, and more. I would also check out AllTrails while you’re at it. This website will have more detailed information on trail mileage, updated reviews, and downloadable maps. When doing your research I recommend looking into:

    Difficulty (usually rated from class 1 meaning easy to class 3 meaning difficult). 

    Location.

    Mileage. 

  2. 2. Supplies You’ll Need.

    This is a super important topic because without the proper supplies you will 100% struggle. I can speak from experience on this because I struggled a little bit since I only packed the bare minimum. Some supplies you’ll need to pack in your bag are:

    Water! - You need to continue hydrating because this is a very strenuous activity. I brought a 3L Camelbak and it lasted me the whole time.

    Food - I recommend bringing snacks and something to eat for lunch. My favorite energy-giving snacks are GU and GU Energy Chews. Both are great quick snacks that will help you to keep moving and pushing forward.

    Sun Protection - This is extremely necessary because the higher you climb in elevation the closer you are to the sun. You’ll want to bring SPF 50+, sunglasses, and a baseball cap. I would add whatever else you typically use to protect yourself.

  3. 3.  What to Wear.

    I somewhat struggled when thinking of what to wear because I wanted to be comfortable, but I also wanted to be warm. When I went I was hiking in very cold conditions so it was necessary to have warm layers. It’s also important to steer clear of cotton clothes because, as you sweat, your clothes will absorb it and you’ll continue to stay cold and wet when you want to be warm. This can also weigh you down. I would highly recommend moisture-wicking shirts and layers. A huge thing to keep in mind is the weather when you plan to start your hike as well as thorough out. This should determine the types of layers you choose to wear.

    For example, I wore on top, a moisture-wicking t-shirt, a waffle pullover, and a windbreaker. On the bottom, I wore leggings, silky sock liners, smart wool socks, and a good hiking boot.

  4. 4. Tips!

    Here of some miscellaneous tips to help you out on the mountain:

    Be Positive - This seems very self-explanatory, but whether you do the fourteener with a group or solo it’s easy to let self-doubt sink in when things get tough. Stay positive, smile, and speak positive affirmations out loud like “I’m Strong, I’m powerful, and I Got This!”

    Listen to Your Body - Sometimes it’s easy to tune out our body and push through a tough workout or run, but it’s super important to listen to your body and take breaks when you need to. 

    Be Friendly - You’ll pass so many people throughout the day so smile and say hi here and there. Someone asked me a few math problems, I weighed in on a discussion about street tacos, and there were many exchanges of encouragement. Also, be prepared to allow people to pass. A good rule of thumb is thinking of it as a road. Keep to the right and pass on the left.

    Bring Extra Socks - Do it! If it rains and your feet get wet and cold you’ll want to put on dry socks. This also goes for anyone who gets blisters. If you feel a hot spot I would change socks this will help reduce the friction your previous pair was causing.

    Don’t Be Afraid to Pee - This really sounds dumb but I was afraid to pee at 14,000 feet because there aren’t many places to pop a squat without being seen. The best tip is to find a big enough rock to get behind, make sure no one is super close, make sure you’re facing downhill, and go for it. 

    Take pictures and Videos - I’m so glad I did this because I have photos to look back at and it’s cool getting to brag a little to your friends and show them the cool views you experienced. Obviously, nothing beats the real thing!

    Planning- A great rule of thumb is to be off the peaks by noon. Living in Colorado we know what afternoon storms can do. It’s important to start as early as possible especially on the clearest of days. Better safe than struck by lightning.

I hope you get out and climb a fourteener before the season here in colorado comes to an end. I have to say that it was by far the most mentally taxing and physically exhausting experience I’ve ever had, but it was 100% worth it. Best of luck to you all and stay safe!