Eighty million years after continental plates collided and compelled the Rocky Mountains skyward, the Chinese language ruler Shun started making ritualized ascents of small mountains round his kingdom. Throughout this Xia Dynasty 4,000 years in the past, numerous disciples emulated their emperor and unknowingly launched peak bagging to the world.
Quick-forward a number of millennia—extra exactly to 1923—when Colorado mountaineers Invoice Ervin and Carl Blaurock adopted Shun’s lead by turning into the primary to climb all 54 Colorado peaks increased than 14,000 toes. In 2020 alone, Golden, CO-based nonprofit Colorado Fourteener Initiative (minimizing environmental impacts by way of schooling and path constructing) estimates that 300,000 ‘fourteener’ devotees will try and “bag a ‘teener.”
Whereas each hiker, climber, or mountain runner has their favorites, and any “better of” listing can be hotly disputed, the next peaks are chosen—given the massive impacts and erosion attributable to overcrowding—for essentially the most sustainable trails, from all completely different mountain ranges throughout the state, and with comparatively strong rock amid a group of mountains dangerously loose-rocked.
14,259 toes excessive; 5,100-foot climb; in Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park.
Circling across the imposing east-face verticality of the “Diamond” wanted by big-wall climbers, Longs’ “walk-up” Keyhole route remains to be thought of among the many 10 hardest fourteener hikes. As a Entrance Vary peak that dominates the skyline above the Denver megalopolis, and the one fourteener amid a nationwide park, Longs is essentially the most accessible and one of the well-liked (after Quandary and Bierstadt), tried by about 20,000 hikers a yr. Caveat emptor: With 67 fatalities, that is the state’s most harmful mountain, due to its steepness and miles of publicity to relentless wind and chilly. After the primary 5.5 miles of well-marked path, the cakewalk ends; plan on becoming a member of a stop-and-go, scrambling cue up the ultimate 1.25 miles to the broad summit.
14,010 toes; 3,500-foot climb; close to deserted mining city of Winfield.
Though most be part of the mamba strains up neighboring Mount Elbert (proven above) to bag the very best within the state, Huron Peak, the 53rd highest, has essentially the most breathtaking views within the Sawatch Vary.
It additionally doesn’t harm that it’s a comparatively brief 3.25 miles up an exquisite and effectively maintained path astride the northwest ridge, amid the very best focus of whistling pikas (preserve canine leashed) wherever on the fourteeners. From the summit (view under), lush valleys drop away in three instructions, freed from any roads or cities, and you may’t assist however ogle the abrupt spires of Ice Mountain and the three Apostles—comparatively untouched ‘thirteeners.’
14,279 toes; 1,500-foot climb; close to Ashcroft.
As the best peak within the Elk Mountains, Fortress Peak additionally avoids the unfastened rock and crowds discovered on the close by Maroon Bells and Capitol Peak. With a excessive clearance, four-wheel-drive rig, you may make brief work of the unrelenting street and bump up into Montezuma Basin, alongside an deserted silver mine at 12,800 toes. From right here, it’s barely two miles to the highest. Though greatest executed as an earlier summer season climb up snowfields to keep away from the scree, as soon as on the northeast ridge it’s a pleasing scramble with unimaginable views towards Aspen. From the highest, many climbers proceed scrambling down the alternative ridge and up the neighboring Conundrum Peak (14,064 toes) for a doubleheader.
14,203 toes; 4,400-foot climb; close to Crestone.
As one of the difficult fourteeners, Crestone Needle beckons in Tolkienesque grandeur within the Sangre de Christo Mountains above the otherworldly Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park. For a complete of six miles, the best route passes South Colony Lakes up a cairned path to the 12,800-foot saddle between Damaged Hand Peak and the Needle. The south face climb makes use of steep gullies, laced with pleasingly strong conglomerate-rock knob holds with numerous publicity beneath your toes. Route-finding expertise are obligatory. If Crestone Needle alone appears a breeze, proceed the traverse with a rappel over to Crestone Peak (14,294 toes).
14,082 toes; 6,000-foot climb; close to Silverton.
The pleasures of the distant Windom Peak within the San Juan Mountains embody using the narrow-gauge train down from Silverton, debarking on the Needleton trailhead whistlestop, and backpacking six miles as much as your Chicago Basin basecamp—studded with wildflowers and grazing mountain goats. As the best peak amid two different fourteeners (Daylight and Eolus provide a triple-header), the well-maintained path up Windom’s west ridge presents an esthetic last scramble to one of the distant fourteener summits, a 19-mile stroll from the closest street, with an expansive panorama.
— Jon Waterman penned the forthcoming characteristic “Finish of the Everglades?” for MJ’s Sept/Oct situation, on newsstand Aug. 28, and is the writer of Atlas of the Nationwide Parks (Nationwide Geographic Books, 2019).
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