October 3, 2011

Five Things That Will Make You Fail While Climbing A 14er. ~Anna Baldwin

It’s not quite the end of hiking season. It’s important to learn or brush up on the basic ins-and-outs to hiking the beautiful 54 14ers in Colorado. For some it’s a feat to hike every one of these glorious peaks in their lifetime. In fact, there have been several people to both hike and ski down each. Although not everyone strives to summit each of these mountains, it’s still honorable and fun to hike at least one. With this one hike comes several guidelines that must always be adhered to so you do not meet failure.

1. Alcohol
If you’re traveling with Jack, Jim, or the Captain then you should just turn right around and go sleep it off in your car. As everyone knows, alcohol affects your brain so you can’t effectively make smart decisions. Thus, alcohol might make it seem that the log jutting over the rushing river is something that must be walked on. It makes the cliff edge seem not as close as it actually is. These are deadly things to not have a proper grasp on. Dehydration also comes with drinking and this might help cause altitude sickness or even fainting. None of these side effects will let you finish your journey. Plus, vomit attracts unwanted wildlife.

2. Sandals
Hiking 14ers involves loose rocks, wind, sun, coldness and ants. Toe skin exposure to any of these things makes for an uncomfortable experience. No one likes whining. Also, sandals are unsafe because they have smooth surface bottoms that don’t grip the rocky or steep trails as well as you will need. There is also still sometimes snow on the mountains during the summer months.

3. Carrying Something
There are many 14ers that require scrambling up cliff walls, down scree fields or up large boulders and you always want both hands free to do these tasks. Not only will you feel more secure, but it’s also safer to be able to grasp the side of a rock ledge with two thumbs as opposed to one. That’s what evolution was for. To always hike with your hands completely empty, put your items – water, windbreaker and food – in a hiking pack or fanny pack.

4. Sans Water
Always go with the rule of two liters or more. As already stated, dehydration is not good. Don’t make your friends have to call in a helicopter after you turn a weird shade of white, become weak and/or pass out. The first signs of dehydration include headaches, weakness, shaking, extremely dry lips or mouth and the uttering of ‘I wish I had more water.’ Be on the safe side and carry your favorite water bottle or backpack with a water tube. If you’re going on a multiple day 14er hike then take water sterilization methods.

5. Straying Off the Trail
Staying on the trail usually takes you to the summit. When I say ‘usually,’ I really mean always. There always seems to be hikers that seem to think their GPS is lying to them and the made-up trail through the woods will take them to the top. This is not true. Conveniently all 14ers have a pretty obvious trail or if not, then signs or cairns to guide the way. Use these tools because they were put there for a reason. Plus, straying off the trail kills the tundra grass.

Do these these simple things, and I almost guarantee a successful summit although I am not responsible for unpredictable weather or wildlife.


 Anna Baldwin graduated from Colorado State University with a Journalism and Technical Communication degree, although she spent more time skiing than she did in class. She has written for more than five publications and the online entities on a variety of subjects, and some of her work has appeared on MSNBC.com and in Skiing Magazine. Some of her interests include biking, skiing, reading, cooking, slacklining, skiing, hiking and skiing. Anna lives in Boulder.

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