NOTE TO ALL CLIMBERS
Climbing these gorgeous mountains is fun, exhilarating, and gives one a sense of great accomplishment; but they are also very dangerous! The Crestone Needle, Maroon Bells, El Diente, Longs Peak are all 14ers that claimed multiple deaths. Many of my 14er Fan Club members have written or told me about their desire to start climbing, and I think that is fabulous, never dreaming that my book would inspire people in such a manner. But please read my warnings too, and remember that these wonderful beautiful mountains are also killer mountains. Acquire the appropriate gear, watch the weather reports, have a climbing partner, and climb them remembering that you only have one life!
"EZ" 14ers list
I recently have had numerous requests for a list of 14ers for beginners. Here is a short list...climb safely!
LIST OF EASY 14ERS for Beginners
In parenthesis: Number is approximate round-trip miles, followed by corresponding trail-head
1)Mount Sherman (5-Iowa Gulch or easier 8-Fourmile Creek-Leavick Trail-head
2) Mount Bierstadt (41/2-Guanella Pass)
3)Quandary Peak (6-Monte Cristo Trail-head) 4)Grays Peak (twosome-6-Stevens Gulch) 4)Torreys Peak
5) Mount Democrat (threesome-about 71/2 miles-Kite Lake)
5) Mount Lincoln
5) Mount Bross (summit is currently closed)
6)Handies Peak (51/2-American Basin) 7)San Luis Peak (12-Stewart Creek Trail-head)
AND DON'T FORGET THE TALLEST OF THEM ALL...MOUNT ELBERT
Last week John Reynolds, my main hiking partner from my book 14er Fan Club, and I decided that we needed to climb one of the “uncountable” 14ers, North Massive, which towers above Colorado at 14,340’ The connecting saddle between North Massive and 14,421’ Mount Massive is a mere 20’ short of the required 300 vertical feet elevation that would qualify it as a “Colorado Countable 14er.
While doing research for our future ascent, I discovered the “Tour de Massive”.
Mount Massive stands tall next to the highest peak in Colorado, Mount Elbert. Not only is Mount Massive the second tallest mountain in Colorado, it also boasts of having the most summits above 14,000’. In other words, there is a Mount Elbert and a South Elbert, but only Mount Elbert gets credit for being a “countable” 14er. Like Elbert, Mount Massive is the only “counted” 14er, but connected to it there are Point (14,169’), North Massive (has 2 separate summits, the recorded one is 14,340’), Massive Green (14,300’), and South Massive (14,132’). Just for the record, the Point 14,169’ is the 22nd highest 14er summit in Colorado, higher than the monstrous Little Bear, North & South Maroon, and my hometown Pikes Peak. The Tour de Massive includes all six of these Massive summits in one climb, and requires one to climb about 1.75 miles above 14,000’. (For more info on “countable” vs. “uncountable” click on List of Colorado 14ers on this website)
In the book I called John & me The Animals. We always liked to push our meager bodies to the limit, and since I’m about a month from my 60th birthday, the natural thing to do would be to attempt the tour. Because of our age and probably lack of wisdom, John nicknamed this trip the return of the manimals. Catching wind of our plans, the weatherman decided to forecast 50% chance of rain mixed with snow. Since we never left a little weather report bother our hiking plans in the past, we left Colorado Springs in a deluge of rain figuring that maybe 21/2 hours of driving would scare the weatherman away. By the time my Toyota Highlander parked at the North Halfmoon Trailhead, we had stars above, and the two manimals sleeping in the back of the vehicle were the only thunder heard that night.
Morning brought the 50% forecast of sunshine, and there was not one single cloud in the sky. Success this day would mean conquering North Massive; total success would mean completing the Tour de Massive without getting struck by lightning. John and I were marching toward our first summit at 5:25 a.m.
Although we started this conquest on a very well defined trail, the fun and challenge of this journey was that the trail often disappeared, and we simply had to sniff the correct direction and hope our instincts and research led us to our destination. We sniffed our way up a very steep rock filled couloir, reached the first ridge, and were standing on Point 14,169’ almost before we broke a sweat…that’s a boldfaced lie, but we did reach the summit. Still no clouds in the sky, both North Massive summits became our next victims. The day was deemed a success, but far from over. The sirens of Massive Green were singing, beckoning us two manimals to come forth, and naturally the youth of our bodies pushed us forward. We scurried around two towers of rocks separating us from the mountain nymphs, ascended another 200’ of cardio workout, and soon stood alone on Massive Green with a refreshing cool breeze and a smiling wonderful sun warming us.
Although this Tour de Massive had its vigorous moments, it is really only a Class II climb unless one screws up, and then it becomes a Class 2+ to Class 3 at worst.
From the summits the panoramic views were spectacular, encompassing the Elk Range with Pyramid and the Maroon Bells in the distance, the Sawatch Range with Mount Elbert & La Plata close by, the Ten Mile Range of Quandary, Front Range with Grays, Torreys, Bierstadt, the city of Leadville far below, and for all I know, probably the rest of the state.
To this point of our escapade we had not yet greeted a single human being. This huge mountain with its views and many summits belonged solely to John and me. But standing on Massive Green, the dots on Mount Massive that we could see from the valley far below, that had changed to ants as we journeyed closer, had now distinctively took on the forms of many humans. We had been traveling for about 5 hours without such creatures, and now our next conquest led us straight into a bulk of about 40 to 50 of these celebrating beings. And there were more humans ascending moment by moment. Doesn’t anyone work on Wednesdays? But, Mount Massive with its mass of people was the perfect place for this 14er Fan Club author, as I handed out a pocket full of 14er Fan Club business cards, signed some of them, and took pictures with John and other Massive climbers. One man said he was presently reading my book. If I’d only brought my computer and book we could have had a presentation. But John and I spotted some distant clouds, and since we still had South Massive on the tour, we said goodbye to our family reunion, and scampered on down the mountain.
The saddle between Massive and South Massive ended our trip of climbing above 14,000’ as it dipped to13,900’ and then proceeded to challenge us back up to 14,132’. This climb was a simple little affair, although the fact of standing on the high summit boulders of South Massive really was special to me. I finished climbing the 55 countable 14ers, many of them more than once, and then wrote my book. I won’t be writing another book, for now, but South Massive, to the best of my knowledge, completed all the uncountable 14ers; what an honor it was to do this with my main hiking partner, John, and to summit all six summits on the Tour de Massive.
Thus far our eventful day had taken us 61/2 hours. We really were amazed at how perfectly everything had transgressed, and how our bodies really had not been overburdened. We had felt a little cardio workout, and burned a few calories, but no body parts told us we were masters of torture. As we sat and lounged for the first time all day, we took note of some distant clouds that appeared to have the other 50% of the forecast that lacked the sunshine.
To get back to our trailhead, we now had to backtrack down South Massive, walk past the former juncture to the simple trail that would have led us back to our vehicle. That part of the trail was closed due to restoration. To get to the “new trail” we had to re-climb back up ¾ of the trail to Mount Massive, and then descend 1,000’ plus scree couloir not fit for human, animal or manimal. Filled with large rocks, a few boulders, and an abundance of small scree, this endless plethora of agony was a death wish waiting to be fulfilled. This avalanche prone mess took all the concentration our minds could muster, and soon our knees and feet were screaming at us, and the jackass that had planted the perfectly carved sign that pointed us down into this dangerous, agonizing hellhole. The back of my leg was lightly massaged by a rock that John, 30’ behind accidentally sent down. It was impossible not to send rocks down, and I began to wonder if I should have brought my helmet for this Class II hike. We’d have been better off descending the path with the other 100 people. Their route would have been a whole lot longer trip, but a much easier, safe trail.
This couloir sucked the energy out of these two old farts, and once we reached the bottom of the pit from hell, we still had route finding and a lengthy trek ahead. With about 15 minutes left in our journey, the days first crack of lightning shattered the silence of the forest, and I almost left my shoes on the trail with me in the bushes. I had forgotten about the rain, but the lightning gave us an immediate surge of youth, and soon the two of us were jogging down the trail with cracks of lightning chasing us from behind. Yet, we reached our SUV without having used our raingear. It had been 3 hours since we left South Massive’s summit, but the Tour de Massive was completed. Buena Vista’s hamburger joint was calling our names, and we knew we’d be home in another 3 hours. This had been quite the excursion, but John and I still have what it takes. As we approached Colorado Springs via Woodland Park, the clouds once again poured forth their 50% warning.