I’m a recent Colorado transplant, having spent the past three years in Boston. In my former cushy sea-level life, the only climbing I did was on the stairs out of the subway system, grappling with a cup of coffee in one hand and my iPod in the other, and dodging native wildlife such as the gray squirrel, the pigeon, and the New England sports fan. As both a Colorado and climbing newbie, I’m looking forward to my first mountain-state summer and to climbing some of those fourteeners that I’ve heard so much about.
This week I talked to Jeb Conner at Jax Mercantile in Lafayette, CO. We discussed the fourteeners, and he dished out some helpful advice for Padawan climbers looking to reach their first summit.
Tell me about yourself.
I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life, and my dad took me out on my first [fourteener] when I was eleven. You don’t think of mountains as something that change rapidly, but I feel like I’ve grown up with them and watched the routes change. It’s a living ecosystem up there, and nothing is permanent, even 14,000 feet of rock.
What advice would you give a novice climber who wants to tackle a fourteener?
Do your research before you climb. Most of the climbs are walk-ups, with a little scrambling and light climbing. Summer climbs are a great opportunity for learning basic climbing skills, but mountains can be dangerous and deadly in the best conditions. Hike with a buddy, let someone know where you’re going and when you should be back, plan your route, and take proper supplies. Mountain weather can change on a dime, so better to have something and not need it…
What kind of gear and skills do I need to get started?
For the Class 1 routes, you won’t need to make a huge investment in gear. You would want to bring layered, non-cotton clothing, food and water packs, rain gear, a guidebook and a map, and a good, worn-in pair of hiking shoes.
As far as skills go, some new climbers like to join climbing clubs, so they’re always climbing with experienced climbers. The American Alpine Club is good for this and so is the Colorado Mountain Club.
Which peaks do you recommend for beginners?
I always recommend Torreys/Grays, Quandary, and Bierstadt for first-time climbers and for families with kids.
What’s your favorite fourteener?
Snowmass is a beautiful climb, and you can’t beat the scenic views. It’s unlike anything else in the world. I’ve climbed there in winter and summer, and it’s a personal favorite for me.
Readers, remember to enter to win the bible of fourteeners guides, the newly revised Colorado’s Fourteeners, by sending us your best fourteener or climbing story! Comment on this post, send your entry to our Facebook page, or tweet it to our Twitter account by February 24 to be entered in the drawing for the book!