May 13, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Dylan Carey | Photo by Syndey Morris
Have you peaked? Don’t worry, I am not asking whether your life faces a downward trajectory; I am not trying to pose a question that could potentially provoke an existential crisis.
Instead, I was referring to peaking mountain tops. With snow melting and the sun shining, it is officially mountain-climbing season! I personally think climbing a mountain is one of the most rewarding and unique experiences that can be completed in a single day. I hope this article inspires several mountaineering trips and provides guidance on how to be safe when climbing a mountain.
Before I reveal a couple of my favorite peaks in Colorado, I want to remind everyone that climbing a mountain is no walk in the park. To have the most successful, safe, and fun peaking experience, one must research beforehand.
When researching, I recommend looking at the weather report for the day of your excursion. If there is high likelihood of thunderstorms, you probably should reschedule your adventure for another day. Once you pass the tree line, you are a primary target for lightning strikes. Most thunderstorms will occur around noon, so it is generally a good idea to be off the summit and descending by noon at the latest. Researching the weather can also help you determine how many layers to bring.
Another key research point should be related to learning the route to climb the mountain. Many mountains have well established hiking trails, but typically the trail becomes harder to follow towards the top. Losing the trail can create dangerous situations, especially if you are climbing a mountain that has unstable rock and high levels of exposure.
Another important consideration is your group’s hiking speed, as well as the length and elevation change from trailhead to summit. To summit most mountains before noon, you will want to wake up early.
Coming prepared is another critical component to climbing a mountain. In my opinion, the essential items are water, snacks, hiking shoes, sunscreen, a raincoat, a warm hat, lightweight gloves, lightweight layers, and some sort of guide (map, route description/pictures in a book or on a phone).
One of the greatest dangers when climbing a mountain is dehydration and elevations sickness. For this reason, I recommend bringing at least two liters of water on your adventure and conserving water throughout your journey. Finally, I recommend packing as little weight as possible after you have checked off the essentials.
Now for a couple of my favorite mountains in Colorado. I will provide an easier (although climbing a mountain is generally not easy) and more challenging option.
Mount Bierstadt (Easier):
Mount Bierstadt, located near Idaho Springs, Colo., is one of Colorado’s 58 14,000 foot-tall mountains (14ers). The trail is roughly seven and a half miles to the summit and back to the trailhead. More importantly you will gain 2,850 feet if you climb to the top. Make sure to pace yourself, be wary of elevation sickness, and pack plenty of water.
Mount Sneffels (More Challenging):
Mount Sneffels, located near Telluride, Colo., is another one of Colorado’s many 14ers. The trail is roughly seven miles to the summit and back to the trailhead. You will gain 3,320 feet in an ascent to the top. The primary route features scree (lose rock) fields, exposure, and a class three/four climbing move. While this mountain is challenging and potentially dangerous, most people can reach its summit with preparation and good decision making.
Side note –– the road to get up to the trailhead is especially difficult for automobiles. I strongly advise not fighting it and walking the extra mile or two once your car cannot go further.
I hope everyone has a wonderful summer filled with peaking mountains (definitely not peaking in life).