The must-have equipment list.
- Dayhiking Pack - Nothing heavy or bulky
- Sturdy Shoes - Cross-trainers or hiking boots will do fine
- Smart Wool Socks
- Layers - Climbs can be chilly in the morning and hot in the afternoon. No Cotton
- Water - A bottle or a bladder is required;
- Food - Pack trail mix, jerky, or granola bars to replace spent calories
- Watch - It’s good to keep track of time—afternoon thunderstorms are a real threat
- Sun Protection - Many trails are exposed and, at 14,000 feet, the sun is piercing
- Head Lamp
- Pocket Knife
- Cell Phone - You may not always have reception but bring it anyway—it could be a lifesaver
- Maps And A Compass - Most of the “easy” fourteeners do not require route-finding skills, but it’s always good to have these in your pack
- First-Aid Kit - If nothing else, you may want Band-Aids for blisters
- Matches - This fits into the it-can’t-hurt category
- Toilet Paper
- Trash Bag
- Waterproof Shell
Glossary - Climbing lingo you’ll need to know—and use.
- Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) - Caused by low-oxygen environments (anything above about 5,000 feet in elevation), this usually minor medical condition is often characterized by headache, fatigue, nausea, and dizziness. AMS can become serious during extended stays at very high or extreme altitude (above 11,500 feet). Fluid can build up in the lungs (high altitude pulmonary edema, HAPE) or brain (high altitude cerebral edema, HACE), both of which require immediate descent to lower elevation.
- Class - Routes on Colorado’s fourteeners are generally rated by class. Classes 1 and 2 are “hiking” routes and include easy to moderately difficult hiking on good to slightly less-well-maintained trails. Routes that are classified as 3, 4, or 5 are considered “climbing” routes, which can range from moderate scrambling (Class 3) and climbing steep and dangerous terrain (Class 4) to technical climbing that requires rope and belaying (Class 5).
- Cairn - A noticeable pile of rocks placed by hikers to mark a trail, particularly when the trail is difficult to discern.
- Saddle - A high pass between two or more adjacent peaks. SCREE Small, loose rocks that often make stable footing difficult.
- Summit - As a noun, the topographically highest point of a mountain; as a verb, the action of reaching such a high point.
- Standard Route - The most common—and often easiest—path of a particular climb; many fourteeners have multiple routes to their summits.
- Traverse - As a noun, a section of a route that progresses in a horizontal direction; as a verb, the action of climbing in a horizontal direction.
What can you do to combat AMS?
Hike at a steady but moderate pace. Avoid dehydration by drinking enough to maintain clear urine. If you’re accustomed to caffeine intake, be sure to have your usual amount the day you’ll be climbing. And stay fit—although AMS is not directly related to fitness, being fit makes the hike more enjoyable and a touch of AMS easier to tolerate. Take ibuprofen with you on the hike, and either use it at the first sign of a headache or take it preventively. As long as the hike is a day-trip, and you will be returning to a lower altitude within hours, there is no danger of serious illness, so immediate descent is generally not necessary when AMS develops. That is, it is safe to push on to the summit with some symptoms.
Pre-existing conditions that may make climbing a fourteener a bad idea?
Yes. Most doctors recommend not going over 11,000 to 12,000 feet during pregnancy, but this is not based on data, and it’s unlikely that a one-day exposure to high altitude would cause problems. Since we’re dealing with day-trips, most problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and atrial fibrillation are not a concern. But in terms of impacting performance, lung disease is at the top of the list. People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cystic fibrosis will not generally do well. Neither will those with heart failure or pulmonary hypertension. However, it is not necessarily dangerous to go to altitude for these folks; it’s more that they won’t be comfortable and might have to turn around. The most important advice relates to exercise ability at low altitude: If a person can exercise with moderate to high intensity and/or duration at low altitude, they will generally do fine at high altitude.
Credible information from local sources.