Hike 14ers In Clear Creek County

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14ers

Mountaineering in Clear Creek County

Hiking or mountaineering is the sport, hobby or profession of walking, hiking, trekking and climbing up mountains. While it began as an all-out attempt to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains. There are four 14ers in Clear creek County:  Bierstadt, Evans, Grays, Torreys. These peaks are within less than 10-miles of each other.

3,000 Feet or Bust!?!?

The 3,000-foot guideline means more to some than others. Some climbers simply don’t feel they have completed the peak unless they gain at least 3,000 feet of elevation on every 14er. Others feel that if you make it to the summit, you have climbed the peak. It all comes down to your individual goals.

If you don’t care about this funny “rule”, you will have a much easier time climbing many of the 14ers. For example, if you climb Grays and then hike over and summit Torreys, you have gained about 3,600 feet and bagged both peaks. If you are intent on gaining 3,000 feet on every peak, Grays and Torreys becomes a completely different task. Hike to the Grays summit, return to the trailhead and then start back up to climb Torreys. This requires 6,000 feet of gain instead of 3,400 feet – and another 8 miles of hiking. Sticking to the 3,000-foot guideline can produce a ton of additional driving and climbing.

Make sure you go to the Trails page for detailed map and descriptions of some of the trails in Clear Creek County.

Define Goals and Expectations for Your Hike

Before departing to climb a Fourteener, your group should discuss and agree upon the goals for the hike. Clarifying the group’s expectations will assist with your preparations and give everyone involved an understanding of their role as a member of the group.

Also, keep in mind that a group travels only as fast as its slowest member. Understanding each person’s abilities will ultimately allow to you have a safe, successful trip to Colorado’s high country.

www.14ers.org for complete information on Colorado’s 14ers.

Be Prepared

Rocky mountains may be hazardous.

Every rock mountain is slowly disintegrating due to erosion, the process being especially rapid above the snow-line. Rock faces are constantly swept by falling stones, which are generally possible to dodge. Falling rocks tend to form furrows in a mountain face, and these furrows (couloirs) have to be ascended with caution, their sides often being safe when the middle is stoneswept. Rocks fall more frequently on some days than on others, according to the recent weather. Ice formed during the night may temporarily bind rocks to the face but warmth of the day or direct sun exposure may easily dislodge these rocks. Local experience is a valuable help on determining typical rockfall on such routes.

The direction of the dip of rock strata often determines the degree of danger on a particular face; the character of the rock must also be considered. Where stones fall frequently debris will be found below, whilst on snow slopes falling stones cut furrows visible from a great distance. In planning an ascent of a new peak mountaineers must look for such traces. When falling stones get mixed in considerable quantity with slushy snow or water a mud avalanche is formed. It is vital to avoid camping in their possible line of fall.

Snow and Ice

While certain compacted snow conditions allow mountaineers to progress on foot, typically some form of mechanical device is required to travel efficiently over snow and ice. Crampons are devices having 10-12 spikes that are attached to a mountaineers boots, are used on hard snow (neve) and ice to provide additional traction and allow very steep ascents and descents. There are many different varieties, ranging from lightweight aluminum models intended for walking on glaciers to aggressive steel models intended for vertical and overhanging ice and rock.

Snowshoes can be used to walk through deep snow approaching the mountain or on lesser slopes up the mountain. Skis can be used almost everywhere snowshoes can and also in steeper, more alpine landscapes although it takes more practice to develop sufficiently strong skiing skills for difficult terrain.

The practice of combining the techniques of alpine skiing and mountaineering to ascend and descend a mountain is a form of the sport by itself, called Ski Mountaineering. Ascending and descending a snow slope safely requires the use of an ice axe and many different footwork techniques that have been developed over the last hundred years, originating in Europe. The progression of footwork from the lowest angle slopes to the steepest terrain is first to splay the feet to a rising traverse, to kick stepping, to front pointing the crampons. The progression of the ice axe technique from the lowest angle slopes to the steepest terrain is to use the ice axe first as a walking stick, then a stake, then to use the front pick as a dagger below the shoulders or above, and finally to swing the pick into the slope over the head. This also involves different designs of ice axe depending on the terrain to be covered, and even whether a mountaineer uses one or two ice axes.

Avalanches

mountaineering4The avalanche is the most underestimated danger in the mountains. People generally think that they will be able to recognize the hazards and survive being caught. The truth is a somewhat different story. The vast majority are reasonably experienced male skiers aged 20-35 but also include ski instructors and guides. There is always a lot of pressure to risk a snow crossing. Turning back takes a lot of extra time and effort, supreme leadership, and most importantly there seldom is an avalanche to prove the right decision was made. Making the decision to turn around is especially hard if others are crossing the slope, but any next person could become the trigger.

When traveling in alpine terrain, parties are advised to always carry: an avalanche beacon, a probe shovel (retrieving victims with a shovel instead of your hands is five times faster) and to have had avalanche training!

Paradoxically, expert skiers who have avalanche training make up a large percentage of avalanche fatalities; perhaps because they are the ones more likely to ski in areas prone to avalanches, and certainly because most people do not practice enough with their equipment to be truly fast and efficient rescuers.

Even with proper rescue equipment and training, there is a one-in-five chance of dying if caught in a significant avalanche, and only a 50/50 chance of being found alive if buried more than a few minutes. The best solution is to learn how to avoid risky conditions.