The 14er Experience
What it's like to climb a mountain in Colorado's high country
The feeling of standing on top of a mountain above 14,000ft. is indescribable.
In Colorado, we're lucky to have 54 of these peaks in our backyard. Many of the so-called "14ers" are very difficult, class 4 climbs. However, there are well-maintained and accessible trails on several mountains that make it a possibility for almost anyone to share in the experience. Is it difficult? Absolutely. Is it impossible? No.
Most 14er hikes start in the early hours before dawn. Above treeline, the weather is unpredictable and fast-moving. That means you must be off the summit and headed back down well in advance of regular afternoon storms. So, alas, the hike starts in the dark.
There are certainly moments in those first miles that make you question "WHY am I doing this?" However, as the world wakes up around you, the alpenglow and mountain vistas reward your effort. All it takes is one step after another with the end goal in mind. And there is an end goal: SUMMIT.
As you climb higher in elevation, your mind is your strongest muscle to keep in check. It gets harder to breathe, every step feels exhausting, and somehow the summit seems to loom above without getting any closer. "I want to quit" plays on repeat.
It doesn't matter how "easy" someone told you the climb would be, THIS IS A MENTAL CHALLENGE. It doesn't matter how many 14ers you've done, THERE WILL BE A STRUGGLE. That's part of the fun, type II fun, the kind you have to earn to appreciate.
Hiking 14ers is the best kind of fun: Type II Fun!
And earn it you will. Those who take on the challenge of a 14er have spent time preparing and training. It's an activity that doesn't just occur on a whim. While the story of getting there may be different for each person, the hike is a moment of shared community within the outdoors.
The final approach is a moment of pure bliss. You've done it, you've made it, time to bask (briefly). Every summit is different, but one thing you'll consistently find: celebratory camaraderie. Looking out at incredible 360 degree views of mountain tops, you'll feel on top of the world. This is a feeling you won't forget.
Of course, there will be more moments going downhill that you're so-ready-to-put-this-behind-you .. but you'll forget all the pain and remember the good. (Isn't that what they say about childbirth?)
Hiking the formidable high country is no joke, but with proper preparation and determination YOU can do it! This coming July, The Facility team are gathering together with our community and those interested to hike Colorado’s HIGHEST 14er: Mount Elbert. We want to share in your bliss at 14,440 ft. above sea level (!!).
In order to prepare for this physical (and mental) feat we have but together checkpoints and assistance to support you in the preparation. This includes training tips, nutrition lessons, mindfulness exercises and a community to rely on. See more details here.