What It's Like to Hike Colorado's Famous "Fourteener" Mountains
Colorado currently has 58 mountain peaks that are at least 14,000 feet in elevation or taller, also called "fourteeners." The state has a lot to offer people who love nature, and its numerous outdoor activity options like climbing, kayaking, biking, fishing or hiking want to make you go outside, explore, and seek adventure. Its countless national parks, monuments, and preserves will fill your trip with endless options to explore if you're into the outdoors.
During a recent trip to Colorado, I climbed Castle Peak, my very first fourteener. Being in nature and experiencing solitude to such degree gives me a sense of freedom and calmness. It provides me with quietness and space to think without being interrupted and sidetracked. It often feels like a soul-searching experience when being out in the wilderness. This time, I wasn't spared from getting sick due to the high altitude. The higher the altitude, the thinner the the air, the heavier and slower my steps. Being at such great heights, your body adjusts slowly to the lack of oxygen since your heart and lungs have to work a little harder than usual. If you plan on going on a hike at high elevation, hydrate plenty, add electrolytes, and eat carbs! This will make your goal of reaching the peak easier. Take a peek at the photos ahead to see what climbing one of Colorado's tallest mountains is like.
The hike begins with beautiful scenery . . .
We began our hike early in the day. Early afternoon Summer storms aren't uncommon, so make sure to reach the peak earlier in the day rather than later.
Tip: Research the terrain, difficulty level, and length of the hike so you can calculate enough time for your ascent!
After hiking past the tree line, we were invited into a forgotten land bursting with beauty.
We arrived at Montezuma Glacier, our base camp for the night at 12,800 feet . . .
Then we hiked on to the peak at 14,278 feet . . .
We reached the peak on the first day with a spectacular view of not only Conundrum Peak but also Colorado's majestic landscape. It was quite windy toward the top, with some snow and rough, loose and rocky sections across certain areas of the mountain ridge towards the summit. It was cold and windy, and I couldn't wait to get back to the base to cook a hot instant noodle soup and boil water for a hot tea.
Tip: Hiking boots with solid lugs to provide grip and traction are a must in these terrains!
A freezing morning at the base of Castle Peak . . .
It was already past 7 a.m. when I woke up, and the sun has already risen. It was a freezing night despite a cozy tent, warm sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, wool socks, hat, gloves, a fleece jacket, and warm pants. I remember how much my head hurt in the morning because of the freezing night and high altitude. I won't ever forget to take Advil with me next time!
Tip: Choosing an appropriate sleeping bag for such freezing nights isn't always the easiest thing in the world. The trick is to find a sleeping bag that isn't too warm; otherwise, you will start sweating, which will make you shiver in the middle of the night. Try to find one that has just the right amount of insulation, and add a sleeping bag liner, which will add a lot of warmth!
Waking up at base camp . . .
The morning after climbing the peak was achy and beautiful at the same time. There is nothing better than waking up in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the quiet and peaceful company of the mountain. Try it yourself if you dare!