High Rockies are easy to climb.

Essay by Austinarita99A+, October 2005

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People are mistaken who believe the high Rockies are hard to climb. To the traveler who has passed through the plains of Kansas and eastern Colorado, the high Rockies might seem like a beautiful but forbidding wilderness, approachable by only the toughest mountaineers. It is true that the 53 peaks in the Rockies that soar over 14,000 feet in elevation should only be attempted by seasoned climbers. However, the peaks under 14,000 feet, the fourteeners, can be easily climbed by the average person. Actually, climbing Colorado's fourteeners is hardly a rugged experience because most of them take only a day to climb, involve no more than hiking and simple scrambling, and are conquered by many people each year.

Surprisingly, unlike expeditions to Mt. McKinley or Mt. Everest, a climb up one of Colorado's 14,000 foot peaks rarely takes more than a day. Pike's Peak, with the state's greatest base-to-summit elevation gain, is admittedly a strenuous climb, yet a retired college professor in his middle seventies makes the hike every day in the summer.

A friend of mine, Carson Black, in a day, once climbed four fourteeners, three of which--Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, and Kit Carson Peak--are the most challenging in the state. Even more revealing is the Bicentennial celebration by the Colorado Mountain Club. It planned to have members on the summit of every fourteener in the state on July 4, 1976. Only a handful of ascents took more than a day.

Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks are also fairly easy to climb because they require no special climbing techniques. The "knife-edge traverse" on Capitol Peak is probably the most infamous challenge, yet most hikers who carry ropes don't use them when they see the ridge is not very intimidating. The highest peak in the state, Mt. Elbert, is so simple...