They Will, They Will Rocky You
Go on, cheat on Texas: A Houstonian's guide to hiking Colorado 14ers
When you fantasize about the forbidden prospect of a weekend getaway, many a philandering Houstonian craves heavenly, raw contours unreachable by the coarse caress of a foolhardy vehicle. In short, we want our wonderlands voluptuous, all-natural, and in different ZIP codes, so it doesn't count.
So when you mix these elements, what sort of chemical reaction is produced? To plenty of sea-level, concrete-jungle dwellers, the object of their desire is Colorado.
But it's not enough to furtively steal away on a flight from Houston to the Mile-High City. If you're going high, you want to go high. Way, way over that proverbial rainbow.
How do you reach this apex of elevational euphoria? Why, you go climb a mountain.
Not just any ol' mountain, mind you. A fourteener. You read that right. A fourteener. That big.
According to the all-knowing Internet oracle, a fourteener is a mountain that pushes on past the 14,000-foot threshold. Colorado just so happens to have the majority of them, and climbing them is a peak bagger's favorite pastime. Some might call it an addiction of sorts. Many of those batty baggers even try to climb all of 'em, just to say they did.
But why not twelvers and thirteeners? Or, for those truly deranged, why not fifteeners? A local peak bagging junkie told us, "Fourteeners are more of a challenge than thirteeners, and there are no fifteeners in the contiguous United States."
And that's that. Size matters. Fourteeners it is.
But there are a few things we altitudinally -challenged, terrain-deficient Texans need to know before attempting such a feat. Here's how you can be the A-1 smarty pants of your hiking herd:
Fuel it or lose it.
Think you'll scale a mountain on breakfast alone, or worse — on an empty stomach? Think again. Pack enough food for at least two meals, and haul plenty of snacks. Err on the side of salty, sugary, and protein-laden. And slog along at least 100 ounces of water. You will consume it. Scout's honor.
Think San Francisco when choosing your couture.
San Francisco is the quintessential bipolar city when it comes to weather, and layers are the way to go in both the city by the bay and when mountain climbing. If you stick to sweat-wicking layers, wind-blocking layers, and sun-blocking layers from head to toe, you'll be in business. Clothes should be easily peelable, easily stuffable, and ultimately functional.
Get the worm.
Wake up early. Get there early. Yes, we mean early. By mid-afternoon, if you're planning on summiting (i.e., getting to the mountain's top), you want to be there already. Why? There's this little thing called lightning that you might want to consider. According to Colorado's Fourteeners, Colorado is famous for its apocalyptic lightning storms, the likelihood of which increases as the day goes on. Lightning may never strike twice in one place, but it only takes a single bolt to send you northward.
Coax out your inner paparazzi.
Take your camera, fool. If this isn't a given already, we don't even want you leaving the state.
Stop and smell the roses.
It's not a race. We're not natives to the area. Go up slowly. Take your time. Live and breathe your surroundings. There's no bear behind you. What's the rush? Unless, of course, there actually is. We don't know how to help you then.
Sharpen your research skills.
Like snowflakes and Americans, no two mountains are alike. Presuming you are not Snow White, the fauna will not sing songs to guide you, nor will the dwarves whistle while you trek. So read up before you go up. Sites like 14ers.com and 14ers.org are wicked for scoping out weather conditions, elevation gain, trailheads, steepness, recommended equipment, and the like.
Get your bum in gear.
And we don't mean get outfitted in your cutest North Face fleece. These fourteeners aren't for the faint of heart, friends. Your arse better be in some kind of shape before you attempt to mount these looming landforms.
Make an "ass" out of "u" and "me."
Hate to break it to you, but you might as well hear it here first. You absolutely, positively will NOT adjust to Colorado's thin air quickly (also known as "acclimation"). Guaranteed. If you've never done this before, the altitude will knock you on your derriere, no matter how fit you are. Assumptions bad. Adjustment time good.
Lose your head.
Hey, this mountain climbing mess is tough stuff. You gotta take it in stride. A good attitude is (almost) everything. You won't make it on bah-humbuggery. Leave it back in Houston, or don't try it at all.
Get the notion that Spiderman is your alter ego.
You've never climbed anywhere but the Texas Rock Gym? The Colorado Rockies aren't the optimal time to practice belaying your boyfriend. Haven't seen snow since we freaked out about flurries back in February? Probably not best to attempt ascending that snow-covered scree slope. As a general rule, if you're not familiar with it, just leave it be. There'll be plenty of challenges along the way that you can handle.
Start getting all modest on us.
You want honesty? Modesty has no place in the mountains. You're going to have to, ahem — do — a few things on the trail. And you'll be so relieved when you do do them, but it might not be, um, anything like what you're used to. Get over it. Do you have a cat? Study it well before you depart. Emulate as required.
Leave your mark.
"Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints"? Not good enough. Destroy nothing. Feed nothing. Leave nothing. Tread lightly. Keep those feet on the trails. Leave no trace.
Now you're ready to tackle a Colorado fourteener! Here's your menu. Which one will it be?