Monday, September 28, 2009

The 3,000 Foot Rule

There is much discussion about how much elevation gain is necessary to actually claim you have climbed a peak. The most widely accepted and discussed rule is the 3,000 foot rule. Using the 3,000 foot rule, a climber must gain over 3,000 feet of elevation to have climbed the peak.

This is another one of those arbitrary rules that doesn't have much merit. Some say that 3,000 feet is just a nice round number. One popular guide book explains that in Colorado tree line is typically about 3,000 feet below the summit of the 14ers. That is an interesting thought, but actual tree line varies in different parts of the state and is typically closer to 12,000 feet.

The main problem with the 3,000 foot rule is that every peak is different and access by road makes certain trail heads the logical place to start climbing. For example, Guanella Pass is the most logically place to start when climbing Mount Bierstadt, However, that does not provide for a 3,000 foot gain.

I do agree that you can't 'count' Mount Evans if you drive up to the parking lot and scramble up the last 100 feet. I also think having a car on top of Evans to take you down cancels your ability to claim that you climbed the mountain.

If you decide to follow the 3K foot rule you would have to start many hikes from farther down the road. If you are a purest that is fine and I understand the desire to meet the required elevation gain, but to me it seems silly to walk down a perfectly good road just to add the extra gain.

I believe that mountain climbing is a very personal sport and each person can decide for themselves how much climbing is necessary. I use the 3K foot rule as a guidance but don't follow it if it doesn't seem to apply to the particular mountain. You do what you feel comfortable with.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What Makes a Mountain Ranked?

In the world of Mountain Climbing or 'Peak Bagging' there has been much discussion and disagreement about what separates a true Peak from a false summit. You can find lists of fourteeners ranging from 52 to 55 true fourteeners in Colorado. I have even seen some list 59 14ers. The most widely accepted rule for whether a peak is ranked or unranked is the "300-foot" rule.

Under the 300 foot rule a peak or mountain must rise at least 300 feet above the saddle that connects the peak or mountain to its closest higher neighboring peak to be an "official" peak.

For example the saddle between Cameron and Lincoln drops only 157 feet below the summit of Cameron. Since Lincoln is the taller of the two peaks, Lincoln is a ranked peak but Cameron is technically unranked.

Most people accept that Cameron is unranked because it is just an easy stroll from Lincoln. However, El Diente's saddle with Mt. Wilson is only 259 feet below El Diente's summit and many people add it to their list even though it doesn't meet the 300 foot rule. The jagged rocky traverse to El Diente's summit is not easy and most people who climb it feel as though they have climbed a separate peak.

In my personal opinion, I think it is all about the experience and not about the list. I say climb them all. If it looks like something you want to climb, do it. I don't know anyone who has climbed El Diente and regretted it or wished they hadn't done it. I use the 300 foot rule because it has been around for a long time and although I've never determined why the round number of 300 was chosen, it seems to work well for Colorado's Peaks.

So following the 300 foot rule I list 53 official ranked peaks. Have I climbed some of the unranked peaks? Absolutely. Sometimes you have to leave the list behind and explore other fun hikes and climbs.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lists of Colorado 14ers

Here is a list of the 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado separated by Ranges. The list includes Name, Height, and it's rank by height.

The Front Range
Grays Peak 14,270' 9th

Torreys Peak 14,267' 11th

Mount Evans 14,264' 14th

Longs Peak 14,255' 15th

Pikes Peak 14,110' 30th

Mount Bierstadt 14,060' 38th

Tenmile Range
Quandary Peak 14,265' 13th

Mosquito Range
Mount Lincoln 14,286’ 8th

Mount Cameron 14,238’ unranked*

Mount Bross 14,172’ 22nd

Mount Democrat 14,148’ 28th

Mount Sherman 14,036’ 45th

Sawatch Range
Mount Elbert 14,433' 1st

Mount Massive 14,421’ 2nd

Mount Harvard 14,420’ 3rd

La Plata Peak 14,336’ 5th

Mount Antero 14,269’ 10th

Mount Shavano 14,229’ 17th

Mount Princeton 14,197’ 18th

Mount Belford 14,197’ 19th

Mount Yale 14,196’ 21st

Tabequache Peak 14,155’ 25th

Mount Oxford 14,153’ 26th

Mount Columbia 14,073’ 35th

Missouri Mountain 14,067’ 36th

Mount of the Holy Cross 14,005’ 51st

Huron Peak 14,003’ 52nd

Elk Mountains
Castle Peak 14,265’ 12th

Maroon Peak 14,156’ 24th

Capitol Peak 14,130’ 29th

Snowmass Mountain 14,092’ 31st

Conundrum Peak 14,060’ unranked*

Pyramid Peak 14,018’ 47th

North Maroon Peak 14,014’ unranked*

San Juan Mountains
Uncompahgre Peak 14,309’ 6th

Mount Wilson 14,246’ 16th

El Diente Peak 14,159’ unranked*

Mount Sneffels 14,150’ 27th

Mount Eolus 14,083’ 32nd

Windom Peak 14,082’ 33rd

Sunlight Peak 14,059’ 39th

Handies Peak 14,048’ 40th

North Eolus 14,039’ unranked*

Redcloud Peak 14,034’ 46th

Wilson Peak 14,017’ 48th

Wetterhorn Peak 14,015’ 49th

San Luis Peak 14,014’ 50th

Sunshine Peak 14,001’ 53rd

Sangre de Cristo Range
Blanca Peak 14,345’ 4th

Crestone Peak 14,294’ 7th

Crestone Needle 14,197’ 20th

Kit Carson Peak 14,165’ 23rd

Challenger Point 14,081’ 34th

Humboldt Peak 14,064’ 37th

Culebra Peak 14,047’ 41st

Mount Lindsey 14,042’ 42nd

Ellingwood Point 14,042’ 43rd

Little Bear Peak 14,037’ 44th

*see Ranked/Unranked Post for details about what makes a peak ranked.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


This site is being formed to be a resource for hikers. I plan on providing valuable information about climbing Colorado's 54 peaks taller than 14,000 feet. I also plan on providing information about hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and other family friendly hikes across the Front Range.

I am an avid hiker. I have a deep passion for the mountains of Colorado. I was born in Iowa and managed to live there for 19 years before my thirst to live in the mountains was finally quenched. I have lived in Summit County, Durango, and Loveland. I began leisurely hiking in Colorado in 1996. I climbed my first 14er in 2005 and I immediately caught the fever. I have not climbed them all but I plan to finish climbing all of the top 100 peaks within a few years. I also love climbing interesting 13ers and nearly all the named peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park.

But this site is not about me. This site is about the mountains and about getting you into the mountains. I will provide information about the mountains, the gear necessary, and tips to keep you safe. There are other great sites available to find up to date information about current conditions, such as While the forum sites are valuable in gaining knowledge about current conditions they quickly become hostile environments with people arguing and putting new comers down. I plan on covering the most commonly asked questions on those forums here where the information is easy to find and available in a safe and non intimidating environment.

My vision for this site is to be a place that you can come and educate yourself about the risks and rewards of climbing mountains. I will work on continually adding new content including lists, maps, trail information, and general tips. I may occasionally add a recent trip report but that won't be the focus of this site.

So check back often, give me feedback on what you like or don't like about the site, and be sure to share this site with your friends.