14er Safety and How-To

Woman with Salomon Vest Trail running ultrarunner in the mountains alpine

Climbing your first mountain or 14er is an exciting and rewarding experience! You’ll get the achievement of seeing the world from above and the feel-goods of the endorphins from the exercise. However, the mountains aren’t a walk in the park, and getting down is mandatory. Some situations require extra caution and a little know how. With a bit of preparation, you’ll be able to get to the summit and back safely. #StaySendy

For a more detailed version of these points, check out Managing Risk In The Mountains

Train Adequately

Getting up the mountain is only half of the adventure. You’ve also got to make it down, and descending causes more muscle fatigue than going up. Know approximately how many miles and how long it will take you to cover the terrain. We’d also recommend training in the gear you plan to use, especially your shoes. This can help prevent blisters or angry muscles.

 

Start Early

It is common for thunderstorms to occur in the afternoon in summer months. Lightning, wind, and the hypothermia dangers of rain are factors you’ll want to avoid at all costs. Starting early – sometimes before 3am – and allowing yourself time to be off the summit before noon is a smart decision that can give you a margin of time to get back before the storms roll in. 
 

Bring Extra Layers

Pack extra layers and wrap them in a plastic bag. If you get caught in weather or fall into water, these layers could save you from much bigger problems. Clothing should be polyester or wool – especially not denim or cotton. This will offer you the best water wicking and prevent chafing. A down jacket is a smart call, especially in cooler months.
 

Study the Route

There are numerous resources like other third party map sites, Apps, Google Earth, Youtube, and blogs that can shed some light on the route you’ll be taking. Know the distance and elevation points of critical turns you might have to take, and mark a waypoint on your watch or phone. Some routes may involve route finding or hands-and-feet climbing skills. Knowledge of these routes is critical. Save a .GPX file onto your phone. All of the routes on this site have free GPX downloads for your use.

Pack (Extra) Food and Water

Consuming about 150-250 calories per hour is a good rule-of-thumb. Make sure your food contains some salt and electrolytes, as your body will sweat out these critical resources as you progress through the day. Pre-hydrating before you go is a good idea and will help conserve some of your water in the first hour or so of your run. Plan to consume at least 20oz of water per hour, or more in warmer months or dry climates. 

Go On a Weekday

Mountains get busy and crowded on the weekends. To have the lightest impact on the trail and experience nature in its purest form, go on a weekday when there is lesser traffic, if possible. This helps everybody else stay on trail as you/they pass and keeps the single track single.

The Mountain Will Be There Next Time

As mentioned, getting down is mandatory. Never feel that you must summit to have a successful day. If you are feeling ill, disoriented, have nausea, or strong fatigue, these may be factors of elevation sickness or in some cases, other issues that can be more serious, like High Altitude Pulmonary/Cerebral Edemas (basically, a buildup of fluid in your organs). Returning to a lower elevation usually fixes most symptoms, but asking a doctor about any lasting symptoms is always a safe call.

The mountain will always be there for your next attempt.

What tips would you add, or want to know more about? Leave a comment below!

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