Bill Hammons: Writing and Running in Boulder, Colorado


Disclaimer for Bill's Guide to Colorado 14ers

(Please Read Carefully)

Safe mountain climbing requires good judgement and plain, old-fashioned common sense. The information on this site may be not be accurate and/or current; it is merely intended as a general reference for those interested in taking up the challenge of climbing some of America's highest peaks. This author provides no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided on this site is accurate or reliable. No climber should reach a trailhead without being properly prepared, including being properly conditioned, experienced, supplied, and equipped. Equipment should include a comprehensive guide in book form complete with local maps, etc. One fine example of such a guide, which is frequently cited on this website, is Dawson's Guide to Colorado's Fourteeners (available below through Note that Dawson's Guide is two separate volumes, one for Colorado's northern peaks and one for Colorado's southern peaks. A book on mountaineering safety which includes detailed discussions on altitude sickness and weather reading wouldn't be a bad investment either.

Climb with care and use your best judgement; if in doubt about any of the information provided on this site, consult multiple additional sources and, at the end of the day, err on the side of caution when judging local conditions (including erosion, human interference, weather, and other factors) for yourself. Also, please respect private property rights and be aware that crossing private property under any circumstances without permission is trespassing; it is your responsibility to determine if land is privately owned and to obtain the necessary permissions.

And here are a few tips to make your first Fourteener all that much more safe and enjoyable:

  • Be sure you're in good physical condition; if you're not, maybe a drive up Mt. Evans or Pikes Peak isn't such a bad idea
  • Before you start climbing Fourteeners, consider taking a mountaineering class
  • Before you head out of town, tell at least one person when you're leaving, where you're staying or camping, when and where you'll be hiking (including specific trail), and when you plan on getting back
  • Check the weather forecast (though be aware that the weather in the Rockies can be a fickle affair)
  • Check with the US Forest Service for road and trailhead closures and other information
  • If climbing in winter, check for current avalanche danger (avalanches are one good reason to save mountain climbing for the summer)
  • Consider packing the following for a summer hike, which is by no means a complete list (especially for a winter hike):

  • When you do start, start early to avoid possible afternoon thunderstorms and to give yourself as much daylight as possible in the event that something goes wrong: a 6am start up the trail isn't a bad idea, and plan on being down off the summit and below treeline before noon
  • Be sure you're familiar with the symptoms of altitude sickness before you get to higher elevations, and get to a lower elevation ASAP if they appear
  • Understand if your body is giving you other signals that it's time to turn back
  • Understand if your route and/or the weather is giving you signals that it's time to turn back
  • Keep a safe distance between you and other hikers (falling rock from those climbing above is a danger)
  • Be respectful of your surroundings and hike quietly (and if you need to be told to leave the headphones at home, you might want to consider the fact that mountain climbing is not for you)
  • Keep an eye out for, and stay away from, wildlife, not all of it necessarily friendly: bears, bighorn sheep, cougars, deer, elk, marmots, mountain goats, etc.
  • Stick to the trails; you might be injured and never be found (at least by humans)
  • Stay off frozen rivers and lakes
  • Remember that dark, brewing clouds are bad (head back down ASAP - lightning is the biggest danger during summer hiking)
  • Remember that high altitudes can impair your memory and judgement

  • Copyright W.R. Hammons. All rights reserved, although linking to this site is encouraged.