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Tips for Hiking a Fourteener

As part of my weekend recap yesterday, I shared a big accomplishment of mine — hiking one of Colorado’s 53 fourteeners. While I’m by no means an expert, it didn’t feel responsible to share that type of experience without a brief look into how to hike one of these massive mountains safely.

Never fear if this is not your thing — I’ve got a fun DIY project coming up tomorrow!

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If hiking a fourteener is something you’ve always wanted to do { or maybe you’re now convinced that if someone like me can do, so can you! Yes! }, I’ve compiled my top pieces of advice as well as what to pack before you strap on those hiking boots.

Tips for hiking a fourteener // Bubbly Design Co.1. Pace yourself.
I can’t stress this enough. Whether you live at sea level or are accustomed to high altitudes, it does not matter. Your body may react in weird ways when you push it to climb to 12,000+ feet above sea level. Plus, if you want to get to 14,000+ feet, you’ve got to WORK, but work at your own speed. I was extremely fortunate to go with a group with both experienced hikers and new-Coloradans, and everyone operated under this policy, yet supported each other throughout the hike.

2. H20!!!
Whenever anyone comes to visit us in Colorado, I tell them to chug water. Most people are coming from sea level and even the difference to Denver is enough to make your skin dry out and make you feel a little funny. Exerting yourself at even higher altitudes requires lots of water – I recommend at least 2 liters per person. A camelback like this one is a not only an easy way to carry this, but the little mouthpiece hanging at your shoulder is a helpful reminder to keep sipping.

3. Break often.
The only downside I’ve found to camebacks is that because you don’t have to stop to drink water, you may feel inclined to keep going. With any hike, I strongly encourage you to take a break, just to catch your breath and maybe have a quick snack. For a typical hike, I like to sit and enjoy a piece of fruit, some trail mix, or even a sandwich but while at elevation — and in the cold/wind, I subsisted largely on granola bars and Clif Shot Bloks { my favorite was the Cran-Razz flavor }. Allow yourself not only to go slow if you feel like it, but to pause and ensure you’re getting the hydration and sustenance you need to complete the hike.

4. Stay warm.
The typical season for hiking a fourteener is July – September, during which time it’s usually 80+ degrees in Denver. It goes without saying that the weather is NOT THE SAME in the mountains. You will absolutely want to wear and pack extra layers. Gloves are mandatory, even if you think you’ll warm up while moving. I recommend a light, breathable under layer like Athleta’s Chi top, plus at least 2 additional layers { a windbreaker, another lightweight zip-up, and a thin puffer }.

5. Start early.
The number one piece of advice I read about fourteeners is that the weather changes incredibly quickly at that high of altitude, with wind/snow/lightning rolling in most afternoons. The key is to start your hike early, aiming to summit before 12pm.

Taking these tips into consideration, here’s a look at what went into my pack. You obviously want to keep it light so you don’t strain your back, but you’ll want a smart mix of items for your comfort and safety.What to pack for hiking a fourteener

pack // bars + bloks // sunscreen // bandaids // swiss army knife // puffer jacket // gloves // extra socks // sunglasses // whistle // first aid kit //

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert, having only hiked one 14er thus far! I did a lot of research beforehand and think these tips are pretty straightforward; however, I strongly encourage you to visit some additional resources to learn more!

Additional Resources

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