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137 Crowded Mountains? 2009-10-14

The line of the crowd making their way up quandry

So why are some trails, routes and peaks popular and others not?

During the summer while my wife and I were climbing the 54 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado, we talked often about what made a climb popular. We actually were trying to avoid the masses, but at times it could not be helped. We had lots of time to discuss our opinions.

Short Commute - Mountains located near the Front Range metropolitan areas are busy. The hiker can do a 14er and not lose much sleep. Some of these mountains are also listed under other categories, but their closeness to Denver and Colorado Springs definitely contributes to their crowded status. Examples - Longs, Pikes, Bierstadt, Grays, and Quandry.

Short Approach - The closer the mountain is to where the hiker starts walking, the better. The hikers want to hike but not very far. They also do not want to wakeup too early. We basically learned that in Colorado it is okay to drive as high as possible before starting a climb. It is nice to be able to climb a peak and be down by noon though. Examples - Sneffels, Princeton, Antero, Castle, Humboldt, Democrat (and the three other surrounding peaks), and Sherman.

Easy - The easy the 14ers draw crowds. Most hikers love to climb the mountains, they just don’t want it to be very hard. They have other lives and can’t be hobbling around or missing work because of a hike. Examples - Quandry, Bierstadt, Elbert, and Huron.

Beauty - Some mountains are popular because of their beauty. These peaks are not overly close or easy, they are just pretty mountains and draw crowds due to their beauty. Make sure the cameras are ready for these hikes. Examples - Holy Cross, Handies, La Plata, and Lindsey.

Reputation - A few of the peaks are crowded even though they have long approaches and are harder climbs. (Some of these peaks might even be called, "deadly" like the Maroons.) The challenge of a good climb makes a peak with a reputation crowded. Examples - Barr Trail on Pikes, Longs Peak, Pyramid, and Capitol.

All of the 14er peaks are fun and challenging to climb. To avoid the crowds: climb in the middle of the week if possible, start the climb really early (or late depending on your perspective), climb in not so perfect weather (if you can still climb safely), and climb the obscure peaks (like San Luis).

With the crowding of the peaks it is even more important to practice Leave No Trace principals. Let’s love them, but not to death!

For information on any of the peaks listed above, check out cloudhiking.com.

Happy trails.


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