14er season is like Christmas in July! I am surrounded by all of these amazing presents and just don’t know which one to open first. When I say 14er season I am referring to the small window of time between late June and mid to late August when the tallest mountains in Colorado (above 14,000 feet) are (generally) free of snow and warm enough to summit without substantial cold weather gear.
There are about 53 mountains that are classified as 14ers (there are arguably more because there is no universally accepted means of determining whether a nearby peak that is also above 14k feet is considered a subpeak or a separate peak).
Hiking, or climbing, a 14er is no joke. Most hikes take four or more hours and typically have an elevation gain of more than 3,000 feet. Being above 14,000 feet is hard on your body too. It is harder to catch your breath because the air contains about 40% less oxygen and you are more exposed to the sun since you are significantly closer to it. Hikers need to be aware of the weather conditions because they can change quickly. It is not uncommon for a snowstorm to occur anytime of the year and for thunderstorms to move in without notice. It is very dangerous to be above tree-line during a thunderstorm because you, and your fellow hikers, are some of the tallest objects. To avoid afternoon thunderstorms hikers should start early enough to arrive back at the trailhead before noon or 1:00 PM, which typically means starting a 14er very early in the morning (often before dawn).
With all of that being said, I LOVE 14ers! There is no better way to get to know the State of Colorado than to climb to the highest points and look down over its beauty. But it is not all about getting to the destination. While hiking a 14er you might have the pleasure of experiencing one or more of the following: wild flowers, marmots, pikas, mountain goats, waterfalls, moose, elk, mountain lakes, streams, deep philosophical conversations with your hiking buddies, clarity on your next business decision, or even the meaning of life.