If you’re regularly active, you may think you can hike a fourteener without targeted training. Sure, it’s possible—but we wouldn’t recommend it. Most 14,000-plus-foot peaks gain at least 3,000 feet of elevation in a span of several miles; that’s like taking your five-mile jog and tilting the path to a 45-degree angle. Plus, fourteeners require you to think ahead about clothing, food, gear, weather, difficulty of route, start time, and more. It’s enough to make your head spin (literally), but luckily, there are plenty of opportunities for you to learn about and prepare for bagging your first (or 10th) peak—the right way.
If you’re looking for…a course: Wilderness Trekking School
The Colorado Mountain Club offers outdoors classes ranging from rock climbing to fly fishing, but the most popular is this comprehensive course on mountain hiking. You’ll learn everything from navigation skills and proper nutrition to leave no trace practices and avalanche awareness. Between five lectures, four field days, and a final hike, you’re truly getting an education (yes, there’s even homework) in high-elevation climbing. Note: These classes fill up quickly so sign up for the fall session now.
If you’re looking for a…clinic: How to Climb a 14er Clinic
Axistence Athletics, located in southeast Denver, is an academy (read: gym) that trains its clients for outdoor adventures. But you don’t have to be a member to get those benefits: Axistence offers one-time classes focused on specific pursuits as well. The slate of classes includes a 60- to 90-minute session on fourteener preparedness (held on July 7 at 7:15 p.m.) that features tips on gear, clothing, training, and more. You can then choose to test out your new skills on Axistence’s beginner and intermediate hike in August; specific date and location are still TBD, but 2015’s was a summit of Grays and Torreys peaks.
If you’re looking for…just a hike: 14er Fitness and Training Meetup Group
Denverite Brandon Simmons founded this meetup group in 2011; since then, it’s amassed more than 4,000 “summiters.” Members—usually six to 10 per outing—participate in training hikes ranging from easy, low-altitude treks (think: Green Mountain near Lakewood) to thirteeners such as Rosalie Peak. The experience is free and casual, meaning you can get pro tips from the organizers without emptying your wallet.