Taking on the 14ers this Summer

May 2010

Dan England, the Greeley Tribune's resident mountain climber, recently addressed a recurring question in his life (other than "Are you nuts?"). The question: "What's an easy 14er?" His answer may be a surprise: Mount Elbert, the tallest peak in the state. Now, don't misunderstand: Climbing to the peak of any of the state's mountains with an elevation of 14,000 feet above sea level is tough. Elbert, he says, is less scary than climbing some of the others because it has a dirt trail all the way to the summit. Climbing 14ers is gaining in popularity, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette, which notes 500,000 climbers hit the trails each year, without facing tight regulations, reservation requirements, and sometimes fees, as happens on some West Coast peaks. But, a taste of that could come to Colorado. The U.S. Forest Service has unveiled new plans to charge hikers and backpackers a $10 fee per person, per trip, and $20 to camp in the heavily-traversed South Colony Basin in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a starting point for four 14ers---Humboldt Peak, Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, and Kit Carson Peak. “This would be precedent setting,” says Mike Smith, forester with San Isabel National Forest. The process will be controversial, too, with one group, the Western Slope No Fee Coalition, already promising a fight. As that battle shapes up, further efforts are under consideration to preserve wildlife in the state, including new wildlife crossings and corridors in certain places, which could get support through new climate legislation, according to The Denver Post.

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