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Gear for Non-Technical Mountaineering and Hiking in the Rocky Mountains

There has been an increase in the number of alpine rescues for people venturing into the Colorado high country without the appropriate clothing and equipment. Many high-country emergencies can be avoided by preparing yourself with some essential items. The list of equipment that I’m sharing with you is the one I use for a one-day (3-12 hours) summer hike or climb in Colorado. Use it as an example, but tailor your own list to meet your needs and the site conditions for your hike. Always make your own list and double check that you have everything before departing on your adventure.

You should tailor your list for a number of factors, including weather, personal needs, season, predicted temperatures, site-specific conditions, on-trail or off-trail hiking, technical or non-technical, and the difficulty level. For example, if I am climbing in the Elk Range I know there is an increased risk of encountering rock fall due to the geology there. So, I would take a climbing helmet with me. If I’m climbing in May or June, there is a good chance I’ll have to cross snowfields, so I take my ice ax and possibly crampons. If you are going to be climbing on icy rocks, you need an ice ax and crampons. You can encounter icy conditions in any month of the year, but not as likely in July and August. Spend some extra time planning what you will need to make sure you are prepared.

Adjust your quantities based on your personal needs and the distance you plan to hike. Don’t skimp on water. Half of the weight that I typically start out carrying is water. Water is heavy, but it will lighten as you hydrate yourself during the day. Most people can survive for 2-3 weeks without food, so I seldom pack a lot of food. You want to pack enough to give you plenty of energy for your hike. If you get cold easily, pack extra clothing or warmer clothing.

When I see people climbing above 11,000 feet wearing shorts and running shoes without a pack for extra gear, I think it is foolhardy. One time I saw a person climbing a Fourteener with a light jacket, no water, and a plastic shopping bag that they intended to use if it rained. You don’t have to go very far into the backcountry to become disoriented, wander off of the trail, and become lost. Low clouds and unexpected snow squalls can cut your visibility down to a few yards.

Make sure your light sources have good batteries. I recommend having at least two light sources and some extra batteries. It is common for people to misjudge time and end up hiking back in the dark. Hiking in the dark affects your balance and makes it harder to see tripping hazards.        

Another consideration is to think about being 3+ miles into the wilderness and being injured, possibly unable to walk. You could be out for at least one night before help arrives. If you are alone (not recommended), it could be much longer. Always let someone know where you are going and your intended return time.

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Gear for Day Climb – Blog


These are the 7 most difficult 14ers in Colorado

I would add Longs Peak to this list to make a list of 8. This article contains some good information, helpful links, and great photos.

These are the 7 most difficult 14ers in Colorado –

Backcountry skier rescued after avalanche

He was very lucky to survive. Fast reactions are so important. It is incredible how densely compacted avalanche snow is. Nearly impossible to dig with bare hands. People have died even with their heads above the snow.

Backcountry skier rescued after avalanche –

Hiker falls to his death on Longs Peak

I’m sad to learn of this tragic news. My thoughts and prayers to his family. He was on a precarious stretch of trail that is narrow, often icy, and with steep dropoffs. The climb to the summit is 15 miles roundtrip with vigorous hiking/climbing. After you get up through the “narrows”, you have to descend back across it while typically fatigued. Unless you know the route is free of snow and ice, you should take crampons with you. 

Earlier this year, a group of green berets were training on Longs Peak. They ran into trouble, some of them got altitude sickness, and they had to be rescued by helicopter. 
Greeley hiker falls 150 ft. to his death at RMNP –

Longs Peak makes List for Top 20 Most Dangerous “Hikes”

This article appeared in the Denver Post on 12/7/2014:

Longs Peak is an Awesome Mountain! From our home 25 miles east of the foothills, Longs Peak dominates the horizon. As a child and teenager I dreamed about climbing to its summit. I used to think about hiking from Brighton and climbing it in the days before I could drive. I finally climbed it at age 17 in August 1981. Now, I have climbed it 6-1/2 times by various routes, including a technical winter climb . . . it was in May, but still very much winter conditions with ice on some of the most exposed ledges. I agree that it is a treacherous climb.

Longs Peak isn’t a hike, it is a climb that includes covering 15 miles of ground round-trip. Happy Trails.