More Folks Reaching New Heights
When it comes to hiking in Colorado, it’s all about “bagging a 14er.” It’s what mountaineers refer to as successfully summiting one of the states’s 58 peaks which claim over 14,000 feet in elevation. And according to the most recent hiking use report released in July 2019 by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI), last year an estimated 353,000 people hiked a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado during the primary hiking season. This total represents an overall increase of roughly 19,000 person days compared to CFI’s estimate of 334,000 hiker use days for 2017. The increase stems from both more accurate use estimates on the highest-use 14ers, as well as year-over-year increases of 7 percent on several peaks with a multi-year history of reliable data collection.
According to their website, CFI states that this level of recreational use suggests a statewide economic impact of more than $95 million, based on past 14er-related expenditure studies. And after studying trends over the past five years, CFI has seen an average 5-6% year-over-year growth. In 2018, Quandary Peak surpassed Mount Bierstadt as the most-climbed 14er in the state!
Climb Every Mountain
In other 14ers news, the non-profit organization also released its 2019 Field Season recap report, highlighting what the field crews got done this past summer. Quite a chunk of it was done right here in Lake County’s own back yard. In fact, in light of historic snow levels, CFI’s crews headed into the mountains to begin working in early June, with the first few weeks of the season spent shoveling several tons of snow and clearing avalanche debris — including removing 553 downed trees!
Below are some quick highlights from the summer. For a more in-depth breakdown of completed work and photos, head over to CFI website.
- Performed the third year of work on the East Ridge route of Mount Elbert (including maintaining 1.19 miles of existing trail and restoring 16,500 feet of tundra.).
- Completed the fourth year of new trail construction on Mount Columbia (including cutting 830 linear feet of tread and installing 170 stone steps).
- Started the first season of intensive trail reconstruction project on Grays and Torreys.
- Began work on the five 14ers located near Lake City.
- Engaged 752 individual volunteers who put in a total of 1,706 volunteer stewardship days.
- Placed 22 infrared trail counters in the field to track 14er hiking use.
- Educated 12,175 hikers on the peaks about Leave No Trace ethics and responsible recreation practices.
- Released seven new Mountain Safety videos.
According to their website, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative has been studying hiking use on Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks – the 14ers – using infrared trail counters since 2014. In 2016, CFI released its first-ever report on Fourteener hiking use and economic impact. This year, after three full seasons with 20+ thermal counters in the field, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative is releasing the third iteration of our report that estimates that Colorado’s 14ers experienced 353,000 hiker use days in 2018. This represents an increase of roughly 19,000 person days compared to CFI’s 2017 estimate of 334,000 hiker use days.
This level of recreational use suggests a statewide economic impact of more than $95 million, based on past 14er-related expenditure studies performed by Colorado State University economists John Loomis and Catherine Keske. Their 2009 study found that climbers of Quandary Peak near Breckenridge spent an average of $271.17 per day for gasoline, food, lodging, equipment, and other retail purchases.
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative protects and preserves the natural integrity of Colorado’s 54 14,000–foot peaks —the “Fourteeners”— through active stewardship and public education. Colorado’s Fourteeners contain rare and fragile native alpine tundra ecosystems that are uniquely adapted to living on these high peaks. These tundra plants –some of which exist nowhere else on earth– are ill-adapted to being trampled by the estimated 353,000 hiker use days that occur on these peaks every year. In many places, resource damage is past the point of natural recovery.
CFI partners with the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and passionate volunteers and donors nationwide to:
- Create a structure for engaging local communities in the protection of Colorado’s highest peaks
- Build and maintain sustainable hiking routes on Colorado’s 14ers to accommodate hiking use while minimizing damage to native alpine ecosystems
- Close, stabilize, and restore trampled and eroded areas to protect sensitive alpine plant and animal communities
- Educate Fourteener hikers about Leave No Trace principles and sustainable recreational practices designed to lessen ecosystem impacts
Through this unique, voluntary partnership, Colorado’s 14er ecosystems are protected from harm while continuing to make the peaks accessible to hikers without burdensome restrictions and fees.
La Plata Peak and The Rocketman
This past summer provided one of the most dramatic 14er stories as former NASA Astronaut and Twin Lakes Resident Jeff Ashby was rescued from La Plata Peak on July 15 after a life-threatening fall left the 65-year-old recovering from multiple serious injuries. In case you missed it, Leadville Today brings you this #happyending story about a rocketman and the #goodpeople who saved him from the mountain top.