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Introductory Paragraph

People are mistaken who believe the high Rockies are hard to climb. To the traveler who has passed through the plains of Kansas and eastern Colorado, the high Rockies might seem like a beautiful but forbidding wilderness, approachable by only the toughest mountaineers. It is true that the 53 peaks in the Rockies that soar over 14,000 feet in elevation should only be attempted by seasoned climbers. However, the peaks under 14,000 feet, the fourteeners, can be easily climbed by the average person. Actually, climbing Colorado's fourteeners is hardly a rugged experience because most of them take only a day to climb, involve no more than hiking and simple scrambling, and are conquered by many people each year.

First Body Paragraph

Surprisingly, unlike expeditions to Mt. McKinley or Mt. Everest, a climb up one of Colorado's 14,000 foot peaks rarely takes more than a day. Pike's Peak, with the state's greatest base-to-summit elevation gain, is admittedly a strenuous climb, yet a retired college professor in his middle seventies makes the hike every day in the summer. A friend of mine, Carson Black, in a day, once climbed four fourteeners, three of which--Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, and Kit Carson Peak--are the most challenging in the state. Even more revealing is the Bicentennial celebration by the Colorado Mountain Club. It planned to have members on the summit of every fourteener in the state on July 4, 1976. Only a handful of ascents took more than a day.

Second Body Paragraph

Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks are also fairly easy to climb because they require no special climbing techniques. The "knife-edge traverse" on Capitol Peak is probably the most infamous challenge, yet most hikers who carry ropes don't use them when they see the ridge is not very intimidating. The highest peak in the state, Mt. Elbert, is so simple to climb that a jeep made it in 1949, and one man "rode a 24-year-old bicycle to the summit in 1951" (Perry Eberhart and Philip Schmuck, The Fourteeners, p. 38). I personally saw two motorcycles on the 14,000-foot ridge between Mt. Democrat and Mt. Lincoln.

Third  Body Paragraph

Another indication that climbing Colorado's highest peaks is not very difficult is the sheer number of people who succeed each summer. After descending from Torrey's Peak one weekend in August, I counted over seventy cars in the parking lot. On a week the previous August, I passed fifty people in various stages of climbing Mt. Elbert. Even years ago--in 1968--4226 people climbed Longs Peak (Paul W. Nesbit, Longs Peak, p. 68). Its parking lot today, to accommodate the number of climbers, is about a quarter-mile long.

Concluding Paragraph

If I've shattered your belief that Colorado's peaks are the domain of only bears and mountain men who look like bears, consider how Zebulon Pike might feel about Pikes Peak today. In 1806, he "predicted that the mountain would never be climbed" (Eberhart and Schmuck, p. 6). Now, via the cog railway or the toll highway, he could reach the summit without moving his legs.

 



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