Wednesday, February 22, 2017

NEWS: Hiker Blown Off Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiker breaks leg in Rocky Mountain National Park in high winds
Twin Sisters Peak in RMNP
Hiker and famed mountaineer Alan Arnette suffered a badly broken leg when he was blown off Twin Sisters Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park a week ago. Arnette and a friend, Jim Davidson, were near 11,000 feet on Twin Sisters Trail when a gust of wind estimated around 90-100 miles per hour suddenly launched Arnette off the trail into a boulder field where he badly broke his leg and injured his face. Arnette admitted in an interview with 9News that he was lucky to be alive.

"I remember (Jim Davidson) saying 'There's a 10 percent chance we can make the summit, but there's a 70 percent chance something may go wrong," Arnette said in the interview. You can view the interview with 9news here at this link.

Alan Arnette is a veteran mountaineer with a heap of international accomplishments. He has reached the summit of Mt. Everest and K2 as well as many other mountains around the world. Outside Magazine was called Arnette "One of the world's most respected chroniclers of Mt. Everest." He is also a speaker and maintains a website about all things mountaineering.

We wish Arnette a speedy recovery and look forward to hearing more about his harrowing adventures.

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-Top 8 Least Busy 14ers
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Top 8 Least Busy 14ers in Colorado

The companion piece to last week's Top 8 Busiest 14ers post, this article takes data from the same sources (ListsofJohn.com, 14ers.com, and Summitpost.org) and approximates the least busy 14ers in Colorado.

Least popular mountains in Colorado
Capitol Peak in the distance from Snowmass Mtn, number
six on this list
Anybody who has climbed a 14er in the last 10 years knows they are popular, and getting more so all the time as "ticking" them off becomes more and more trendy. So which mountains see the least action? Which are you most likely to find some semblance of solitude?

Methodology
As with the "busiest 14ers" article, we took the summit logs and reported ascents from three popular mountaineering websites and gave each a score, 1 being the least number of reports, 2 the second least and so on. We averaged those scores to create an approximation of which peaks are the least busy of the 14ers.

Possibility for Error
It is important to note that the only way to know for sure how many people actually climb these peaks would be to count every single person who climbs every single peak on every single day. This, of course, is nearly impossible. There are many ways the data here could be skewed, including bias tilted towards which mountaineers are likely to sign up and report ascents on these three websites, as well as factors such as repeat ascents and others. Regardless, we feel this list gives a good estimation of which Colorado 14ers see the least amount of traffic.

If You Really Want Solitude
If solitude is your thing, we suggest NOT climbing the 14ers. Period. Or perhaps, climbing them in the off season, like the dead of winter. Sure they are great mountains, and climbing them gives you a certain amount of clout in social circles, but if your main goal is to climb great peaks with a sense of adventure, a wilderness experience, and enjoy solitude, we suggest aiming for 13ers and 12ers. In many cases, the climbing on these peaks is just as good, arguably better, and you still get the same satisfaction that climbing any high mountain can provide.

All of that being said, here are the eight least busy 14ers according to our calculations:

1. Culebra Peak
It was no surprise that the only 14er that you must pay heavily to climb had the fewest reports of people climbing it. I have never climbed Culebra, and though I have climbed almost all of the 14ers I have no plans to do so in the immediate future. Were it of outstanding aesthetic value, not merely average as most seem to consider it, perhaps Culebra would see more use.

2. Mount Wilson
This was a bit of a surprise. Clearly there is a direct correlation between a mountain's difficulty and its relative popularity, but to see Mt. Wilson land all the way at number 2 was more than expected. Mount Wilson is Colorado's 16th highest peak. It is highly prominent and has a stunning and highly visible position relative to the popular mountain town of Telluride. All of this, however, apparently is outweighed by its long standard route, class 4 difficulty and distance from Front Range cities.

Little Bear is oft-touted as Colorado's most dangerous, if not most difficult, 14er, therefore it came as no surprise  that it landed in the top 3. I know several people that put off Little Bear until they had just a few 14ers left before completion. Add in its distance from Front Range big cities, and the reason for its relative inactivity makes sense.

4. Mount Eolus
Eolus is a hard peak to get to and somewhat more difficult than most by its standard route (class 3). And frankly, it is not very famous. I've known some people who are fairly acquainted with Colorado's backcountry that are not even aware of a 14er that goes by that strange name, Eolus.

5. Wilson Peak
The Wilson group apparently are not very busy. The reason Wilson Peak is slightly busier than Mount Wilson is probably due to its shorter and technically easier standard route. Still, however, this little corner of Colorado magnificence is significantly less crowded than other comparable destinations.

Snowmass Mountain is long, scrambly, far from Denver, and relatively low in stature for a 14er (ranked #31). We saw these factors repeating over and over while comprising this list and thus it is no surprise that Snowmass Mountain landed at #6.

Least climbed mountains in Colorado
The backside of the Maroon Bells from Frigid Air Pass
7. Sunlight Peak
The Chicago Basin 14ers are difficult to get to, and very far from Denver. The fame (or infamy) of Sunlight Peak's summit cap, however, may be the reason why it sees slightly more ascents than neighboring Eolus.

Maroon Peak is perhaps Colorado's most photographed mountain. It is a stunning and famous peak. It is also one of Colorado's most dangerous. Over half of all deaths reported on Colorado's 14ers so far this decade occurred on the Maroon Bells, the Crestones, and Longs Peak. Despite its fame, Maroon Peak apparently does not see near as much traffic as other 14ers.

Honorable Mentions
Capitol Peak, Ellingwood Point, Windom, and Pyramid Peak were all next up if we extended this list past eight. Also North Maroon, North Eolus, and El Diente would have made the top 8, but we did not include any "unranked" peaks that didn't have at least 300 feet of topographical prominence.

Analysis
There were a few surprises when the data was finally crunched to create this list. Some of these peaks, like the Maroon Bells, are quite famous, and  thus seem more popular than they are. If we were to create a list of most pageviews or photographs on these websites, a whole different set of mountains would have emerged. But popularity in terms of mythical status and internet fame did not equate to reported ascents. What wasn't surprising was that Culebra topped the list. There's one way to reduce a peak's use: charge $150 to climb it. It is also not surprising that some of the state's hardest peaks are the least busy: Sunlight, Mt. Wilson, Maroon Peak, Little Bear. And if we rounded out the list to 15, we would also have seen Pyramid Peak, Capitol Peak and both Crestones. In fact, all of these mountains here (except Culebra) are at least class 3 by their standard routes. Distance from Denver was also a clear factor, as every mountain in the top 8 is from the Sangre De Cristo, Elk and San Juan ranges. 

An interesting note that reinforced just how busy even these least popular 14ers are, Colorado's highest 13er, Grizzly Peak (which was once considered a 14er until a better survey proved otherwise) would have easily topped this list. In fact, even among the busiest 13ers we could think of (Silverheels, Meeker, Mt. Sheridan, etc.) we weren't able to find any with more reported ascents than Culebra.

Enjoy these peaks. Climb them, take care of them, but even on these mountains don't expect solitude on a summer weekend.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top 8 Busiest Colorado Peaks

What are the busiest 14ers in Colorado?
Morning light on Mt. Elbert
The mountains of Colorado have become crowded. Hell, Colorado as a state has become crowded. Everyone who's tried to climb a mountain here (especially the really popular ones like Longs or Elbert) has seen just how busy they can be. Trains of humanoids zig-zagging up the mountainsides by the hundreds have become a common sight. On a busy weekend, these peaks more resemble an amusement park than a wilderness adventure. 

But just which peaks are the busiest of all? While there are no stats that tell us 100% accurately how many people attempt these peaks in a given year, we have used data from several popular websites to make our best guess.

Methodology
To create this list, we used the ticklist or summit log data from three popular mountaineering websites: listsofjohn.com, 14ers.com and Summitpost.org to create a score for each mountain based on the number of people reporting ascents of each of Colorado's 14ers. We then averaged the scores together (weighing all three websites equally) to come up with an aggregate rating which we hope indicates which peaks are the busiest.

Possibilities for Error
There are several ways in which error could be introduced with this method. For example, all three of these websites are more likely to attract mountaineering enthusiasts (people so heavily engaged in the sport they are willing to not only register for such a site but actually log their ascents), thus eliminating "casual" climbers who might be drawn to certain types of mountains, like Mount Elbert (since it is the highest point in Colorado) and Longs Peak (since it is close to Denver and located in Rocky Mountain National Park). This could potentially skew the data.

Another possible error could lie in the relative "power" of each peak. In other words, people might be more likely to report and ascent of Mount Elbert, since it is the state high point, than they are of Quandary Peak, which does not carry the same clout, resulting in under-reporting of mountains that are viewed as less interesting. Repeat ascents are also not likely to be accurately accounted for since, while all three of these websites (I believe) allow you to report repeats, most likely people are far less willing to do so.

Anyway, without further ado, here is our list of the eight busiest peaks in the state of Colorado.

Quandary Peak in the snow
Near the summit of Quandary in the snow
It is not really a surprise that Grays Peak tops this list. With its convenient I-70 access, it relative proximity to the large Front Range cities, and its "easy" standard route, Grays Peak is about as user friendly of a 14er as there is.

Since Elbert is the highest peak in the state, and its standard route requires little more than a sturdy pair of legs to climb, it makes sense that it would land near the top. However, I suspect the data is skewed in Elbert's favor due to its stature and the fact that people would be more likely to report ascents of Elbert as compared to other, less famous peaks.

These two Front Range peaks came out tied in overall aggregate score. Both peaks are conveniently accessible to the Front Range big cities, and both have somewhat abbreviated routes on well-beaten trails to their summits. It is no wonder that they both two of Colorado's busiest mountains.

As the companion summit of Grays Peak, the inclusion of Torreys is no surprise. Since many climb these two peaks together, the difference between them is likely a result of the standard route on Grays Peak being just that much easier than Torreys, leading to a number of people making the summit of Grays but electing to turn around and not complete the route to the top of its neighbor.

As the first peak reached in the standard DeCaliBron (Democrat/Cameron/Lincoln/Bross) loop, Mt. Democrat is an obvious addition to this list. As with Grays, that it places higher than Lincoln, Cameron or Bross is indicative of the fact that it is usually the first of the 4-mountain loop to be climbed and not everyone is successful in completing the tour.

Since we did not count Cameron (it is not a "ranked" peak) Mount Lincoln is the second peak of the Decalibron and it makes sense that it would score just a hair lower than Democrat on the aggregate rank. 

8. Longs Peak
The north face of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
The North Face of Longs Peak from the Boulderfield
I was surprised not to see Longs higher on this list. The immense popularity of the Keyhole Route always seemed a cut above the others. However, it is a more difficult mountain, and more dangerous than any of the others on the list. In addition, one has to wonder how many of the people who climb this mountain fall into the aforementioned "casual" hiker group and were drawn to this peak due to its position within Rocky Mountain National Park but were not likely to register for one of the three websites used for our raw data.

Honorable Mentions
The following peaks nearly made the list: Evans, Pikes, Sherman, Bross and Massive.

So which peak was the least popular? While a "Top 8 Least Popular 14ers" may make an interesting topic for another post, it appears that (we didn't run the bottom peaks through the same number crunch) the least busy 14er in Colorado is the only one you have to pay an exorbitant fee to climb: Culebra.  

Popular or not, these mountains represent some of the most beautiful high peaks in the state and are all worthy to climb despite the crowds. Hike them, enjoy them, take care of them. Just don't go up there expecting privacy....

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Climbing and mountaineering are dangerous!! Please see the DISCLAIMER page
For information about how to contact us, visit this link