The 14ers Report in a COVID-19 Year
Colorado’s Peaks During The Pandemic
It’s that time of the year when end-of-the-year reports come in from local, state, and regional organizations. Leadville Today is glad to share the ones which discuss the direct benefits their programs have had in Leadville and Lake County. And so it goes for the Colorado Fourteener Initiative’s (CFI)
“This year has been a whirlwind to say the least,” stated Brian Sargeant, CFI’s Development and Communications Manager in their EOY report. “Just a few weeks before we were set to host our inaugural fundraising event in April, the world rapidly started closing down around us due to the pandemic. Eight months later, the idea of gathering with hundreds of friends to share drinks and swap adventure stories seems so bizarre.”
Like everyone else, CFI’s full-time staff moved into makeshift home offices, wondering if they would be able to move forward with all planned projects. Fortunately, healthy staff and reworked protocols allowed much work to be accomplished by the nonprofit preservationists once they were able to hit the trails in early summer. Listed below are some of CFI’s 2020 success, including those close to Leadville Today. Thank you, Colorado Fourteener Initiative’s (CFI)
Cruising at an Altitude of 14,ooo Feet
The Colorado Fourteener Initiative’s (CFI) Year 2020 is winding down and there’s reason to celebrate success, particularly with one trail right close to home. The 14ers.org is a non-profit whose mission it is to protect and preserve the natural integrity of Colorado’s fifty-four 14,000 -foot peaks —the “Fourteeners”— through active stewardship and public education,” for the most recent information regarding Colorado peaks. Despite numerous obstacles, including a global pandemic, wildfires, and CFI’s first summer working without many volunteers, the non-profit had one of its most productive field seasons ever.
- Two large-scale trail construction projects are complete after more than four years on each peak. One is on Mount Elbert, the other Mount Columbia
- CFI’s two-person crew on Grays and Torreys made significant progress retaining the rapidly eroding soils on the upper stretches of the trail above 13,500-ft.
- The Lake City crew performed maintenance on five trails on both Forest Service and BLM-managed peaks.
- CFI’s Adopt-a-Peak teams worked eight-day hitches to focus efforts on priority areas at high elevations and remote locations where work in prior years was not possible with volunteers.
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative is fortunate that their employees stayed healthy this summer and grateful that supporters from across the nation, have continued to back their efforts. As usual, the work does not stop when the tools have been stored and trucks are parked. CFI’s office staff will shift focus in the coming months to produce and distribute mailings, write various grants and reports, and continue to plan and fundraise for future projects.
Backcountry Use on the Rise
And as most Leadville locals know, the CFI staff weren’t the only ones that were out on the backcountry tyrails this past summer.
“Looking at CFI’s preliminary trail counter data, we are seeing a more than 20% increase in hiking use on the 14ers. Our estimates show 2020 as the busiest year since we started monitoring traffic on the peaks in 2014,” reported Sargeant.
The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative team has been studying hiking use on Colorado’s 14,000-foot peak using infrared trail counters since 2014. In 2019, CFI placed 22 thermal counters monitoring traffic on 23 peaks across the state. This year, CFI released the fourth iteration of the report that estimates that Colorado’s 14ers experienced 288,000 hiker use days last season.
The number of people climbing a fourteener in Colorado last year (2019) plunged by 18.4 percent due to the record snowpack that spring. Lingering snowpack and avalanche debris-choked roads resulted in 65,000 fewer hiker days on Colorado’s 14ers last year as compared to the 2018 season (288,000 vs. 353,000). This level of recreational use suggests a statewide economic impact of more than $78 million, based on past 14er-related expenditure studies performed by Colorado State University economists John Loomis and Catherine Keske.
Head over to their website to learn more about the methodology and see how your favorite fourteener ranks on the list.
Mountain Safety Videos
Have you ever wondered, “Will I get charged for a mountain rescue?” or “How long does it take SAR teams to evacuate an injured hiker?”
Earlier this summer, CFI expanded its educational YouTube library with six new mountain safety videos. The first series titled “Introduction to 3rd Class” addresses topics including scrambling on Mount Sneffels, managing risks on Kelso Ridge, and avoiding navigational issues on the Challenger/Kit Carson area that has seen a spike in rescues over recent seasons. Additional videos featuring Search and Rescue experts, a helicopter pilot with Flight for Life Colorado, mountain athletes, and survivors caught overnight in a fast-moving blizzard answer these important questions and many more. Follow the link to their YouTube page to watch the newest videos.
How To Help in 2021
There is no shortage of work ahead for CFI. Observations from most trails along have shown that hikers are causing severe trail braiding and trampling vegetation in an attempt to physically distance themselves from other hikers. Stepping or walking off-trail in the alpine ecosystems will cause significant damage to native flora. However, the Colorado Fourteener Initiative (CFI) staff, crew and volunteers are ready to face those obstacles head-on as they continue preservation work and hiker education on the trails that bring tens of thousands to the mountaintop. If you’d like to become involved or donate financially to their efforts, please visit the CFI website or contact Colorado Fourteeners Initiative 1600 Jackson Street, Suite 205 Golden, Colorado 80401.
Trooper Tips: What’s Around the Bend?
By Master Trooper Gary Cutler, Colorado State Patrol
I hope everyone has been enjoying the holidays this year. It’s been a hard and difficult year for a lot of people. With that being said, people don’t need anything else sad happening to them. The last thing I want for anyone is to get that knock on the door and being told a loved one has been killed in a crash.
When approaching a curve, road signs usually suggest we slow our speed. The suggested speed you should slow down to usually depends on how sharp the curve is. But don’t just rely on signage to determine your speed. There are other factors you need to look at. You should ask yourself how familiar are you with the area, how comfortable or skilled you are at driving, and what are the road conditions like.
Something I see a lot is when someone navigates a curve and they wait until they are in the curve before they apply the brakes. This is not a safe way to negotiate curves. If you need to slow, do it prior to entering the curve and release them before the curve starts. When you apply brakes in the curve you may cause the vehicle to skid.
This is particularly important during winter months. Whether you are going too fast or you brake during the curve, the area may have snow, ice, or dirt on the surface causing the car to lose traction and slide when hitting it. This can be magnified when braking around the curve.
Look at how wide the lanes are, is there a shoulder, what kind of traffic volume is on the road, is your field of view restricted. Also, don’t hug the center line. Give yourself room in case you or on-coming traffic crosses it. Another reason for going slower around curves is the unknown. Is there an animal, cyclist, or debris on the roadway just out of sight? There could be a car going slower than you or broken down ahead of you.
There may be times when you have to use your brakes in a curve. If you do, try to gently use the brakes and try to avoid hard braking. Remember though, it’s better to have finished the braking prior to entering the curve. As always, safe travels!