DENVER -- Jake Lord had already climbed 22 of Colorado's 14,000 foot mountains when he started to climb Capitol Peak last Saturday and fell to his death.
"It was a freak accident," said a family member on the phone. "They couldn't have predicted or taken any safety measures against it.
For many, "bagging" some of Colorado's 54 "Fourteeners" is a rite of passage for the state, but with a growing number of hikers, and a growing number of accidents, there is concern that many underestimate the risks involved.
Lloyd Athearn, executive director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative said many of the peaks known as "approachable Everests" can be climbed by average people, but even the easiest peak can be treacherous.
"These are not controlled places," said Athearn, who said Capitol Peak, where Lord died, is one of the most difficult because of notoriously brittle rocks. "Those mountains, even the easy ones, can be quite treacherous."
But there have also been deaths this year on Maroon Bells, Mount Princeton and Longs Peak.
Dawn Wilson, with the Alpine Rescue Team, said her group has performed several rescue operations from 14ers in the last month, including two hikers stuck below Torrey's Peak overnight.
"They were stuck on snow and could not go up or down," said Wilson. "They did not have helmets or technical gear, such as ropes and harnesses to get themselves out of their location."
She said it is important to let someone know your planned route and time to finish and when they should call the sheriff if you have not returned.
Most important, they say is being physically prepared and mentally prepared, knowing the route and the risks and respecting the mountain.
Find a list of 14ers ranked by difficulty by clicking here.
Although unpredictable weather can create dangerous conditions, this checklist, crafted by the experts at 14ers.com, is a great place to start before embarking upon a journey up a mountain.
- Water (plenty of water)
- Synthetic shirts
- Synthetic long underwear
- Fleece or Wind-Block jacket
- Waterproof shell/jacket
- Nylon shorts
- Hiking pants
- Hiking boots / scrambling shoes
- Hiking socks
- Pack (that fits the hike/climb)
- Head lamp
- Knife or multi-tool
- Water bladder or bottles
- 30 SPF sunscreen
- Toilet paper (in ziploc bag)
- Trash bag
- Cell phone
- Extra batteries
- Emergency supplies, including a first aid kit
- SPOT or other personal locator device
- Climbing helmet
- Optional: Trekking poles
- Optional: Water filter
- Optional: Satellite phone (expensive but extremely valuable in an emergency)
Colder Weather and Snow Climbing:
- Waterproof shell
- Waterproof pants
- Mountaineering boots
- Mountain ax
- Gaiters (ankle or knee-high)
- Winter hat
- Ski goggles
- Balaclava or fleece face mask
- Avalanche beacons
- Avalanche probe
Gear for Overnight Summer Trips:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Pack cover
- Waterproof bag/sack to hang food in tree
- Small rope to hang food
- Water filter
- Paper towels
Backcountry Ski Gear:
- AT/Tele skis / bindings
- AT/Tele boots
- Ski poles
- Climbing skins
- Climbing skin wax