Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
June / July 1998


The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative: A Peak Effort

Colorado's 54 peaks over 14,000-feet, or Fourteeners as they are affectionately referred to by hikers and climbers, are being loved to death. It is anticipated that over 200,000 hikers and climbers will attempt to summit a Fourteener this year - a 300% increase over just ten years ago. All of this traffic is having a great impact on the Fourteener's fragile alpine environments. Trail braiding and soil erosion are quickly turning the "Crown Jewels of the Colorado Rockies" into trampled treasures.

In 1994, The Colorado Mountain Club, Colorado Outward Bound School, Leave No Trace, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado joined together and founded the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) in an effort to protect and preserve the natural integrity of the Fourteeners and the quality of recreational opportunities which they provide. To date, CFI's programs have focused on working closely with the U.S. Forest Service to restore damaged areas, build sustainable trailhead-to-summit trails, and educate hikers and climbers to minimize their impacts on the Fourteeners.

Since its inception, CFI has completed impact studies on each of the Fourteeners, educated thousands with Leave No Trace education programs, and involved over 600 volunteers in trail construction and restoration projects. Trails up La Plata Peak, Mount Belford, and Mount Elbert have been significantly improved and last year work was begun at Humboldt and Huron Peaks.

This summer, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) will be back on Humboldt and Huron Peaks. Thanks to the help of over 350 volunteers in 1997, much progress was made to restore damaged areas and construct a sustainable trail on both of these peaks. With continued volunteer support, good weather, and assistance from several youth corps and outfitters, it is anticipated that both of these projects will be completed by September of 1998.

CFI and its partner the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (formerly the American Mountain Foundation) will head out to Humboldt and Huron Peaks in late June to begin preparations for this summer's volunteer projects. CFI's goal is to increase participation in its projects by 25% in 1998, resulting in over 1,250 volunteer work days.

New partnerships with youth groups from around the state will play a significant role in the success of these projects. To date, the Colorado Outward Bound School, America's Adventures, Mountain Trails Youth Ranch, and the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps of Taos have all pledged support. Other youth groups which have expressed an interest in working on CFI's 1998 projects include AMERICORPS and the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps of Steamboat Springs.

Humboldt Peak Update: In 1997, CFI, with help from the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) and the U.S. Forest Service, embarked upon the very difficult task of reclaiming impacted areas and developing a sustainable summit trail on Humboldt Peak. Over the years, use from hikers resulted in the creation of an immense erosion gully on Humboldt Peak's southwest slope. The erosion gully, which measured up to 10 feet wide in some sections and 4 feet deep in others, proved a formidable challenge for CFI's volunteers; however, through much sweat and toil, nearly two-thirds of the gully has been reclaimed.

In total, nearly 180 tons of stone were transported from nearby rock outcrops and used in the reclamation effort. Additionally, in July of 1997, a 50 person work crew from Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado helped to improve and reroute sections of trail used to access the South Colony Lakes Basin and Humboldt Peak.

Reclamation and trail construction efforts on Humboldt Peak will continue in 1998. Volunteers will work with the U.S. Forest Service and trail crew leaders from RMFI to complete work on the upper portions of the Humboldt Peak hiking route. Volunteers on this project will need to be in very good condition in that the worksite could be up to 3 miles from the basecamp and at elevations between 12,700 feet and the summit. Most of the volunteer work on Humboldt Peak will involve the transportation of heavy rocks for use in building structures and reclaiming the remaining portions of the erosion gully.

Huron Peak Update: In 1997, most of CFI's efforts on Huron Peak were directed towards rerouting the lower portions of the South Fork of Clear Creek hiking route. Staff and volunteers spent six weeks building nearly 2,500 linear feet of new trail. In 1998, volunteers will work to complete the re-routed section of trail, reclaim portions of the very steep and severely eroded old trail, and reinforce the upper portions of the existing trail to the summit. Significant work will be completed on the summit ridge of Huron in an effort to close off existing, severely eroded social trails and re-cairn a single route to the summit.

All told, it is going to be a very busy summer at CFI's Humboldt and Huron Peak basecamps. Individuals interested in learning more about CFI or volunteering on one of CFI's Humboldt or Huron Peak projects should contact CFI's outreach coordinator, Kristen Sauer at (303) 278-7525 x115. If you are unable to attend any of this season's trail crew projects but would like to become involved with CFI in some other capacity, please do not hesitate to contact the Initiative. It is only through the volunteer and financial support of concerned individuals like yourself that CFI will be able to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate the pristine beauty and majesty of Colorado's tallest peaks.


Colorado Fourteeners Initiative 1998

Volunteer Project Dates

  Huron Peak   Humboldt Peak
  6/26-6/28   6/26-6/28
  7/10-7/12   7/3-7/5
  7/23-7/26   7/17-7/19
  7/31-8/2   7/24-7/26
**  8/8-8/15   8/1-8/8
8/21-23 * 8/28-8/30
* 9/4-9/6    
* 9/11-9/13    

* Week long project

** Special high altitude crew. Limited enrollment.

Contact Kristen Sauer at (303) 278-7525 x115 to volunteer.