Conquering Colorado’s 14ers and peak ascent climbs
Whether your goal is to summit your first 14,000-foot peak, or climb above 12,000′, there are a number of alpine ascents accessible from the Vail area. These all-day, guided adventures call for an alpine, early morning start and involve off-trail hiking in uneven and rocky terrain. Perfect for the experienced hiker seeking a new challenge.
- Duration: 8 to 12 hours with an early morning ‘alpine start’ between 5 and 7 a.m
- Activity Level: Strenuous
- Included: Transportation, lunch, snacks and hiking poles
- 14er and Alpine Ascents FAQ
- One person – $475
- 2 people – $275 each
- 3 people – $245 each
- 4 or more – $225 each * 2nd Guide Added.
Peak Ascent Options
The Mount of the Holy Cross is located on the northern end of the Sawatch Range of Central Colorado. Just 20 miles by road from Vail and approximately 6 miles as the “crow flies”, the peak dominates the southerly view from the top of the Vail Mountain Ski Area. Call for custom dates or check our scheduled group climbs throughout the summer. The peak can be climbed in one very “big” day, we also offer 2 and 3 day camp and climb options. Class 2/3, Grade 2. Route options: North Ridge (standard route), Halo Ridge, Angelica Couloir and Cross Couloir.
Mt. Yale (14,196′) • Mt. Shavano (14,236′) • Mt. Harvard (14,420′) • Mt. Princeton (14,197′)
Mt. Powell (13,575′)
Mt. Powell is the highest peak in the Gore Range and is named after John Wesley Powell, the great western explorer who climbed this peak on the way to his epic journey down the Colorado River and travels through the Grand Canyon. The relatively remote location of the peak makes for an exciting high alpine experience. One or two nights camping is recommended although the peak can be climbed in one “big” day. Class 2/3, Grade 2.
Uneva Peak (12,200′)
A straight-forward ascent that begins at Vail Pass, this peak provides exceptional high alpine views of the Gore, Ten Mile, and Sawatch ranges. “Off-trail” hiking leads to the summit ridge. Class 1.
Notch Mountain (13,237′)
A maintained trail leads to the summit of this well known peak rewarding the climber with a view of the famous “cross of snow” on the Mount of the Holy Cross peak. Class 1.
Galena Mtn. Couloir (12,922′)
Reaching the summit of Galena Mtn. via a couloir is a challenging introductory snow climb (moderate rating). An alternative south ridgeline is the standard route. Class 2, Grade 1.
Grand Traverse Peak (12,860′)
Located at the head of the Vail Valley, this mountain is highlighted in many of the photos you see of Vail Village with the Gore Range as a backdrop. The peak can be climbed in one day, but a one night camping is a great option. Class 2/3, Grade 2.
Homestake Peak (13,200′)
From the deck of the 10th Mtn. Hut, Homestake Peak dominates the western skyline. It’s graceful, long sloping eastern ridgeline beckons to be climbed. Remnants of the WWII ski troops remind us of their adventures in these mountains. Class 2, Grade 1.
Mt. Jackson (13,670′)
Named for the famous photographer Henry Jackson who first photographed Mt. of the Holy Cross, this peak offers great views of the Mount of the Holy Cross, the Cross Creek Valley, the Gore Range, and the heart of the Holy Cross Wilderness. High Alpine hiking and a short Class 3 scramble on the summit ridge makes this a challenging ascent. The route requires a minimum of two nights camping in the Grouse Creek valley and the Turquoise Lakes. Class 3, Grade 2
Why do I need a guide?
Traveling with an experienced, local guide offers many benefits over traveling alone in unfamiliar terrain.
- You’ll stay found, whether you hike on trails or on an undeveloped, cross-country route.
- Your guide will offer instructional tips for safe and controlled travel on uneven terrain, such as talus.
- Colorado mountain storms can be unpredictable. Your guide knows how to read the signs of changing mountain weather and will make decisions based on his/her assessment. We start our day early to avoid thunderstorms and allow for plenty of time descending.
- Your guide will help keep you healthy, hydrated, and in-tune with possible physical difficulties that can come with high altitude exertion.
- You’ll learn about the local and natural history of the area.
- Your guide is certified in wilderness first aid.
What kind of shape do I need to be in?
You need to be in decent shape. Hiking a 14-er isn’t for beginning hikers. Hiking down a mountain can be more difficult – on your legs, knees, and feet and balance – than hiking up. That’s why we encourage all our guests to use hiking poles. A 1999 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine found that trekking poles can reduce compressive force on the knees by up to 25 percent. Sometimes even physically fit individuals can encounter headaches and other physical challenges at high altitude. Your guide is well aware of these symptoms and can help monitor their effects and offer advice dealing with altitude issues. If you have concerns about your fitness or skill level, give us a call.
What hiking skills do I need?
Peak ascents require stamina and strength, but they also require that you’re comfortable hiking in uneven terrain and have good balance skills. Depending on the route, you may be required to hike up and down rocks of all sizes, cross a scree or talus slope, or navigate alpine water crossings. Keep in mind that getting up the mountain is only half the hike. Going down is the other half, and after a strenuous climb, it can often be more challenging. We recommend all participants use hiking poles.
How do you rate the difficulty of 14-er and alpine ascents?
The level of difficulty for most peaks ranges from Class 1, Grade 1 to Class 2, Grade 2:
Class 1: Hiking
Class 2: Simple scrambling, with the possible occasional use of the hands
Class 3: Scrambling; a rope might be carried
- Grade I: Normally requires several hours; can be of any difficulty.
- Grade II: Requires half a day; any technical difficulty
Are multi-day trips possible?
Yes. In fact, we highly recommend a multi-day peak ascent in order to have additional options for reaching the summit, if prevented by weather or other factors. Base camp can be set up with the assistance of our llamas to bring in gear.
What time do we start?
Hike length and weather concerns require that we pick you up at your hotel early in the morning – what we call an ‘alpine start’ – sometime between 4 and 7 a.m.. The precise time depends on hike length and difficulty, group size, weather forecast, and travel time to the trailhead.