Here are the 7 main things I have learned about hiking 14ers:
- Breathing above treeline is a lot different than breathing below it. I am speaking from personal experience here. When you go above treeline, it’s like you can suddenly feel that the air is thinner. You get tired quicker and it’s harder to breathe as well as you do in lower altitude.
- Using the rest step when needed. Go here, here or here for more information on the rest step. Basically, it’s locking your back leg and pausing for a quick moment to take some of the weight of the other leg and allow it (and you) to rest.
- Lots of water. Water helps you fight altitude sickness and it hydrates you. I don’t want to die on a mountain so I drink lots of water 🙂 Read more about it from emedicine health here.
- Go at your own pace. We talk about this on several podcast episodes that you have to go at the pace you are comfortable with. Make sure you talk with your hiking/running partners before you leave and determine what pace you are all comfortable going at.
- Listen to your body. If you’re like me, you are stubborn and determined. Knowing when to turn around may not be one of your strengths, especially if you can see that summit ahead and you start thinking, “I am NOT turning around this close to the summit.”. If your body starts hurting, know if/when it’s time to turn around.
- Bring food. In this article by Amby Burfoot on the Runner’s World website, people burn close to 89 calories per mile walked. That’s not taking into consideration, the altitude gain, etc. that a 14er provides. You need your fuel. You will have to experiment with what works for you but I usually don’t bring anything too heavy. I found that something heavier like cliff bars are great but it seems like I don’t feel the energy quickly so I prefer energy bites, gels, or some kind of mix with light carbs, proteins, etc. I usually bring along some protein or cliff bars just in case.
- Exercise regularly before you go. Whatever type of exercise you choose, start doing it before the day you go for that 14er. I can tell a big difference if I spent the weeks before a 14er hike sitting in front of the tv versus walking daily, etc. I suggest it’s something that actually helps get you in shape (going to the mall probably doesn’t count :0).