What is a Fourteener?
In mountaineering terms, a fourteener is a mountain peak that is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) above sea level or higher. The summit of a fourteener must be independent from neighboring peaks, and various mountaineers have different standards for determining this independence, but usually the peak must project at least 300 feet (91 meters) in order for the mountain to be considered a fourteener. The term “fourteener” is only widely used in the United States: the majority of the rest of the world uses the metric system, and therefore measures peaks differently.
In the United States, many peak baggers attempt to climb all of the fourteeners in North America, a list which includes over one hundred mountains such as Alaska's Mt. McKinley, the tallest peak in North America, California's Mt. Whitney, Quandry Peak in Colorado, and Liberty Cap in Washington. In Europe, some climbers focus on climbing all of the peaks over 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), a quest similar to that of climbing every available fourteener. Wherever in the world it is located, a fourteener represents a challenging climb, and requires a good level of physical fitness on the part of the climber.
In mountaineering terms, a “peak bagger” is someone who is trying to climb a particular set of mountains over the course of his or her lifetime. Examples of peak bagging lists include all summits over a particular height, all of the mountains in a certain region, or hitting the highest mountain on every continent, called the seven summits. Some peak baggers also make the quest more challenging by free climbing, not using assisted oxygen, or climbing with minimal equipment.
The highest concentration of fourteeners in the United States is in Colorado, which has 52-54, depending on how they are measured. Colorado is already well known throughout North America for being a popular outdoor recreation area, and people come from all over the world to ski, snowboard, and climb there. Peak baggers often make group trips to Colorado and attempt several peaks in a season, and numerous magazines and organizations have been formed to help peak baggers connect with each other in Colorado.
Climbing a fourteener can be an exhilarating and empowering experience. Some peaks are more challenging than others, but almost all yield a stunning view when the mountaineer successfully summits. In many cases, the base camp of a fourteener has a log, so that mountaineers can record their accomplishments for others to read about. Many mountaineers warn that like other outdoor sports, climbing fourteeners can be highly addictive.
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