Cassie Piper summits Mount Bierstadt with her sister Valerie Stafford and Stafford’s dog Darby.

Courtesy photo

Cassie Piper summits Mount Bierstadt with her sister Valerie Stafford and Stafford’s dog Darby.

Altitude adjustment: The story behind the summit


Reader poll

How many 14ers have you climbed in Colorado?

  • 1 to 15 51%
  • 16 to 30 6%
  • 31 to 45 2%
  • More than 45 6%
  • None 35%

355 total votes.

Altitude adjustment: Hiking Colorado's 14ers

Life is different at 14,000 feet. Scaling a 14er isn't the same as standard recreational hiking. But while their motivations and experiences vary, it seems that those who have hiked up a 14er all agree: Once you hit one peak, you want more.

Everyone who has conquered 14,000-feet elevations has their reason — and their story — behind what brought motivated them to climb Colorado’s tallest peaks.

And across Steamboat Springs and the Yampa Valley, it’s not hard to find someone who has joined the 14er club.

Glenn and Corinne Sommerfeld’s marriage has been shaped and defined by the 58 peaks in Colorado. They had their first date on a summit, with many more afterward.

“We climbed mountains together just so we could meet,” Glenn said.

Their relationship took the big leap at 14,409 feet at the summit of Washington’s Mount Rainier, where Glenn dropped to one knee and asked Corinne to marry him.

Corinne said “yes” and has led the Sommerfelds’ charge to the peaks in Colorado, beginning in 2006 with a goal to climb all of the state’s 58 14ers.

The couple finished last year, completing as many as 22 in one summer.

The Sommerfelds’ story is unique in its own right, but Routt County’s borders are filled with many more.

Alpine Bank’s Becky Statz has climbed 15 of Colorado’s 14ers, trekking up with many hiking partners, including a host of first-timers.

Rebecca Smith has completed 13 summits but still considers herself a “newbie.” Like most 14er regulars, Smith has found herself on a peak with a storm rolling through, once hiding out during a vicious lightning storm.

Doreen Young conquered Mount of the Holy Cross (14,005 feet) as her first 14er. Young instantly was hooked, she wrote in an email, planning her next ascent less than a week after her first climb.

Cassie Piper — who moved to Steamboat from Southern California’s low elevation — has completed just three 14,000-foot peaks, an idea she took on as “the ultimate accomplishment.”

Piper has snapped a photo at each summit with her husband — a more-than-common way to celebrate the climbs. The photos take on special meaning for her and her husband.

“Each photo we take above 14,000 feet is like a trophy,” Piper wrote in an email.

And then there are the dead-serious climbers, like Brian Romig, who ascends 14ers as a hobby and a way of life.

Romig, the Routt County water commissioner, has climbed all 58 Colorado 14ers, documenting his journeys on spreadsheets, compiling data on elevation, distance traveled and time hiked.

Romig now has turned his attention to climbing the highest point in every state. He has completed 16 already.

But ascending all of Colorado’s 58 gave Romig reason to celebrate in a special way.

At the top of his final ascent at Pikes Peak, one of the few Colorado 14ers that is extremely easy to get to by vehicle, his wife and son met him at the summit, and the family enjoyed a party for three at 14,110 feet. ▲


mark hartless 2 years, 8 months ago

Good luck climbing all 58, as there are only 53 with geographical prominence worthy of being called their own.

Nevertheless, climbing all of them is an accomplishment. I've managed only about 15; Longs being the most serious.


rhys jones 2 years, 8 months ago

I thought Long's was a piece of cake, just a walkup -- we went the Keyhole route, and it amazes me how anyone could die going that way. I didn't bring enough water, leading to a sour disposition... assisting me in reaching a couple of conclusions: Mountains aren't mountains, so much as piles of rocks... and lakes and rivers provide much more refreshing entertainment. But that's just me. Once we watered up at the bottom, we yakked all the way home. So there's something to it. Not that I'm crazy about doing it again.

In the book at the summit, my entry said "I KNEW it would look like this."


rhys jones 2 years, 8 months ago

PS -- I have to my left a signed copy of George Crouter's famous photo essay "The Majestic Fourteeners... COLORADO'S HIGHEST" which lists 53 fourteeners, with four additional, all over 14, but "considered part of" a higher mountain, technically classified as part of the same mountain, because the saddle between them is less than 500' deep. So semantics and definitions play into the numbers.

Sort of like Ski Corp marketing: I've seen it claimed that Steamboat is actually four peaks: Sunshine Peak, Christie Peak, Thunderhead Peak, and Storm Peak (lotta "peaks" huh) when we all know it's just one big hill.


mark hartless 2 years, 8 months ago

Longs isn't the hardest at all. It was just the hardest of the ones I've done. Others down in central CO are really easy, like Democrat, Lincoln, Bross, which we ran off of the summit in a thunder snow storm in mid August. It hailed, rained, snowed, sleeted, and was sunny all in the same 15 minute period. And BIG lightening...

Longs is just a challenge for many folks because of the vertical. It's a long day. I did the Keyhole route too. The whole world changes when you step through that wall of rock. People mostly die there because of ice/ snow on that home stretch, and they are goofing off or don't take it seriously, I think... Longs is a high, REAL mtn.


rhys jones 2 years, 8 months ago

I guess the north face of Uncompaghre has never been climbed, even technically -- just too crumbly. South side is a walkup. I never did ropes and pitons (or whatever they've got these days) was never that serious about it, had other things to spend my money on. Had a roommate who did, that and ice, Search & Rescue, he had the time.

Those times I did find myself around some interesting rocks, other than Long's, which we intended, it was spontaneous, hence, no equipment. I can remember climbing myself into a fix more than once -- seven or eight times, at least -- where I HAD to make this leap, and catch myself -- or die.

I made every one, obviously... and how STUPID. Even on the Keyhole route, there were places that required great attention.

One night, back in the '70's -- while it was still off-limits for concerts because the damn hippies broke laws -- and soon after boot camp, me in my combat boots -- we climbed Shiprock at Red Rocks, also illegal. I brag about it now, but my little brother's friend ran circles around us, in loafers and no socks. There are actually steps carved in the rock, on the big slope facing Denver.

Did I mention I have a touch of acrophobia? I feel myself falling, even when I'm not. Heights scare me. I was on all fours across Devil's Causeway, and again, my friend was dancing and laughing around me.

Yeah, give me a nice cool river...


Ben Tiffany 2 years, 8 months ago

All of Colorado's 14ers (including the ones that don't quite make the criterion of "fourteener") are special,even the easier walkups. Anyone who climbs even one should be commended.The feeling one gets on the summit on a beautiful clear day can't be adequately described to anyone who has never experienced it. I've climbed something like thirty-five of the 14ers,and hope I someday manage to climb the rest. There are also many,many magnificent peaks of lower altitude,a lot of which are much tougher than virtually all of the 14ers. My hat is always off to anyone who gets off the couch and heads for the top.


rhys jones 2 years, 8 months ago

So did you use ropes etc on any of them, Ben? Regardless, my hat's off to YOU!!

PS -- Lately I'm making money, sitting on my couch. Not a shrink, nor a gigolo, nor a drug dealer...


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