COLORADO – Imagine hiking up a fourteener just to start your work day. It’s no easy feat but it’s something people with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative do almost everyday during the summer.
“They’re constructing new portions of trail by moving rocks, utilizing other native materials like logs and boulders to build maybe staircases or retaining structures like backwalls which are going to help retain the slopes,” said Brian Sargeant with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative.
Trampled over trails erode and can be unsafe for hikers. That’s where the non-profit steps in to repair and reroute Colorado’s most trafficked mountain peaks.
Crews have been working on Mount Elbert’s east ridge for the past four years, working to reroute a trail that runs through a sensitive field. Now hikers have a new fourteener trail up Mount Elbert that avoids trampling over alpine soils and fragile soils.
CFI has also spent the last five summer fixing an eroded trail on the western slopes of Mount Columbia. Another area of focus is reconstructing a trail on Grays and Torreys peaks. Crews say they will continue working on this next summer.
“They’re addressing some severe erosion issues high on the mountain above 13,500 feet, so it’s really strenuous work,” said Sargeant. “The old route was steep through this scree field. It was known as one of the worst routes on the fourteeners anywhere in Colorado. Our crews have been there 2016 working to build an entirely new route up the west slopes on Columbia.”
The organization aims to improve trails for hikers while protecting the native ecosystem. This summer crews were hard at work on mounts Elbert and Columbia, Grays and Torreys Peak and Pikes Peak Mountain to name a few.
“A 4-year project where we were reconstructing portions of existing trail and building new portions of trail as well on the east ridge route up Mount Elbert,” said Sargeant.
This summer the non-profit finished a four year project on the east ridge route of Mount Elbert, which is Colorado’s highest point. They also made progress on a new trail up the backside of Pikes Peak Mountain which is one of their major projects for next summer.
“So we’re going to be working to move that trail alignment a little bit higher on the slopes of the mountain so it avoids that terrain and protects those watersheds. To ensure that it’s not crossing through any fragile plant communities that might be rare or only found here on this one mountain,” said Sargeant.