Backpacking season is officially here in North America, the time of year when the Instagram feeds of outdoors-inclined trail hounds migrate from deep powder days to river trips, summit hikes, and craft beer sessions. For hiking novices, the photos are tempting. If some random couple on Instagram can summit that peak, so can I, right?
Unfortunately, the social media age is drawing people to trailheads they are wholly unprepared for. Colorado’s 14ers are a huge draw, and rightfully so. They’re beautiful. They’re challenging. The feeling of accomplishment when you summit your first massive peak can rival that of landing a great new job. Photos of hikers holding cardboard signs emblazoned with the summit elevation of their hike look so tempting — but typically fail to touch on the trip planning it took to get there. Like anything worth celebrating, these challenging peaks take proper preparation and gear. Buying a Patagonia fleece at REI doesn’t prepare you for a scramble with 2,000-ft drops on both sides.