3. Bad weather can kill you.
One of the biggest mistakes that beginners tend to make is not understanding how high-altitude weather works. The general rule of thumb tends to be “be back below treeline before noon,” with the reason being that intense mountain storms tend to roll in like clockwork after that. At first sign of bad weather, the smartest decision is often to turn back, even when that means you might not bag a summit. Lightning, wind, and freezing rain can kill you and many times these storms can appear with little notice. Take this point especially seriously. Mountain weather is not something to mess around with, regardless of your skill level.
4. Don’t overestimate your abilities.
Yes, you’ve hiked a trail that’s 10 miles long … but that wasn’t a rugged trek above treeline. Yes, you can run a half-marathon with ease … but that half marathon doesn’t require slow scrambling over loose rocks where speed simply isn’t an option. When you’re climbing a Colorado mountain, expect some of the hardest terrain you’ll ever encounter. There might be snow, ice, and loose rock that make moving even just a mile per hour seem fast. The only way to know how you’ll do climbing in these conditions is to try it on the easiest possible scale and then go from there. Getting in over your head on a mountain climb can result in serious injury, necessity of an expensive rescue, or even death. Be aware of your own abilities and don’t overestimate what you’re capable of doing.
5. Always leave no trace.
Mountain trails are often very remote and difficult to clean. Never leave anything behind, whether it’s a banana peel, leftover food, trash, or feces. Because these ecosystems are relatively untouched, any abnormality can have an impact. Follow the Leave No Trace principles religiously and consider bringing along a trash bag to clean up after those that don’t.
6. Plan for the worst.
When you’re climbing a mountain, preparation is key. When things go wrong, preparation can save your life. Bring food, water, and survival tools with you. Tell people where you’re going and when you’ll be back before you leave. Familiarize yourself with features of the landscape so that you might still be able to determine direction when all else fails. The mountains aren’t the place to take caution lightly. If you’re careless, you might not get a second chance.