The 14er Survey Project

It was Independence Day, 2019, and I was huffing and puffing up the South Colony Lakes Approach Road with my 30 pound backpack, on my way to summit Humboldt Peak the following day. As I filled out the Wilderness Permit sheet, I began flipping through the pages, curious about who else was in the backcountry that week. It was interesting, but the lack of information was limiting in providing any real insights.

As I crossed the creek and continued, I began to think about all the unknowns when it comes to those we share the mountains with. The CFI recently began tracking and sharing data on the overall number of hikers on 14ers, which is illuminating, but still provides only a single metric of overall use. At that moment, I decided to perform some original data collection to better understand who is climbing Colorado's 14ers.

As I prepared for the project, I reached out to mentors in the Survey Research community, the U.S. Forest Service, and the 14ers.com online community. All have helped me design my survey and research questions to be of most help to the entire community.

My Research Questions:

  1. What is the level of experience among 14er climbers?
  2. Where are most 14er climbers coming from? In state or out of state?
  3. How prepared are 14er climbers in terms of research, attire and other gear?
  4. Where did climbers get the idea of summiting a 14er?
  5. How many climbers use 14ers.com to research a climb?
  6. When are climbers attempting summits?
  7. How many climbers abort their summit-attempt, and why?
  8. How many climbers camp to acclimate?
  9. What group sizes are climbers in?
  10. What patterns emerge in climber demographic data (race/ethnicity, gender, highest level of education, point of origin)?

About Me: I am 2/3 of the way through my Masters in Public Administration program at CU-Denver, with a concentration in Environmental Policy & Law. I have training and 5 years experience in quantitative research methods and survey research. I am an avid outdoorsman, Eagle Scout and mountaineer with 20 summits above 13,000 feet. In my "real-world" job I am the Communications Manager for Visible Network Labs in Denver, CO.

About the Project Results: All data from the project will be posted to this site, along with answers to my various Research Questions. The final product of the Project will be a full Report with answers and data for all the Research Questions along with helpful graphs, charts and other visualizations.

2019 is a Pilot year for this project. In 2020, if all goes well, I hope to expand to survey three peaks that are more representative of the various types of 14er summits to make the results more representative and track year-to-year changes.

I am in need of help for this project! Specifically I am looking for volunteers willing to help survey Trailheads, and for donations to purchase ice and compostable cups to provide survey respondents. Reach out to me at alexmderr@gmail.com if you wish to help in either way! Thank you!

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