Thanks to the Advent of the Internet, what was once only done through the reading of books and multiple conversations with mountaineers can now be quite easily done through a few well-placed clicks on the magical 14ers.com website. And that website is really, really good. Too much detail to go in right now to explain why it is so good. But the site has certainly made 14ers more accessible to the myriad of millennials whom flock to them like crazy. But there isn’t a problem with that.
What is a serious problem is (mostly) a sub-set of millennials who know close to nothing about anything related to hiking 14ers. They know it, but proceed to “be tough” and meet at the trailhead at 11am to “crush the mountain” (For those that do not know, it is advisable to be off the mountain as early as possible to avoid any potential afternoon rainstorms). I used to think the jokes about people hiking in flip-flops was not real but I saw it on Mt Columbia two weekends ago. Folks, there are no participation prizes at the top of the mountain. I am unsure if there are Snapchat filters at the top either but I have never checked. Nor is there a way to lightly toast bread easily at the summit to make the pristine avocado-toast sandwich. You will need to bring a solar charger that has some serious amperage to enjoy the finer delicacies of life at the top.
I have noticed that as I expand into more difficult peaks, I see less and less of the “crush the mountain at 11am” people. However, when I do, I hear them before I see them. This happens, usually in the absence of cell-phone service, because this special sub-set of millennials displays their fear of silence by blasting their Spotify-downloaded techno queue through the sub-alpine air. At least when I pass them going down they are going up (and trust me, they are always going up – remember it is around 11am at this time) and therefore I don’t have to hear it for very long. Maybe the furry marmots along the path will enjoy the music more than me. But I doubt it and hopefully the marmot will unleash an “ear-piercing scream” to this disturbance.
Of course I am exaggerating in my expression of speech and in my magnified observation of only the rash millennials. The number of young people to be observed who have prepared themselves well for the ordeals to be encountered on a 14,000 foot mountain greatly exceeds those that have not. But I see enough of the latter to not be discounted as a rounding-error. I love many things that are so-called “millenial” and I think we are a generation which has a great amount of potential to improve the world. But we won’t do it by being afraid of silence and ignoring things around us. We won’t do it by treating life like VR. We won’t do it by not doing our homework. We will do it by planning, thinking, meditating, silence. In this regard 14ers have quite a lot to offer.