While his guidebook to Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains has been a consistent seller since the 1990s, Gerry Roach’s “Colorado’s Thirteeners” has been long gone but not forgotten.
For the better part of the past decade, he says, he’s gotten requests for the out-of-print book, which briefly introduced ambitious climbers to the state’s next-biggest peaks. The renowned mountaineer, accessible by email and Facebook, has had the same response for a growing number of people: sorry.
“It was a good idea,” Roach says of the publishing in 2001, “but it was roughly a decade too soon.”
But in this era of mainstream “peak bagging,” the book is set for a new day in the sun.
Hungry hikers can go to Roach’s website, summitsight.com, to secure a copy of “Colorado’s Thirteeners.” Copies also can be preordered on Amazon, which will release the book Sept. 1.
“I sold (publisher) Fulcrum on the idea with the story that more and more people are finishing the fourteeners, and they’re looking for what to do next,” Roach says. “The thirteeners are next.”
The book compares in size and structure with its fourteener counterpart, chock-full of detailed information, photos and annotated maps for 59 mountains. Those are not nearly all of Colorado’s thirteeners, but they are the highest ones, completing Roach’s list of the state’s 100 highest summits after the fourteeners.
They are as low as Organ Mountain at 13,801 feet and as high as Grizzly Peak at 13,988 feet. Jagged Mountain, the 13,824-footer hiding deep in San Juan country, Roach proclaims as “the best peak bag in Colorado.” That is for its challenging, technical requirements — so demanding that it’ll likely take multiple days for the talented few who take it on, Roach says — and for its rewarding solitude.
He climbed Jagged for the first time in 1978 as he was well on his way to becoming one of America’s most accomplished climbers. Having gotten hooked on the mountains as a youngster in Boulder, he went on to become the second known person to reach the world’s biggest seven summits.
Roach, 74, never bothered with many of Colorado’s 525 thirteeners until about 20 years ago, when he embarked on a mission to summit them all with his now-wife Jennifer, whose picture and name appears on the upcoming guidebook.
“I thought, ‘This is great! All these peaks require route-finding!’” Roach says from his home in Montrose. “You’ve got to figure out how to climb them, just like the good ole days.”
Due to their massive popularity, most all fourteeners come with clearly defined paths made by feet or sustainability-minded crews. “You do not have that on the thirteeners,” Roach warns.
While he’s done his best to accurately describe routes, he emphasizes that “Colorado’s Thirteeners” is a “where-to” guide, not a “how-to” guide. These mountains are not for everyone.
But the fit and skilled will delight in the “extra credit” Roach has included on some routes, the 73 additional peaks to be bagged along the way.
“I sort of established that term, ‘extra credit,’” he says with a chuckle. “You know, like there’s some real credit there!”