Catching Up With Gerry Roach on the Colorado 14ers

Feb 15, 2011
Outside Magazine

14ers_3rdIf you have ever climbed a Colorado 14,000 foot mountain the odds are you used a guide book or perhaps an internet site to research your climb. Well, it is also highly likely you used some of Gerry Roach’s famous research.

His famous guide book simply called Colorado’s Fourteeners: from hikes to climbs is the premier guide book for all things 14ers describing 250 routes in sufficient detail for most people to make the summit. Now he just released the 3rd edition of his famous book and I wanted to ask him about it.

In total, he has authored 15 books. But who is this guy and what is he up to these days?

First a bit of background. Gerry’s early years were flavored with international experiences starting with a year in France at age 7 with his family. Soon they moved to Boulder, Colorado – a rock climbing mecca even in the 1950′s. He started climbing rocks and mountains and flew a plane before he drove a car. His love affair with the international life continued after graduating from the University of Washington in 1964 with a degree in math when Gerry served as a teacher in the Peace Corps in Bhubaneshwar, India not long after the Peace Corps was formed.

Today, more than 60 years of travel and mountaineering, Gerry has explored and lived in dozens of countries and been on more than 30 major expeditions. In addition to pursuing a career as a computer scientist, he found time to run a university outdoor program and teach Outward Bound in Colorado and Alaska.

After climbing Mount Everest in 1983, Gerry went on to become the second person to climb the highest peak on each of the 7 continents in 1985. In 2003, Gerry became the first person to climb every major peak over 16,000 feet in North America. Gerry received the Sierra Club’s coveted Farquhar lifetime achievement award for mountaineering in 2005 and the Colorado Mountain Club’s rare Ellingwood Golden Ice Ax Award in 2006.

Gerry is not alone in his ventures. His wife, Jennifer, has climbed over 1000 Colorado peaks including all the 14ers and all 637 13ers. She is the co-author on several of the guide books.

The 3rd edition of Colorado Fourteeners has 400 pages, 256 Routes, 49 of which are rated *Classic*, 79 Extra Credits, and 79 Variations on Colorado’s 56 Fourteeners, 60 fine annotated color photographs, and 31 fully-revised, color, annotated topographic maps. So what was behind this version? I recently asked Gerry.

Q: What are the major changes from the 2nd edition?
I fixed all known errors of course. I removed some routes that were on private property, notably on the north side of Sherman.I added a few additional routes that have become popular in recent years, such as the east ridge of Humboldt. I tightened the language to a better standard that I evolved in my 13ers guide. I added an essentials table to each peak group. I added Roach Points to every route - RPs give you a one number measure of efferculty that you can use to compare any two routes, and to compute your projected hike time. I expanded the route mileage into net and total, to account for going over false summits en route. I added coordinates for summits and major waypoints on routes. I added the new Rock of Ages Trailhead and approach to the Rock of Ages Saddle near Wilson Peak.

Q: How long did it take to write 3rd edition?
I was actively working on the 3rd edition for a year.

Q: Did you re-climb or climb any new routes for this guide?
I’m out there all the time…

Q: How do position guide books compared to internet sites for climbers?
There are two different markets, and both the paper product and e-book have advantages. You can toss my paper guide into your trunk, and you’ve got the whole show. You do not need internet connectivity or a printer to use my paper guide. The e-book is obviously more updatable, and the e-book can also have more color photos. I like to use both mediums. I also caution about sites where multiple people are reporting. Opinions vary greatly, and a report by a stranger may be strange. At least with my book, there is only one reporter.

Q: How has it been received?
Initial reports are good. This was a winter printing, and by spring, it should be well discovered. It takes time for any new tome find the light.

Q: Where can we buy it?
It’s available at the usual sources like REI and Amazon.You can always buy a signed copy from me at

I will mail it via priority mail, and you can have it in a few days.

Q: What else are you up to these days?
There’s an app for that! I also have a 14ers app for the Android OS. Go to the android market and search for “14ers”. It’s a subset of the same 3rd edition content – $3.99.

I also have another new book called Orthogonal Adventures. It’s a fun word romp through 15 short stories, each with a twist. You can buy the paper version from me at Orthogonal Adventures is also available as an e-book. If you have a Kindle, just search for it, or download the free Kindle app on any smart phone, login to your amazon account, and search for it.

For me, I’ve just returned from Uganda, where I climbed 16,762-foot Mount Stanley, the highest peak in the Rwenzori or fabled Mountains of the Moon. It was a lifelong dream to climb this mountain, and it was my 29th summit on the list of the world’s 50 most prominent peaks, my new challenge.  See

This was an Earth View Adventures trip. EVA is a travel business I’ve started with Stan Havlick. See for details. I’ve posted photos of the Stanley climb in two albums at and

Thanks Gerry. By the way, if you are finished with he 14ers or think they are a bit too much, take a look at Gerry’s Colorado’s Thirteeners: 13,800 to 13,999 Feet: From Hikes to Climbs – he has something for everyone!

Climb On!


Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. He is climbing the 7 Summits starting with Mt. Vinson in November 2010 to raise $1 million for Alzheimer's research. You can read more on his site.

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