Wintry weather arrived this week in Colorado, bringing an end to what has been an especially grim hiking and climbing season on the state's highest mountains, on which 10 people lost their lives.
Colorado is known for its 14,000-foot peaks; it has 54 of them, and according to some estimates as many as 500,000 people try to climb them each season.
Jason Blevins of the Denver Post quoted Lloyd Athearn, executive director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, as saying that based on the mountains' increasing popularity, from a long-term perspective "the trend is generally going down in terms of deaths."
But that's an unofficial assessment because registration is not required to climb the Fourteeners, so it's impossible to accurately keep track of the number of deaths in relation to the number of climbers.
But 10 deaths in one season is indisputably high and that reality has rekindled debate about whether registration and fees should be required in some areas, to help agencies govern hiker/climber traffic.
Many of the Fourteeners do not require technical climbing skills and equipment, such as ropes. But some that do not feature risky routes on which one slip could be deadly.
Three of this year's fatalities occurred on the 14,255-foot Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. In all three cases, men fell to their deaths.
Longs is especially popular. As Blevins writes, park officials are considering a registration and fee program, such as those utilized in other national parks, but at this point they're focusing on education.
Toward that end they're considering erecting a sign at the base of the busy but dangerous Keyhole Route, which reads, "Stop, Think, Assess."
They sound like words to live by.
-- Pete Thomas
-- Images showing Long Peak's east face and the Keyhole feature, as seen from the Boulder Field, are courtesy of Wikipedia
-- Editor's note: This post also appears on the GrindTv.com outdoors blog