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  • Writer's pictureZachary Epps

Climbing Longs Peak in Colorado is not for the faint of heart.


Climbing Longs Peak in Colorado is not for the faint of heart.

Climbing Longs Peak in Colorado is not for the faint of heart. At 14,259 feet (4,346 meters), it stands as the northernmost fourteener in the Rocky Mountains and is one of the most iconic peaks in the state. The difficulty of climbing Longs Peak can be attributed to several factors that make it a challenging and potentially treacherous ascent.

  1. Elevation Gain: Longs Peak boasts a significant elevation gain from the trailhead to the summit. Hikers typically start at the Longs Peak Trailhead, which sits at an elevation of around 9,400 feet (2,865 meters). This means climbers have to gain approximately 4,800 feet (1,463 meters) in elevation during their ascent. The rapid increase in altitude can lead to altitude-related issues like altitude sickness, which can make the climb even more challenging.

  2. Unpredictable Weather: Longs Peak's high elevation and exposed location make it susceptible to unpredictable and severe weather changes. Even in the summer months, snow and ice can be present, increasing the risk of slips and falls. Thunderstorms, which are common in the afternoon, can bring lightning, hail, and high winds. Climbers must be prepared for rapidly changing conditions and make sound decisions about whether to proceed or turn back.

  3. The Keyhole Route: The most popular route to the summit of Longs Peak is the Keyhole Route, which involves negotiating steep and exposed sections, including the iconic Keyhole itself. This section is notorious for its narrow ledges, loose rocks, and the potential for gusty winds. It requires a level of technical skill and a head for heights, making it a mentally and physically demanding challenge.

  4. Length and Endurance: Longs Peak's climb is a long one. It typically takes most climbers between 10 and 15 hours to complete the round trip, depending on their fitness and experience. The hike includes sections of boulder scrambling and exposure, which can be physically demanding and mentally exhausting.

  5. Permits and Regulations: Climbers are required to obtain a permit to summit Longs Peak, and the number of permits is limited. This is done to help manage the impact on the environment and ensure the safety of climbers. Obtaining a permit can be competitive, and it adds an extra layer of difficulty to the climb for those who must plan their ascent well in advance.

  6. Altitude Sickness: The high elevation of Longs Peak can lead to altitude sickness, which can cause symptoms like headache, nausea, and dizziness. Dealing with these symptoms while on a challenging climb can make the experience even more difficult.

Given these challenges, climbers should be well-prepared and have the necessary skills, experience, and gear to safely attempt Longs Peak. Climbing Longs Peak is a rewarding and exhilarating experience, but it requires careful planning, physical fitness, mental fortitude, and respect for the unpredictable nature of high-altitude mountain environments. It's a journey that can test one's limits and offer unforgettable views, but it is not to be taken lightly.


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Zachary Epps

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