Overview:

There is only one 14,000 ft. Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park and it is Longs Peak. Being the stand-alone 14,000 ft peak in “The Park”, Longs Peak draws in large crowds on a year-round basis. But, these crowds can be dispersed among the variety of hiking and climbing routes that Longs Peak provides.

Longs Peak has more routes than any other mountain in the country – over 120, from exposed scrambles to cutting-edge difficulty, and pure rock to ice and mixed climbs. The  Longs Peak trail starts at 9,405 feet. Before long, the trees disappear and the wind-scoured alpine zone starts to feel like another planet, a feeling that only increase the farther you venture toward the 14,259-foot summit. For being so close to town, Longs Peak can seem astronomically removed. Its largest aspect, the intimidating East Face or “The Diamond”, rises 1,700 vertical feet from the Mills Glacier to its summit.

The best views of Rocky Mountain National Park are from the top.

Even the easiest routes on Longs Peak, Clark’s Arrow and the Keyhole, entail exposed scrambling and climbing, and in adverse conditions require technical ascents. Variations abound, like the spectacular Keyhole Ridge for those interested in a more technical, yet still reasonable, challenge. The North Face and Kiener’s Route offer similar difficulties, though both often require snow and ice climbing. Kiener’s, a true mountaineering classic, ascends the left-hand edge of the Diamond.

Many of the routes on Longs Peak present classic alpinists’ dilemmas – how light should we go? Too heavy and you move too slow and tire, but too light and you risk the consequences of being unprepared. Storms race in form the west, unseen, so climbers can encounter snow and hail in any month.  After enduring a winter ascent of Longs Peak, the famed British climber Doug Scott once quipped, “The Himalayas are a great place to train for Longs Peak.”

Nothing’s a gimme on Longs Peak, so finding the right strategy involves skill, knowledge, and sometimes a bit of luck. It’s part of the fun, and part of the challenge. It’s no wonder so many climbers become obsessed with Longs Peak, year-in, year-out.

Climb Longs Peak with a Professional Mountain Guide

Take comfort in having an experienced mountain guide show you the way. Colorado Mountain School guides are professionally-trained by the American Mountain Guides Association and have extensive mountaineering and climbing experience. All CMS guides have been First Aid or Wilderness First Responder and CPR certified, and are equipped to handle anything from summer thunderstorms to rolled ankles.

Colorado Mountain School has been guiding in Rocky Mountain National Park since 1981. Whether you’re interested in hiking The Keyhole or climbing Kieners, Summer or Winter, our guides have experience on Longs Peak that is unmatched in the guiding industry. For more up-to-date information on current conditions, please call or stop by our office.

Sample Itinerary:

IN-A-DAY

Hit the trailhead around 1am and hike up to Chasm Junction. Depending on the chosen route, we’ll head toward either Lamb’s Slide or The Keyhole. We’ll be ready to tackle any technical sections after sunrise with the hopes of summiting and descending before any afternoon thunderstorms have moved in.

WITH OVERNIGHT

Day 1: Plan for a multi-day alpine climbing outing. Hike up Longs Peak to The Boulderfield or bivy site (6+ miles). We’ll pitch camp, eat dinner and prepare for the next day’s climb.
Day 2: Alpine start to climb Longs Peak. After the climb, we’ll head back to the trailhead.

Read a recent trip report from a Keyhole climb on Longs Peak.

Meeting location:

Colorado Mountain School
341 Moraine Avenue
Estes Park, CO 80517

Details:

The North Face

Longs Peak’s North Face is an historic route on Colorado’s most iconic 14er. Around 1925, a steel cable was placed on the North Face to be used as a hand rail to assist hikers in ascending the peak. In 1973, the cable was removed, restoring the North Face to its natural state, minus the large eye bolts that climbers still use as anchors to this day. Also known as “The Cables Route”, this route ascends the the most direct route to the summit of Longs Peak.

The trail starts at 9,405 feet and winds through sub-alpine and alpine. At the six mile mark climbers arive at Chasm View and the base of the North Face (13,529′). From here, the route moves into 200 feet of moderate, but technical climbing. In the summer months it’s an enjoyable rock climb, rated 5.4. For the rest of the year it’s a mix of ice and rock, rated M2. The route follows a low-angle slab featuring a large right-facing corner system overlooking Chasm Lake an

Lodging:

Estes Park Adventure Hostel is upstairs from the Colorado Mountain School office and is open to the public. It is located in downtown Estes Park with a full kitchen, WiFi and hot showers – see availability.

All Upcoming Dates and Locations:

    Prerequisites:

    Ability to hike 14 miles at altitude with a pack. Additional experience required for technical routes.

    Time:

    1:00am - 4:00pm

    Duration:

    1 or 2 Days

    Maximum Ratio:

    3:1

    Minimum Age:

    Please call to register participants under age 18.

    Includes:

    • Trained and/or certified guide
    • Group climbing gear
      • Technical hardware – climbing protection, carabiners,etc
      • Ropes
      • Technical softgoods – slings, cordellette, etc
    • Personal climbing gear
      • Harness
      • Helmet
      • Rock shoes
    • Group camping gear
      • Bivy sack
      • Water filtration
      • Cook stove

    Excludes:

    • Food
    • Transportation
    • Lodging
    • Clothing, backpack and non-technical personal items
    • Park Entrance Fees (where applicable)
    • Rescue Insurance
    • Trip Insurance
    • Gratuity
    • Expenses due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of Colorado Mountain School
    Item Description Quantity Example Purchase At Rent At Equipment Type
    Approach Shoes

    These are “hiking” shoes specifically made for approaching and descending from a climbing venue where scrambling is necessary, or even for climbing an entire route. They have sticky climbing rubber on the bottom and a formed fit to influence better climbing abilities while scrambling. Consider high-tops for additional ankles support if needed. Regular hiking boots or athletic shoes may be acceptable for many climbs.

    1

    Men: La Sportiva TX3 Men
    Women: La Sportiva TX3 Wmn

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Backpack: 18-25 liter

    This small pack is carries one’s approach shoes, water, food, extra layers, and toilet kit on the route. This pack should close completely so that no items can fall out.

    1

    CAMP M2 20L

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Backpack: 35-50 liter

    Packs smaller than this tend not to be able to carry the necessary amount of equipment and clothing. Large backpacking packs are acceptable, depending on the climb.

    1

    CAMP M4 40L

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Beanie or Fleece Hat

    Should cover the ears and fit under a helmet. Hats with fluff balls on top do not fit under helmets.

    1

    Rab Logo Beanie

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Belay and Rappel Device

    Plaquette style devices with auto-block mode are ideal.

    1

    CAMP Piu 2

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Belay Gloves

    Leather gloves, either full fingered or fingerless. These protect your hands from rope wear when belaying or rappelling and keep your hands warm at belays.

    1

    CAMP Axion

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Bivy Sack

    Bivy sacks are required are required for all overnight bivys.

    1

    Rab Ascent Micdro Bivi

    Rab

    Colorado Mountain School

    Equipment
    Bowl, mug, fork, and spoon

    Personal utensils

    1

    Sea to Summit Delta Camp Set

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Chalk Bag

    Holds climbing chalk, which is usually made from Magnesium Carbonate. This is the same compound that gymnasts, weightlifters, and other athletes will put on their hands in order to improve friction and grip.

    1

    CAMP Patabang

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Climbing Harness

    UIAA or CE approved; With belay loop and gear loops. The waist belt should fit over multiple layers of clothing.

    1

    CAMP Laser CR

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Colorado Mountain School

    Equipment
    Double-length Sewn Runner

    48" or 120cm. Used for rappelling, making leashes, and improvised rescue.

    1-2

    CAMP 11mm Express Dyneema

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    First Aid Kit

    Your guide will have an emergency First Aid Kit. You should bring a small kit including blister prevention and care products such as a role of athletic tape and Moleskin. Your kit should also contain a few Band-aids, some Tylenol and Ibuprofen.

    1

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Optional
    Food

    Proper lunches that are prepared ahead of time are recommended (sandwich, burrito, leftover pizza, etc), along with an assortment of snack bars, gels, or trail mixes. Feeze-dried meals are acceptable on overnight trips, but not day trips.

    1

    Made in Nature, Thrive Tribe

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Headlamp

    Load with fresh batteries. Critical for hiking before sunrise and great to have in the pack in case you are caught out after dark.

    1

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Lightweight Baselayer Top

    Synthetic or Merino Wool; Worn against the skin and is considered a "wicking" layer that facilitates the movement of moisture away from the skin and through the layers. Hooded base layers add extra versatility.

    2

    Men: Rab Forge LS Tee
    Women: Rab Force LS Tee

    Rab Store

    Clothing
    Lightweight Gloves

    Synthetic; Thin gloves used when hiking the early morning approach. Belay gloves can suffice if full-fingered.

    1

    RAB Power Stretch Pro

    Rab Store

    Clothing
    Lip ScreenSPF 15 or higher.

    Non-SPF rated lip balms can actually increase your chances of getting burned.

    1

    Rocky Mountain Sunscreen Lip Balm

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Optional
    Midweight Baselayer Top

    Synthetic or Merino Wool; Adds extra warmth and protection from the cold and wind without creating a moisture barrier as a jacket would. Having at least one base layer that is hooded adds versatility, protecting the neck and ears from cold winds.

    1

    Men: Rab Nucleus Hoody
    Women: Rab Nucleus Hoody

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Midweight Softshell Glove

    This is the workhorse glove and is most often worn on warmer days when mountaineering. Softshell gloves are water-resistant and durable. They often have leather palms and fingers.

    1

    RAB Guide2 GTX Glove

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Neck Gaiter

    "Buffs" are quite versatile in their uses. They can be used as light beanies, neck warmers, and can offer face protection from the cold wind or sun.

    1

    CMS Neck Gaiter

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Non-locking Carabiners

    Most climbers prefer wire-gated carabiners due to their light weight and low bulk, among other useful characteristics.

    2-3

    CAMP Nano 22

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Rock Climbing Helmet

    UIAA/CE approved; Should be large enough to fit over a beanie. Plastic helmets are more durable, but heavier. Foam helmets are lighter, but more easily damaged when carried in a pack.

    1

    CAMP Titan

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Colorado Mountain School

    Equipment
    Rock Climbing Shoes

    Technical rock shoes are required. For beginning climbers, having a looser fit is advisable. In this case, loose means that toes are touching the front of the shoes when standing, but are not forced against the front of the shoe. In colder weather, thin socks inside climbing shoes are a great option. On long routes, rock shoes should be comfortable enough to wear for day.

    1

    La Sportiva TC Pro

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Colorado Mountain School; Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Sleeping Bag (10° to 35°)

    Down or synthetic sleeping bag is acceptible.

    1

    Rab Neutrino 400

    Rab Store

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Sleeping pad

    Insulated air mattresses or foam are ideal. Uninsulated air mattresses are not recommended.

    1

    Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Smartphone

    Great for taking photos and videos. Smartphone batteries tend to shut down in freezing temps - keep your phone in a warm inner layer. A tether is ideal in the mountains to protet against dropping your phone.

    1 Optional
    Softshell and Fleece Jacket

    Water-resistant, windproof, yet it "breaths," which means it allows moisture to move through. Hoods are ideal. There are multiple thicknesses of Softshell jackets. A lightweight or medium-weight jacket is preferred. Fleece jackets are acceptable.

    1

    Men: Rab Salvo Jacket
    Women: Rab Salvo Jacket

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Softshell Pants

    Softshell material is stretchy, wind-proof, water-resistant, and resists abrasion. Mid-weight is recommended and light-weight pants can work for warm days. Typical thin, nylon "hiking pants" are generally not tough enough.

    1

    Men: Rab Vapour Rise
    Women: Rab Upslope

    Rab Store

    Clothing
    Sports Bra

    Provides support and allows for full range of motion

    1

    North Face Beyond the Wall

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Sun Hat

    A billed hat to keep the sun at bay during the approach and descent.

    1

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Sunglasses

    "Wrap-Around" style sunglasses with 100% UV Protection.

    1

    Julbo Shield

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    SunscreenSPF 30 or higher.

    Travel size.

    1

    Rocky Mountain Sunscreen SPF 50

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Synthetic or Down Puffy Jacket

    Fits over all other layers and is worn at breaks and on really cold days. Synthetic puffies are more durable, are easily laundered, and dry out quickly if wet. Down puffies are lighter weight, pack smaller, and provide exceptional warmth, but once wet, they stay wet.

    1

    Men: Rab Electron Jacket
    Women: Rab Electron Jacket

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Synthetic or Merino Wool Socks

    Wool and synthetic blends are great for long days on the trail. "Ski" and "Snowboard" socks are especially useful when warmth is desired.

    2

    Point 6 Hiking Light Crew

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing
    Trekking Poles

    Adjustable and without powder basket.

    1-2

    CAMP Backcountry

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Colorado Mountain School

    Optional
    Water Bottles

    1 liter bottles are the standard. Bladders such as Camelbacks and Platypus are acceptable for above freezing temps, but only in conjunction with another bottle. Bladders are not acceptable during sub freezing temps. Sports drinks are also acceptable.

    2

    Nalgene, Hydro Flask

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Equipment
    Water Purification Tablets

    Iodine or Chlorine-based treatments; To keep packs light in the summer during early morning approaches, your guide may suggest only carrying a liter or two of water, with the plan to refill during the day at a stream.

    6 tabs/day

    Aquamira, Potable Aqua

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Optional
    Waterproof Shell Jacket

    Non-insulated, Gore-Tex, Dermizax, Event, or other waterproofing system is required. Mostly, this jacket sits in the bottom of your pack and comes out when the weather gets nasty with precipitation. This jacket should fit over all other layers.

    1

    Men: RAB Ladakh GTX Jacket
    Women: RAB Women's Kangri GRX Jacket

    Neptune Mountaineering

    Clothing

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