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.
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 and The Boulderfield.
The Keyhole Route
Read a recent trip report on climbing The Keyhole on Longs Peak.
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.
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.
Colorado Mountain School
341 Moraine Avenue
Estes Park, CO 80517
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.
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