Longs Peak
Colorado 14er
14,259 feet, 4,346 meters
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Longs PeakLongs Peak is the 14th highest mountain in Colorado at 14,259 feet. If you fly into Denver, you cannot miss it looming northwest of the airport. The slightly lower peak to it's South is Mt. Meeker. To climb Longs it takes stamina, however it is a deadly climb that takes lives. The trailhead is at 9,205' meaning you climb about a mile to reach the summit. Park Rangers suggest starting at 2:00 or 3:00AM. Most people take 9 to 14 hours for a round trip to the summit in the summer.

Due to the thunderstorms, you MUST be off the peak before noon in the summer. This means starting around 5:00 or 6:00 at the latest. Please see Anatomy of a Storm for my first hand account of a forming storm in the summer. A winter storm video taken by Larry Chapman shows Gerry Roach and I fighting a storm just above tree line in April 2004. The winds were a steady 40 mph gusting to 70. We turned around shortly after the video thus abandoning our attempt on the North face in winter.

I climb on and around Longs quite often since the trailhead is near my home, I use it as my training peak for my big climbs. To see summer and winter photos of Longs and the Keyhole route, click on the pictures link above. I have summited 30 times - by multiple routes and probably climbed on it over 100. My favorites were a winter climb in March 2010 and via the Lamb's Slide variation of the Loft route in July 2010. Twin Sisters, Storm Peak and Mt Lady Washington are all nice climbs near Longs.

I have summited Longs Peak 34 times. In June, 2013 for the 32nd time. Climbed up via the Keyhole route and descended using the Loft route. It was spring weather with winter climbing conditions above 12,000'. Please see this video of the climb. For a differnt route, please vist my Northwest Couloir page.

Climbing Longs is straightforward. You gain altitude steadily on a well worn trail below the tree line then it becomes rocky and uneven before going into the boulder fields around 13,000 on the Keyhole route. The Loft route follows the same approach up to the signs for Chasm Lake then branches South to take you up the couloir between Meeker and Longs. Some challenging rock scrambling is required before rejoining the Keyhole route near the summit.

Early spring or late summer you will find ice and snow beyond the keyhole and almost always in the Meeker couloir so I always carry an ice axe and crampons. Most people use the Keyhole route, so if you are interested in a detailed description, please visit my Keyhole Route page. I also have a page on the Loft Route which is not as crowded, slightly shorter and slightly more technical than the Keyhole route. I highly recommend it. The North Face route is technical and requires ropes and climbing gear. It is much shorter by distance than the Keyhole or Loft and a fun rappel down from the summit. Also, see my report on a winter climb.

East face of Longs, The Diamond, from Chasm lake

 

I first climbed Longs in August, 1992. I was dead tired after the 13 hour round trip. We experienced ice (veriglass) around the corner from the keyhole and given that I had zero experience on mountains with ice, I was stupid to continue and feel lucky to have avoided a fatal mistake. Just to show that getting older doesn't always mean getting slower, I made the round trip 10 years after my first summit in just under 6 hours.

I see all kinds of people climbing Longs in the summer. The success rate in reaching the summit is about 50%. Most people don't summit because they start too late (need to be on the trail no later than 5-6AM), do not take enough food or water, or simply underestimate how long the day will be (9-14 hours depending).

There are guide services that do Longs but unless you want to do the Diamond (technical rock climbing the face in the picture on the left), I don't think you need them. Almost anyone can summit Longs using the Keyhole route in good weather and with proper preparation and experience.

The picture left is of the Diamond from Chasm lake and the one on the above right is a view from the summit in March 2009.

Longs is a wonderful climb for most anyone who has the proper attitude, experience and preparation. But never underestimate this or any mountain for the real dangers involved. Please see my detailed pages on routes for more information.

This video is from June 2013 where I ascended the Keyhole route and descended the Loft route. it was Spring weather but still winter conditions.