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Before You Tackle Longs Peak In Rocky Mountain National Park, Know What To Expect

Longs Peak fills the horizon over Rocky Mountain National Park. NPS photo.

Though it might not carry as much prestige as the Grand Teton or El Capitan, Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park is a favorite target of hikers and climbers. Knowing that, park rangers want those thinking of summiting the 14,259-foot peak to bone up on the mountain before setting foot on the trail.

New informative materials to help you plan and prepare for your climb have been posted on the park’s website since July.  The updated information includes a brochure with photographs of the different sections on the route, 12 frequently asked questions, and weekly conditions of the route.

The hike to and climb up Longs Peak is one of the most popular in Colorado. NPS photo.

When you access the website you will find a downloadable brochure showing the main sections of the route – starting at the Boulder Field and ending at the summit with brief text and photos.  The brochure also includes numerous safety tips and essentials to wear and carry. 

Among the FAQs are answers to:

*  “How have people been injured or killed on the Keyhole Route?”

* “How many people should I expect to see on the route during the summer?”, and;

* “Do I really need to start at the trailhead before sunrise?” 

For the last few years, rangers have been posting the Longs Peak Conditions Report weekly during the peak season. The report illustrates conditions along the route with photographs. Visitors are encouraged to use the report only as a guideline since conditions can change rapidly.

The Keyhole approach to summiting Longs Peak. NPS photo.

The Keyhole Route to the summit of Longs Peak, one of the most popular routes in Colorado, is an extraordinary climbing experience.  This is not a hike.  It is a climb, a classic mountaineering route that should not be underestimated.  The route crosses enormous vertical rock faces, is exposed to falling rock, and requires scrambling on all fours. 

The route has narrow ledges, loose rock, and steep cliffs.  Depending upon conditions snow and ice might be encountered any time of year.  The terrain requires route finding skills and the ability to assess and adjust to unexpected or changing weather conditions.  A slip, trip or fall could be fatal. Safety is ultimately each visitor’s personal responsibility. 

The most important part of any adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park is to plan and prepare for a safe return.

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