Climb Longs Peak: Highest Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Facts, Figures and Trivia about Longs Peak

The moon sets behind Longs Peak, highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, from Twin Sisters. Photograph copyright Ethan Welty/Getty Images
  • Elevation: 14,259 feet (4,346 meters)
  • Prominence: 9,822 ft (2,993.7 meters)
  • Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, Front Range, Colorado
  • Coordinates: 40°15′18.05″ N / 105°36′54.42″ W
  • First Known Ascent: John Wesley Powell, William N. Byers, Jack Sumner, W.H. Powell, L.W. Keplinger, Samuel Garman, and Ned E. Farrell on August 23, 1868

 

Highest Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park

Longs Peak is Colorado's northernmost Fourteener or 14,000-foot peak.

It's the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park and Boulder County and the 15th highest peak in Colorado.

One Glacier on Peak

Longs Peak has one glacier--Mills Glacier. This remnant glacier of a once larger glacier that encased the eastern side of the mountain in ice, lies at 12,800 feet below the East Face in a cliff-lined cirque above Chasm Lake.

Named for Major Stephen Long

Longs Peak was named for Major Stephen H. Long who led an exploratory expedition of 22 men in 1820 from "Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains." The expedition reached the base of the Front Range on June 30, then journeyed south where they made the first ascent of Pikes Peak. James wrote in his diary that Longs Peak presented a "grand outline, imprinted in bold indentations upon the luminous margin of the sky."

Arapahoe and French Names

The Arapahoe Indians, who lived in the mountain valleys below the peak, named it Nesotaieux or "Two Guides" for the double summits of Longs Peak and Mount Meeker.

French fur trappers called it Les Deux Oreilles or "Two Ears."

1868: First Recorded Ascent

Although a couple parties claimed to have climbed Longs Peak, the first verified ascent (not including previous Native American ascents) was by a party of seven in 1868. The main impetus for the ascent came from Major John Wesley Powell, the one-armed explorer who made the first descent of the Green and Colorado Rivers, and William N.

Byers, founder and editor of the Rocky Mountain News. The other climbers were Jack Sumner, W.H. Powell, and three colleges students--L.W. Keplinger, Samuel Garman, and Ned E. Farrell.

1871: First Ascent of East Face

The first climb on the East Face of Longs Peak was by Reverend Elkanah J. Lamb in 1871. After climbing the Keyhole Route, Lamb descended the face via the Notch Couloir and then down a steep snow gully that was aptly called Lamb's Slide.

1873: First 3 Women Climb Longs

In 1873 the first three women climbed Longs Peak. Addie Alexander in August; Anna Dickinson in September; and in late September, Isabella Bird, an English woman who wrote a detailed account of her ascent in A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains.

Enos Mills and Longs Peak

Enos Mills, a naturalist, climber, and father of Rocky Mountain National Park, led many groups to the summit of Longs from his Longs Peak Inn. He climbed the mountain 297 times, including 32 ascents in August 1906. "Climbing a high peak occasionally," wrote Mills, "will not only postpone death but will give continuous intensity to the joy of living."

1927: First Ascent of Stettner's Ledges

(5.7) on the East Face was pioneered by Chicago brothers Paul and Joe Stettner in the summer of 1927.

It was one of the most difficult technical rock climbs in the country at that time.

1960: First Ascent of Diamond

The Diamond, a sheer 900-foot-high diamond-shaped wall on the upper East Face, was first climbed in 1960 by California climbers Dave Rearick and Bob Kamps, who received permission from the National Park Service for their three-day ascent up D-1. Layton Kor and Wayne Goss made the first winter ascent of The Diamond in 1967, and Bill Forrest made the first solo ascent in 1970.

Popular Keyhole Route

The Keyhole Route, the regular ascent route up Longs Peak, is the single most climbed Fourteener route in Colorado. The route, rated Class 3, begins at 9,405 feet at Longs Peak Campground and gains 4,850 feet in eight miles to the summit. As many as 100 people congregate atop the peak on summer weekends, and long lines stream up and down the Narrows and Homestretch sections.Over 50% of the people who attempt to climb Longs Peak every year fail due to a late start, bad weather, and under-estimating the mountain's difficulty.

The National Park Service estimates that about 15,000 people attempt Longs Peak by its various routes.

Deaths on Longs Peak

Over 60 people have died hiking and climbing on Longs Peak since the first recorded death in 1884. An average of one person a year dies on the mountain. Most fatalities are from falls. Other deaths occur from lightning, exposure, hypothermia, heart attack, and in 1889, an accidental gunshot. Many accidents happen on Lamb's Slide as well as on the Keyhole Route's Narrows and Homestretch sections. This section of the Keyhole Route is often treacherous, especially in May and June conditions when ice and snow cover the ledges. Crampons, an ice axe, and a helmet are necessary equipment during that season.

Longs Peak on Colorado State Quarter

Longs Peak is on the Colorado state quarter, released in 2006. Then-Governor Bill Owens picked the quarter design, saying it was a symbolic mountain image rather than a specific peak, thereby not offending those who wanted Pikes Peak on the quarter. It turns out, however, that quarter-designer Len Buckley based it on a photo of Longs Peak, which he liked for its majesty and rugged features.

Buy climbing books about Longs Peak

Paul Nesbit's Longs Peak: It's Story and a Climbing Guide by Paul Nesbit.
Colorado's Fourteeners by Gerry Roach
Colorado 14er Disasters by Mark Scott-Nash.
Climb! The History of Rock Climbing in Colorado by Jeff Achey, Dudley Shelton, and Bob Godfrey.