Longs Peak for First 14er?

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby Guitarzan » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:50 am

You say you aren't very active and don't exercise often.............if I were you I would recommend getting in somewhat decent shape before attempting any of the 14ers. I did Elbert for my first and at the time I thought I was in really good shape. I made it but the distance and elevation gain kicked my butt.
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby MountainMedic » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:59 am

I wouldn't recommend Longs for one simple reason: you'll be at a high altitude for a long time relative to time required for other mountains. Wisconsin is pretty much at sea level; a hike of Longs Peak will take you from 9000-14000 feet, beginning to end. The longer you're at these altitudes without proper acclimation, the more susceptible you are to altitude illness. On Longs, you'll probably be above 12,000 ft for around 6 hours. Even if you stay in Boulder for a week before the climb, you're likely (70% on Longs in one study) to have altitude issues once you get to 10,000 ft. A friend of mine tried this and turned around at the Boulder Field (~12,000 ft; vomiting with awful AMS), and he was in excellent shape. I'd take a week to come out to Colorado and start with some easier hikes. Do the Tenmile/Mosquito peaks to see how you handle the altitude, then take a few days off and try Longs.

If you do the easiest route (Keyhole), you might get to the class 3 and rather suddenly begin to feel viciously ill, all while looking down what most consider an exposed route for a beginner (turns out most cases of AMS on Longs happen on the class 3 part). It would suck to fly here all the way from WI and have to turn around because you hadn't put it a little effort to acclimate.

Just my two cents - hope it helps.
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby beckygluc » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:15 pm

Wow, thank you all for your advice! I never expected to get this many responses. I'm going to share this information with my dad and see what he thinks. To answer some questions:

We're driving out to Colorado, but won't spend a very long time there because he has to get back to work. I never put much thought into how much we need to acclimate to the altitude, so thank you for all your advice on that matter.

For preparation, my dad just got a gym membership and I get access to my campus' gym. I'm going to focus on using machines like the stairmaster and treadmill to get my stamina up, along with some cardio exercises. From what you're all saying though, it seems like doing a shorter 14er would be the best preparation for an eventual climb up Longs. We're not horribly out of shape, we just don't exercise regularly.

And I guess I was looking for someone to tell me to climb Longs. After reading all of this information though it seems like we should do what is smart for the both of us and know what we can handle. Thanks again for all your help!!!
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby Mike8000m » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:45 pm

You can put in a ton of gym time(as I have) to prepare for 14ers and if you take the right steps to acclimatize it can knockdown the best in shape. I came out in CO this Feb on the 4th and stayed 6 days. I went from sea level to 9300 ft in a single bound and I got AMS. Descent is the only option. When I tried Long's I had climbed high previous days and slept low. I didn't get hit by altitude. But Long's is a really long day.
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby Stephen Butler » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:27 pm

Like others, I would not choose Longs as my first 14er. I have only climbed 10 (all of them relatively easy) but would recommend you climb some easier class 1 and 2's like Grays/Torreys or Quandary first. I haven't climbed Longs but I know it is a very long hike. My first 14er was Elbert. I spent 3 days in RMNP before climbing it. That said, my friend who was with us wasn't able to summit Elbert.

I think a shorter climb would be a better idea, but that's just my opinion. Good luck on whatever you decide!!
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby Derek_Cisler » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:38 pm

This more or less is echoing what's already been said, but since I was born and raised in Wisconsin and still live in the Midwest (St. Louis), feeling the need to reply. Longs was my first 14er...it's a beast for a first timer, but can be done. Did a couple of RMNP hikes (Ouzel Falls and The Loch) as light warm ups before going for the summit.

Couple of thoughts come to mind:
- Being in shape. Your legs will start burning about 10 minutes in...and they won't stop until 12-14 hours later.
- Getting an early start. Would recommend 2 a.m. instead of the more popular 3 a.m. to allow for a slower pace if need be.
- Remembering water. You'll be out there for 12-14 hours, if not longer, exerting yourself in a significant way.

Biggest comment about the route is really understanding how comfortable you are with heights and exposure. While there are many mountains with bigger drop-offs and more exposure, a first timer going through the Keyhole, where the adventure turns from an uphill hike into a more of a climb, can be a heart racing experience...and that's just the beginning! Not easy to know that feeling until you actually get there...but like was already mentioned, you can always turn around. There's nothing to be ashamed of...making it to the Keyhole is impressive as well!

Good luck with your decision.
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby Jim Davies » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:52 pm

If you're looking for a symbolic triumph, it's hard to beat Mount Elbert. High point of the entire Rocky Mountains! It's also five miles shorter than Longs and less technically difficult, and you won't have to fight for a parking spot. Or Grays Peak, the highest point on the Continental Divide in the US, and a hike that's half the length of Longs (although driving the trailhead road can be the hardest part of the day).

As for the "you can always turn around" comments, consider that downclimbing is often more dangerous than climbing up on difficult terrain.

If you want a taste of what can go wrong, read this.
Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall — it's great when you stop. -- Chris Darwin
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby ameristrat » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:56 pm

Go outside and walk for 12 hours. This is not even close to the effort you'll expend to climb Longs.

The exposure / technicality will be fun for some and scary for others, but novices climb it all the time. If you stay out of the and stay on the trail (conveniently marked by bright red and yellow bulls-eyes every six inches - they're everywhere) you should be able to stay safe which should be your top priority.

The conditioning and acclimating is critical. You have to climb 6 miles and 3000+ feet (a longer uphill than Quandary) just to get to the Boulderfield. Beyond that, the technicality jumps up and mistakes like getting off route - easy to do if you're exhausted - can kill you.

I think Longs is an excellent introduction to class 3 climbing. That said, I would never take a friend or family member up it for their first 14er regardless of conditioning. Learn on something where the risk is lower, and then evaluate your ability to try something more difficult.

I read somewhere that well over 50% of people who attempt Longs do not make the summit. This sounds exaggerated to me, but make no mistake - it is a marathon of a day hike / climb. The number of people I saw turn around LONG before the Boulderfield was staggering.

I think it was JD who suggested hiking Grays and Torreys from the I-70 parking lot - I would strongly suggest trying this first. If you have the time, do this hike, rest a day or two and then attempt Longs if all goes well. If you don't have enough rest days, do a shorter one (as mentioned in earlier posts). Look at it this way, if you do an easier 14er to start, chances are much better that you'll leave your vacation successful, then wondering what could have been.

Good luck, and above all, be safe!
You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know. - Rene Daumal
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby peter303 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:18 pm

There used to be a page somewhere on this website polling "first 14er" climbed. Longs was always in the top three and hardest of the top ten.

I presume it was due to
- proximity to Denver
- proximity to the airport
- proximity to the two largest Colorado college campuses. College starts mid August. Bored students with lots of time on their hands want to try a challenging hike.
- known name. Maybe out-of-staters can name 2 to 4 of our 14ers.
- not a "sissy" mountain. Lots of type-As around who want to start with something harder. Plenty of people have died both on the "easy" mountains and on Longs.
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby bking14ers » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:22 pm

Do it!!! Longs was my first 14er also, and it's not an easy one... Do some day hiking high up in the park before hand. Get to the TH at 3:30 am to beat some of the rush on a week day. Watch the weather. It took us 11:45 hrs. I'm a flat lander what can I say.
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby SuperiorTrailHiker » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:24 pm

I'll chime in since it was my first fourteener, coming from Minnesota:

Longs is definitely taxing, and it is doable with preparation. As folks have related, it's not the best choice for a first 14er, but many people do it. You need to be prepared, physically and mentally, and by that I mean also be prepared to turn around if you're not comfortable physcially, mentally, or with your surroundings, i.e. weather.

It's a long, tiring day, and there is exposure to account for. There are many opinions, but for me personally, going down the Homestretch on the way back was the hardest mentally - you're staring down at what looks to be a very steep slide to nothing but air.

The photographs of the Ledges, Narrows and Homestretch usually exaggerate the exposure and the steepness, bo0th because pictures cannot capture it properly and also because it's plain old more fun that way - but while generally exaggerated, they are all still places that are very high up in the air and there IS exposure. For a novice hiker / climber, the Homestretch with any moisture on it would be a harrowing experience and I personally would not go near it in other than perfect dry conditions.

When I did Longs, I was 42 and had routinely and regularly done 18 mile days on a trail with a 40 pound pack, so I felt prepared and in fact I was. If you prepare, and you pay attention to what your body is telling you on the way up, you can summit.


Acclimatize. Spend as much time at as much altitude as you can before you go up it. Coming from sea level, we spent two days in Estes, three days hiking from Grand Lake to Lake Verna, and one day going up and down Estes Cone before we spent the last two days on Longs.

As mentioned above, two days. Break the climb into pieces by camping at the Boulderfield. This gets a lot of the climb out of the way, and puts you on the Keyhole's porch for a good, early start.

There are a lot of posts on here about camping at the Boulderfield - I liked it and had a lot of fun up there, but slept horribly, so don't count on it for good rest.

You can do Longs as your first 14er. Maybe not the best choice, pay attention to the fact that people have died on it, but I am sympathetic to the "Not getting any younger" vibe, and because it is possible if you respect the undertaking and I did it myself, I wanted to provide my two cents.

Be careful, be prepared, read a lot about it, ask questions of the good folks here, and be ready to gain a personal summit along the way, turning back if the cards are just not right that day.
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby GeezerClimber » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:34 pm

I wouldn't recommend it but it can be done. I climbed it last year for the first time at age 61 but it was my 41st 14er. We ran into a guy and his son. The father was from MI, looked to be in his late 50s and carrying more weight than would be good but the son lives in CO and had experience. He did make it but probably took 15 hours and I'm guessing paid a big price over the next week. I got my brother, who lives in CT, up Elbert at age 64 on his 3rd day in CO but he hikes quite a bit and altitude affects him less than most flatlanders. From your description, the odds of you making it are pretty low and even if you do, you are likely to be miserable by the time you summit and even more miserable on the descent.


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