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Longs Peak for First 14er?

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

Postby beckygluc » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:17 am

Hi all,

My dad and I want to start hiking the 14ers this summer. I'm 21 and he's 51. We're from Wisconsin, so we aren't used to high altitudes. We also aren't very active and don't exercise often, though we do hike at some of our state parks.

All that said, we think Longs Peak looks like the coolest 14er and want to hike it this upcoming August. We're prepared to exercise and get in shape for the hike. Do you think this peak is too challenging for a first 14er? What exercises should we be doing to prepare for the climb?

I know they rank the mountains from easiest to hardest on this site, but we've been looking at Longs Peak for a long time now and have been hearing all sorts of cool stories about it. Also, my dad isn't getting any younger--it would be cool to achieve Longs Peak now rather than wait a few more years, as his heath may start to deteriorate.

Thank you very much!

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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby Jay521 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:28 am

There are people on this site who are much more qualified to answer you than I am, but I will throw out a couple thoughts...

Although I was in my early 60's the first time I climbed Longs, I would not recommend it for a first time 14er. It is a long, difficult day and storms can come in quickly and there are few quick bail out points. You want to be in pretty good physical shape to do Longs.

What I would recommend is that you come out and tackle some easier 14ers - many people do Sherman, Bierstadt or Quandry as their first and that would give you a good idea if you are in shape to do Longs.

Good luck! And be safe...
I take the mountain climber's approach to housekeeping - don't look down

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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby peter303 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:53 am

It lives up to its name: a LONG dayhike. When add the mileage (15-17) plus the climbing change (5000 feet) plus the high altitude, it is simliar in effort to running a marathon. So train for that length of hiking.
About two dozen people a day can camp a little past half-way up (effort-wise). These permits become available March 1 and expected to be all taken that day.
August is the best time to plan for an out of state trip because a heavy spring snow season can keep ice there well into July.
If you hike the recommended morning hours you'll have plenty of company to assist with trail finding. Several of the falling deaths in recent years were people descending solo in the dark and missing the main trail.

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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby speth » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:56 am

beckygluc wrote:Hi all,

My dad and I want to start hiking the 14ers this summer. I'm 21 and he's 51. We're from Wisconsin, so we aren't used to high altitudes. We also aren't very active and don't exercise often, though we do hike at some of our state parks.

All that said, we think Longs Peak looks like the coolest 14er and want to hike it this upcoming August. We're prepared to exercise and get in shape for the hike. Do you think this peak is too challenging for a first 14er? What exercises should we be doing to prepare for the climb?

I know they rank the mountains from easiest to hardest on this site, but we've been looking at Longs Peak for a long time now and have been hearing all sorts of cool stories about it. Also, my dad isn't getting any younger--it would be cool to achieve Longs Peak now rather than wait a few more years, as his heath may start to deteriorate.

Thank you very much!


I think you could go a long way and prepare yourself for it, but it seems like you're looking for someone to tell you to do it in spite of the indicators telling you that you should pick a different mountain to try for a first attempt.

Jay has sound advice, and I think another choice is probably the best one.

On the flip side, what preparations are you going to follow to get ready?
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby Jim Davies » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:02 pm

Pick another mountain. We've got lots of them. Many of them have better views and are much better suited for a first-timer.

Mountains aren't magic talismans that will make your life complete by reaching the summit. They're big masses of rock. Longs looks nice and is famous, but it's also a long, difficult, dangerous climb by the easiest route.
Some people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths. -- Steven Wright

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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby crossfitter » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:17 pm

Hundreds of people do it as their first or one of their first 14ers every year without incident. If you do it on a nice summer day there's a good chance you'll run into many other first timers. While it is certainly not the easiest 14er, it is perfectly within the capabilities of anyone with the proper preparation. That being said, of the thousands of people who climb it every year it's not uncommon for 1-2 people to die due to slipping/falling at the wrong spot, or being caught by bad weather.

Success is not guaranteed, but Longs is not a committing route. If you get tired, scared, weather moves in, you run out of water, run out of food, lose your pack, your map blows away, and/or get bit by a rabid marmot - just turn around and go home. There's no shame in giving it a solid attempt and then backing off 90% of the way to the summit.
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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby scalba123 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:20 pm

I've made three attempts at Longs and it has beaten me back each time. Fourteen miles (roundtrip) may seem doable, but you're also going approximately one mile up (elevation wise) to the summit.

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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby DeTour » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:23 pm

Well, if speth is right that you're looking for someone to tell you to do it, here it is:

http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=3736&parmuser=DeTour&cpgm=tripuser

Longs was my first 14er, at age 49, with a daughter about the age you are now. It's an awful lot of mountain for a first-timer but it can be done.

You'll probably get lots of opinions on both sides of the question, and lots of advice, most of it good. Keys are:
> You and dad, especially him, have to be in really good shape.
> Super early start, like ~2 a.m. Afternoon storms are killers, literally.
> Acclimation in the days before you climb. We really should have spent another night or two sleeping at Estes Park-type elevation, and another day or two hiking at 12k+ feet. In years since, we've found Diamox to help - you'll find lots on that on this site if you search it. It helps us ward off altitude-sickness symptoms like nausea and headache, but it seems only time at altitude restores your physical strength.
> Respect the mountain. If weather, or your bodies, aren't cooperating, you must be willing to turn back. It can kill you.

I really respect Jim Davies' opinion, but the fact is, for my daughter and me, it really was a milestone experience in our lives and our relationship.
when you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby Tornadoman » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:31 pm

Longs is a tough day, and if you find that the altitude is a major problem it is going to be brutal. If you have time, I think that trying something easier at 14,000 feet (Grays/Torreys, Quandary, etc), would be a good idea. If that went well you could rest for a couple days and then attempt Longs. Good luck with your trip.

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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby nyker » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:38 pm

My two cents:

Usually when people ask me the same question, assuming they have not done a lot of climbing and hiking up high, I will tell them to test themselves on a more forgiving peak(s) first at similar altitude before attempting Longs or other more challenging Fourteeners, so they can see how they are at altitude with similar gain/mileage (think of climbing Grays and Torreys from the I-70 parking lot as similar altitude, mileage and vertical gain as you will see on Longs). If you can do that trip with no issues, then Longs won't be much of a difference *physically*, with the exception of a bit more technical terrain - which could freak you out, or add more excitement depending on your risk tolerance - Only you can answer this.

With that said, I am being a bit of a hypocrite as Longs was my first 14er. It was not my first long day climb (15+miles) and not my first time up high (many 11ers, 12ers and 13ers preceded it) and I exercise regularly. I suppose, ignorance was bliss then since we climbed Longs before even being aware of this site of the number of other "14ers" in the great state of Colorado. I considered it a progression from Angels Landing in Zion, then Half Dome, Telescope Peak, a few 12ers in RMNP and the Sierras, the 13k Wheeler Peaks in NM, NV, etc. So, we were not aware of the "fear we were supposed to have" when attempting Longs. It looked like a really cool climb and we were in shape so we went for it and luckily, it went well.

Longs was more difficult than the other aforementioned climbs, yes; and we were met with thunderstorm at 5:30AM at the Keyhole on our then-Labor Day climb years ago (so much for beating afternoon storms) along with coming across a girl screaming her head off, crying/yelling at her climbing parter to stop and turn around with her because she was terrified to continue on-a girl who mentioned that she climbed other easier 14ers at the time. (Note her partner eventually did continue on, leaving her clinging to a rock, paralyzed in fear, as we found out as she was in the same place on the descent while we came back...)

So, to each is own:

If you dont have a level of experience you're comfortable with:

Go out and get some experience scrambling up Class 3 terrain testing yourself with some exposure. Increase the duration and altitude of these test trips until you approximate something you will see on Longs.

Train regularly such that a 16 mile hike with 5,000ft gain is well within your ability. There are plenty of sources to learn how to build your aerobic base to help here. Being mentally fit is as important as being physically capable of getting up a mountain.

Train carrying a heavier pack (20lbs) to make sure your back, hips and legs can handle this over a long day on rocky terrain.

Gradually get up to 14,000 feet a few times to make sure your body (and your Dad's) is ok with this elevation. Longs, after the Keyhole is not the place you want to discover that your body has an issue with altitude.

Learn what foods you can eat at higher altitudes. I find certain things I eat sitting here at sea level, don't do well in my body at a 11,000ft campsite or even in an 8,000ft town.

Read Longs trip reports to see what others have experienced, as Longs happens to be a common first 14er for people - just realize that everyone has a different skill level. While some people climb Longs as their "first" 14er, the same people might have done very technical rock climbs elsewhere or are hardened endurance Race runners, etc... so consider the source when asking this question.

Lasty, have fun and good luck!

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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby DArcyS » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:40 pm

This probably depends on how much time you can spend in Colorado prior to the hike. If you can spend a week in Colorado prior to the hike and acclimate to the altitude with hikes in RMNP and on other 14ers, I think you'd have a shot at it. If you fly in on a Saturday and think you can climb it on a Sunday, perhaps not such a good idea. When I climbed Ranier through RMI, everybody summited because it was a 5-day training program and people, especially those coming from sea level, had time to acclimate when we attempted the peak after four days at 10,000'.

There's not much you can do to train for the exposure. Many people climb Longs as their first 14er, so the exposure is not so intimidating it turns every new climber back.

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Re: Longs Peak for First 14er?

Postby Mike8000m » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:42 pm

It was my first attempt at a 14er. Didn't summit, just too wore out. Long's is a very long. Probably close to 10-12 hrs round trip. People who are in real good shape and fully acclimatized can go faster. In the summer you have to get down off that thing fast in the afternoon. If you are dead set on Long's maybe just set the boulderfield as a realistic goal. And anything more is a bonus. Chasm Lake is a popular turn around too. If 14ers are your goal try Gray's or Torrey's. They are much shorter and will help you build confidence.

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