cloudhiking - maps and adventure guides

Site Links


Contact Us









Friends' Links

Appalachia & Beyond

Family Wilds


Marking My Territory

Outcast Hikers


113 Turn Around 2009-08-19


Longs Peak is a great mountain. Standing at 14,255 feet it dominates the skyline of Rocky Mountain National Park. Though Longs is not the highest (Elbert is highest, Longs falls in at number 15) nor the most famous (Pikes Peak is probably more famous to non-climbers) peak in Colorado, most folks still consider Longs to be the peak to climb. Longs Peak’s rich climbing history includes first ascents of the mountain, winter ascents, and technical ascents of the Diamond. The Keyhole route, the easiest route, is famous just like some of the hard routes on the Diamond. With quality routes in varying degrees of difficulty, Longs Peak has become the climbers peak.

Attesting to Longs greatness, hundreds of hopeful hikers start up the trail each day of the summer (after the snow melts). The hikers collect in the parking lot starting around midnight for their pilgrimage on the mountain. With headlamps lit they begin their journey into the darkness of the morning. If the weather is good and the climbers are strong, they might make a bid for the summit, but dreams often vanish on the Peaks’ rocky slopes.

On our ascent of Longs this year I knew three people who were also climbing. They left earlier than us, so we did not walk with them, but as we climbed we were looking for them.

Not long after heading up the trail we started meeting folks who had turned around. Most claimed that the wind and weather was too harsh for their palates. We continued.

Then we met one of the guys I had talked to the day before - he was heading down. He was in good spirits and seemed satisfied with his decision, but I hate to see anyone that seems capable, turn around. He headed down the trail. We continued. Something inside wanted to tell him, "come on, it will be okay, the weather really is not that bad;" but that was something he will have to learn for himself. It will come with more experience.

We climbed to below the Keyhole and observed the weather. Climbers were gathered trying to decide what to do. Most of the climbers were turning around. The wind was blowing hard through the gap in the ridge, but we climbed up and through in only a few seconds.

We continued. Once through the Keyhole we found calmer weather. Everything was going to be okay. The weather was tough and you needed to wear real clothes and shoes (not running shorts, a singlet, and sandals), but the mountain was still doable. I wished even more my friend would have climbed with us.

Over the Ledges to the Trough we scurried. As we neared the top of the Trough we met another one of the folks we had talked to the day before, he was heading down from the summit! The smile was big. He thanked us for our advice and encouragement. His partner had turned around somewhere below and did not make it. We had not seen his partner. These were nice guys who really wanted the summit. I wish they could have shared the summit.

Meanwhile still in the Trough there were rumors about the ice on the Narrows and Homestretch. Folks were turning around. We continued on up the mountain over the ice and were at the top in a short while. Avoiding the ice was easy for us. But for the ones that turned around in the Trough, they couldn’t avoid their fears from the rumors told by others. The ice was not bad.

I guess as many as one hundred and fifty climbers turned around that day. Two of the three acquaintances we knew turned around. I don’t think the summit is the most important goal in life, it is just the top of a mountain. Yet, it is the summit that people are trying to reach, that is why they are climbing. To gain the summit, unless they are lucky, they need climbing experience. Longs Peak is not a great first climb, that is why so many people turn around. Longs is great for those who have paid their dues.

Experience is not easy or cheap. My advise is to take your time and learn on Class 1 mountains. Climb in some wind. Climb in some weather. After a few trips in crappy conditions you will learn what you can do in ugly conditions. The same is true with other skills including, scrambling, snow skills, navigation, etc. Practice on easier mountains and then transfer your knowledge to more difficult ones. Be patient. Earn the right to stand on the summit by gaining experience. Most of all have fun and be safe.

Happy trails.


Name (required):

Comment (required):

Please Introduce Secure Code: