While Colorado’s mountains are renowned for their beauty, they also strike fear in even the most adventurous climbers due to the extreme nature of their terrain. High cliffs drop off into ravines and canyons hundreds of feet below, and peaks sit balanced on delicate scree fields on their flanks. Here are seven of the scariest stretches and extreme hikes along routes on Colorado 14ers.

1. Capitol Peak’s Northeast Ridge

Capitol Peak - Northeast Ridge from Capitol Lake Trail, Colorado. Photo By: Aubrey Laurence.
Capitol Peak – Northeast Ridge from Capitol Lake Trail, Colorado. Photo By: Aubrey Laurence.

Famously known as the Knife Edge, Capitol Peak’s Northeast Ridge is the crux of the ascent. This narrow ridge requires climbers to straddle a ledge with extreme exposure on both sides of the ridge.

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2. Ellingwood Point’s Southwest Ridge

Ellingwood Point Traverse - Alethe88 - OutThere Colorado
Ellingwood Point Traverse, CO. Photo Credit: Alethe88.

The rocky spine of Ellingwood Point’s Southwest Ridge is a Class 3 nightmare for climbers. Advanced hikers drop down to the right of the ridge and scramble across rocks while trying to avoid falling thousands of feet down the side of the mountain. This is one extreme hike!

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3. Longs Peak’s Keyhole Route

Keyhole - dionhinchcliffe - OutThere Colorado
The famous keyhole of Longs Peak. Photo Credit: dionhinchcliffe.

One of Colorado’s most famous climbs, the Keyhole Route up Longs Peak is enough to turn many prospective climbers away from the summit. Once through the Keyhole itself, hikers are forced to scurry along narrow paths with thousands of feet of exposure looming only feet away.

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4. Crestone Traverse

Crestone Peak. Photo Credit: Blake Letourneau - OutThere Colorado.
Crestone Peak. Photo Credit: Blake Letourneau

Most climbers attempting the traverse between Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle require climbing gear. At the top of the traverse, climbers will face a Class 4 stretch from which a fall would almost certainly be fatal.

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5. El Diente Peak’s North Buttress

El Diente Peak. Photo Credit: EE One - OutThere Colorado.
El Diente Peak. Photo Credit: EE One

The final pitch up El Diente’s North Buttress requires rock scrambling across loose gravel up an extremely steep slope. While not as exposed as some of these other climbs, the lack of solid ground makes this climb quite complex.

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6. Maroon Bells Traverse

While the Maroon Bells by themselves are relatively safe climbs, the traverse between North Maroon and South Maroon Peak is a narrow ridge with several spires that require difficult moves to traverse. To exacerbate the traverse, thousands of feet of exposure threaten climbers on both sides of the ridge.

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7. Sunlight Peak’s South Face

Windom - Sunlight Needle - Sunlight Peaks - Weminuche Wilderness - John Fielder - OutThere Colorado
Photo Credit: John Fielder.

The exposed boulders on Sunlight Peak’s South Face are one of the scariest stretches of climbs in Colorado. Weak footholds and extreme exposure make it necessary for climbers to progress slowly in order to summit the peak.

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