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
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.
2. Ellingwood Point’s Southwest Ridge
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
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.
4. Crestone Traverse
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
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.
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
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.