Coloradans collect 14er summits like a hunter collects trophies to hang on their wall. Each peak they bag is a mark of pride, a story to tell for years to come. While many people dream about summiting every single one in the state, most start on the easiest (as they should) and then progress, slowly checking the 14,000-foot mountains off their list. For many, there’s one peak in particular that marks the transition into more dangerous climbing, Longs Peak. While this peak is one of the most talked about peaks in the state, it’s also one of the hardest to climb, generally falling somewhere in the top 15 most difficult 14ers in the state. While failure rates are hard to track, recent numbers put out by Rocky Mountain National Park estimate that over half of the people that start this hike don’t reach the summit.

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Longs Peak - OutThere Colorado

There are several reasons why around 47% of people don’t finish their hike to the top of Longs Peak. Unexpectedly nervy terrain along the infamous Keyhole route along with unpredictable weather cause many to underestimate how difficult this climb really is.

RELATED: 58 Stunning Shots of Colorado’s 14ers

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

Longs Peak is also the only 14er in Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state. As a result, a lot of inexperienced out-of-state climbers will attempt this one, not used to a strenuous workout at altitude. It’s likely that this contributes to the high failure rate as well.

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Longs Peak - OutThere Colorado
Signs point the way to Longs Peak.

This hike is so long and difficult that it’s recommended climbers arrive at the trailhead around 2 a.m., giving themselves roughly 12 hours to complete the trip.

Spencer McKee Narrows Longs Peak
Narrows section of Longs Peak. As you can see, the path gets pretty narrow, and there’s a big drop. Photo Credit: @mrspenceproductions (Instagram).

While Longs Peak might be difficult to some, it was once summited by an 85-year-old named Rev. William “Col. Bill” Butler. Another climber, Clerin “Zumie” Zumwalt summited the peak 53 times in a year.

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Longs Peak reflecting across Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Longs Peak reflecting across Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

*Keep in mind that fail rate numbers are based on rough estimates and also that failure rate doesn’t necessarily correlate directly with difficulty.

RELATED: 58 Stunning Shots of Colorado’s 14ers

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