Lead Adventure Specialist Kane Hudson is on a mission to hike several 14ers this late summer/early fall. He’s going to be sharing his journeys with us here and giving his tips for making it to the top. (Just in case you didn’t already know, a “fourteener” is a mountain peak that exceeds the 14,000-foot barrier. With 54 to its credit, Colorado has the most 14ers in the continental United States.)
I headed north to Rocky Mountain National Park and Long’s Peak.
Long’s is the highest mountain in Northern Colorado and is smack in the middle of mountainous beauty. This time of year in the park is postcard material. Colorado blue skies with white puffy clouds. Peaks dotted with snowfields make the most novice photographer an Ansel Adams.
The hike up Long’s is 15 miles, and the ranger station recommends being off the mountain’s saddle by noon. This adds up to an early start. People were starting the hike at midnight on the day I arrived, according to the trail register. I began my journey at 3:30 am.
Long’s is a great trail and is easily followed with your headlamp, so hiking in the dark isn’t much of a problem. The trail can get over 100 hikers a day, but the efforts the trail crew have put in with stone walkways really keep the impact of the crowds at a minimum. It was almost 6 am when I reached the boulder field. This is a open meadow with thousands of rocks, slabs and boulders dominating the scene. There is camping there with backcountry permits.
Then it was up a ridge, scrambling over boulders to the keyhole route. This is the main route to the summit and demands scrambling and a test of nerves. The keyhole route is exposed with areas that would allow for falls that would cause serious injuries or death.
Up next was the homestretch. This is another scramble up a steep wall to the summit. I did not wear a helmet or rope in for the hike and felt comfortable for the entire route. There are places that get your attention on this hike and should not be taken lightly. The summit is an awesome platform to view the park and allows for big vistas of the entire valley.
It is a cautious trip down, but with attentiveness and concentration, you return safely to the ranger station where you can tell them about your summit of Long’s Peak. It’s a great 14er.