A Superlative Summit

August 2004

It’s not the highest fourteener in Colorado, nor the most beautiful, nor the toughest to climb – those would be Elbert, the Maroon Bells, and Capitol, respectively. But 14,259-foot Longs Peak, the monarch of the northern Front Range, is indisputably Colorado’s greatest mountain.

Prove it, you say? What other fourteener was cited by a famous French novelist before Colorado was even a state? What other mountain so inspires Coloradans that some count their ascents in the hundreds? What peak has the hardest high-altitude rock climbs in the world? What mountain lures nearly 20,000 people to its summit each year, despite the daunting fact that the easiest route to the top is a 7.5-mile, 4,854-vertical-foot hike? The superlatives go on and on, but for most people it is the indelible memories of the ascent that make Longs Peak No. 1. So, on this 139th anniversary of Longs’ first ascent – or 145th or 136th, depending on whose story you believe – put a climb of Colorado’s greatest mountain on your summer to-do list.