Most Difficult Colorado 14ers | 9 Deadly Peaks
While most of Colorado’s 14ers are an easy hike or scramble, a handful can be quite difficult to climb. With steep Class 3 and 4 climbing, dramatic exposure to cliffs and drop-offs, and complex route-finding and navigation, these nine peaks are some of the most difficult Colorado 14ers. Don’t attempt them without plenty of experience and research. Bring a partner, preferably someone who has climbed them before. Bring the ten essentials, and get started early. Here are nine of the most deadly peaks.
The 9th most difficult peak, Maroon Peak, includes notoriously loose rock and difficult route-finding. Locals call the twin peaks the “Death Bells” due to the numerous climbers & hikers who’ve met their end on the peak. Watch out for loose rock and rockfall, and study the route carefully on this peak. Click here for route guide information.
The 8th most difficult 14er is also one of the most famous, Crestone Needle. Located in the Sangres, its biggest threat is route-finding. A traverse from one gully to another along the south face is the biggest concern. Missing it thrusts you into harder, Class 4 climbing. Look down as you go so you know where to cross back on your descent. Click here for route guide information.
Snowmass Mountain is the toughest Class 3 climb on the list, 7th overall. The difficulty here comes from a long snowfield you need to cross to reach the summit ridge. Bring an ice axe, crampons & the skill to use them. Also make sure to plan your trip in early summer when the snow has consolidated but hasn’t yet melted out. It’s a much harder climb over bare rock. Click here for route guide information.
4) North Maroon Peak, Northeast Ridge Route
Like its twin Maroon Peak, North Maroon is known as the Death Bells for a good reason. The rock is rotten and crumbles easily. Wear a helmet and tread carefully, but remember that danger here is random and can never totally be mitigated. Risk here is impossible to control completely due to the many objective hazards. Click here for route guide information.
As the name implies, Pyramid Peak is a mountain with sheer slopes that make it difficult to climb. However it has slightly less rotten rock than its neighbors the Maroon Bells. The challenge here is route-climbing. It’s very easy to go off route into far more difficult Class 5 terrain where falls are easy and deadly. Study hard and take your time on this mountain. Click here for route guide information.
Mt Wilson lies in the San Juans and presents several different options and trailheads to choose from to get started. You are far from civilization here in the Lizard Head Wilderness. This group of mountains is notorious for its loose rockfall, which can strike without warning. Wear a helmet, and be sure you can take care of yourself out there. Help is a long way away. Click here for route guide information.
Sunlight Peak offers multiple challenges to climb. First, you must take a train or backpack many miles to reach the isolated Chicago Basin. Second, you have to ascend a difficult Class 4 climb. However the crux of the trip is the summit block itself, with exposed Class 4 climbing at 14,000 feet. This is a peak best attempted by experienced mountaineers and peak baggers. Click here for route guide information.
With a name like “Little Bear Peak,” you might expect an easy climb up a tame peak. Not so. The Hourglass Gully on the mountain is notorious for loose rock , nasty exposure, and numerous fatalities. Many choose climb it while snow-filled to avoid the hazards. It’s also famous for a rope left in the difficult section. While some use it to assist, it’s recommend you avoid it as it could break at anytime. Click here for route guide information.
When people think of Capitol Peak, the most difficult 14er on the list, they think of the Knife Edge. This 100 foot section features dramatic 1,000 foot drop-offs on either side. However the climb’s toughest crux is a climb up crumbling rotten rock beyond the edge. Many have perished on Capitol. Think hard and plan ahead before attempting this peak. Click here for route guide information.
Most Difficult Colorado 14ers: Tread Carefully.
If you’re just starting out, take time before heading out to theses peaks. Many include rotten rocks and difficult climbing that can lead to tragic accidents. If you do plan to go, bring the ten essentials, research your route, and wear a helmet! Have a different list of the most difficult Colorado 14ers? Leave a comment with your thoughts.
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Alex is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others explore the mountains, stay safe, and preserve the peaks for the future. Subscribe to the Next Summit Newsletter here.