What to Know About Climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park

July 9, 2024 | Posted in: Uncategorized

What to Know About Climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the best climbing in the country. With alpine views, incredible weather, beautiful rock, and over 400 square miles of climbing terrain, there is a wide variety of climbing adventures from multi-pitch rock routes, to snow filled couloirs, and everything in between. While Rocky Mountain National Park’s climbing objectives are unparalleled, they often require an alpine start and complex navigation, making it both desirable and recommended to hire a professional and trained climbing guide. 

Known for iconic formations such as Longs Peak, Lumpy Ridge, and the Diamond, there are routes like the Spiral Route on Notchtop that are perfect for beginners looking to experience the alpine, and harder test pieces like the Casual Route on the Diamond. 

Looking to embark on a Rocky Mountain adventure? Hiring a climbing guide promises expert-led learning and adventure, creating a space where everyone can access and enjoy the transformative power of the mountains. By hiring a trusted guide, we will help choose the climb that is right for you based on skill and conditions, help you prepare for your climb, and make sure you have fun by sharing their love for the mountains. 


Is climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park hard?

While RMNP offers some climbs that are accessible to less experienced climbers, many of the park’s most famous and rewarding climbs are quite difficult and require a high level of skill, preparation, and experience. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Variety of Climbing Options: RMNP offers a wide range of climbing experiences, including bouldering, traditional climbing, sport climbing, and alpine climbing. This variety means that there are routes suitable for climbers of different skill levels, from beginners to experts.
  2. Alpine Climbing: The park is renowned for its alpine climbing, which can be particularly demanding due to the high elevation, variable weather conditions, and the need for a diverse set of climbing skills, including rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering.
  3. Popular Climbs:
    • The Diamond on Longs Peak: This is one of the most famous and challenging climbs in the park, requiring technical rock climbing skills and the ability to handle high-altitude conditions.
    • Hallett Peak: Offers a range of routes from moderate to difficult, making it accessible to a wider range of climbers.
    • Lumpy Ridge: Known for its excellent traditional climbing routes, with a mix of moderate and hard climbs.
  4. Weather and Conditions: The weather in RMNP can be unpredictable, with sudden changes that can make climbs more dangerous. Climbers need to be prepared for snow, thunderstorms, and high winds, even in summer.
  5. Altitude: Climbing at high elevations in RMNP can be challenging due to thinner air, which can affect stamina and increase the risk of altitude sickness.
  6. Technical Skills Required: Many of the more famous climbs require advanced technical skills, including the ability to place protection, navigate complex routes, and manage self-rescue situations.
  7. Preparation and Training: Due to the challenging nature of many routes, climbers often need to be in excellent physical condition and well-prepared with the right gear and knowledge.

Can you climb in Rocky Mountain National Park without hiking?

Climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park typically involves some degree of hiking to reach the climbing areas, as most climbing routes are located in backcountry or alpine environments that are not directly accessible by road. However, the extent of hiking required can vary significantly depending on the specific climbing area and route. Here are some examples:

  1. Lumpy Ridge: This area offers numerous traditional climbing routes and is one of the more accessible climbing areas in RMNP. The approach hikes here are generally shorter and less strenuous compared to other areas in the park, often taking around 30 minutes to an hour to reach the base of the climbs. Hire a climbing guide with The Mountain Guides. 
  2. Chaos Canyon: Known for its bouldering, Chaos Canyon requires a hike from the Bear Lake Trailhead. The hike is relatively short but involves a steep and rocky trail, typically taking about an hour to reach the bouldering areas.
  3. Jurassic Park: Located near Lily Lake, Jurassic Park offers both sport and traditional climbs. The approach is relatively short and straightforward, usually requiring a hike of around 20-30 minutes.
  4. Alpine Climbing (e.g., The Diamond on Longs Peak): More remote and famous alpine climbs like The Diamond on Longs Peak require significant hiking, often involving multi-hour approaches and overnight camping for acclimatization and early starts. Hire a climbing guide with The Mountain Guides. 

While some climbing areas in RMNP have shorter and less strenuous approaches, most climbing routes will involve some degree of hiking to reach the base. If you are looking to minimize hiking, focusing on areas like Lumpy Ridge or Jurassic Park might be the best options. However, completely avoiding hiking is unlikely if you want to climb in RMNP.


Can you get altitude sickness at Rocky Mountain National Park?

Yes, you can get altitude sickness at Rocky Mountain National Park. The park’s elevations range from approximately 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) to over 14,000 feet (4,267 meters), with Longs Peak being the highest point. Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), can occur at these elevations, particularly if you ascend too quickly without proper acclimatization. 

Preventing Altitude Sickness

  1. Acclimatization: Spend a few days at a moderate altitude before ascending higher. This helps your body adjust to lower oxygen levels.
  2. Hydration: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as dehydration can worsen symptoms.
  3. Gradual Ascent: Avoid ascending more than 1,000 feet (300 meters) per day once you are above 8,000 feet (2,438 meters).
  4. Medication: Consider taking medications like acetazolamide (Diamox) to help prevent AMS. Consult with a healthcare provider before taking any medication.
  5. Avoid Alcohol: Refrain from drinking alcohol as it can exacerbate symptoms.
  6. Listen to Your Body: If you experience symptoms, stop ascending and give your body time to acclimate. If symptoms persist or worsen, descend to a lower altitude.

As you prepare for your journey, remember to respect the park’s natural beauty, ensure you’re well-prepared for the conditions, and prioritize safety, especially regarding altitude acclimatization. Embark on this incredible experience with a spirit of adventure and discovery, and you’ll create memories that will last a lifetime in one of the most breathtaking settings in the world.


Request a Guide

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.