Teen Dies Climbing Longs Peak

No environmental hazards or foul play suspected

Jul 30, 2014
Outside Magazine
longs peak keyhole route hellbusch rocky mountain national park chasm lake 14er trailhead news from the field outside magazine outside outside online mountaineering colorado lenexa

A view of Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park's most popular summit, from nearby Chasm Lake.    CedricTheCat/Flickr

A Kansas teen died Friday morning while climbing to the summit of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

The National Park Service announced Monday that Lenexa resident Nicholas L. Hellbusch, 18, appeared to have struck his head while falling from the standard eight-mile Keyhole Route. A climber called Rocky Mountain rangers at 7 a.m. to report that he'd seen a body. Rangers arrived at 10:15 a.m., at which point Hellbusch was pronounced dead. A U.S. Forest Service helicopter recovered his body soon afterward. 

Neither weather nor foul play were likely involved in the death of the Shawnee Mission South High School student. The Kansas City Star reports that weather on the mountain was clear and warm, and climbers said there was no ice on the trail below where Hellbusch was climbing. A park service investigation is ongoing. 

At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak is the 15th-highest mountain in Colorado, as well as the park's hallmark mountain. Thousands make their way to the top each year, but thousands more turn back from the climb, rated "difficult" by climbing website 14ers.com, and for good reason. The route has claimed more than 60 lives since 1884, which Trail & Timberline reports resulted mostly from unroped ascents. 

A YouCaring.com page has been set up for Hellbusch's memorial. By Wednesday morning, it had raised more than $6,100 of the $10,000 goal.