Wake up before sunrise on a summer morning in Estes Park, Colorado, and the most abundant wildlife you’ll see is bleary-eyed hikers heading off to the trailhead for the Keyhole Route up 14,259-foot Long’s Peak, the tallest summit in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The 15-mile roundtrip up Long’s is not really a hike. It’s more like a gauntlet of fickle weather, lung-withering climbs, and long drops capped with a brutal 1.5-mile technical scramble through a boulder field to the summit. At least 57 people have perished trying to knock off the mountain since 1968, an average of one to two deaths per year. Luckily, the last two years have been relatively safe, but in 2010, two peak-baggers fell to their deaths from 300-foot ledges in separate instances on the Keyhole Route.
Stack the odds in your favor by starting early and turning back at the first sign of foul weather, lightning, or altitude sickness. If you lose the trail, which can be hard to follow in some locations, backtrack until you find your way—sheer drops can be hiding behind any boulder.