Colorado's Fourteeners

The Pioneer-esses of the Peak

Although mountaineering has often been thought of as a male sport, Longs was one of the first major peaks in the United States to be climbed frequently by women. In 1873, Addie Alexander became the first woman to climb the peak, and later that same year Miss Anna Dickinson made her much-heralded climb.

Earlier, Miss Dickinson had ascended Pikes, Grays, and Lincoln, mostly by burro, but on Longs she demonstrated her real climbing skill. She accompanied members of the Hayden Survey, and along with them decided on the naming of nearby Mount Lady Washington and Mount Meeker (for Nathan Meeker, a friend of Anna's who later gained a place in history by being killed by the White River Utes in 1879). Incidentally, Nathan Meeker's son, Ralph, was along on the climb and was courting Miss Dickinson, but while they reached great heights together on the climb of Longs, they apparently never reached the pinnacle of marriage, much to Ralph's chagrin.

During the month following Miss Dickinson's climb, Miss Isabella Bird, a cultured English author, made the ascent and wrote of it. She was guided by the very uncultured mountain man Rocky Mountain Jim Nugent,"a man any woman could love, but no sane woman would marry," as Isabella put it. With plenty of "direct aid" from Jim, Miss Bird eventually did make the summit and then wrote of her experiences in A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, which was great publicity for the Longs Peak area and is still entertaining reading.

Technical climbing on Longs did not come into vogue until the 1920s. While the great east face had been descended by Lamb in 1871 and by Mills in 1903, that side was not climbed until Werner Zimmerman did it in 1919. A more direct and now classic route was pioneered by James Alexander in 1922. After these ice-breaking ascents, climbs of Longs's east face read like a list of climbing all-stars. Carl Blaurock, the Stettner brothers, Tom Hornbein, and Layton Kor are just a few of the many climbers who have pioneered new routes on Longs.


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »