Saturday, July 31, 2004

Longs Peak - First 14er

After looking at this peak for many years, my friends and I had the crazy idea, "Hey, lets climb that thing!"

We had heard that a hike to the summit of Longs requires a very early start.  Mike, Jason and I started out very early (3am) at the Longs Peak trailhead.  We had fully underestimated how long of a hike this would be.  Keep in mind, this was all done before our discovery of guidebooks and online mountaineering tools like

We reached treeline as the sun rose behind Twin Sisters.

Sunrise behind Twin Sisters

At this point, we took a nice long break to catch our breath. We were feeling pretty proud of our accomplishment to make it this far.  While we are sitting there eating some breakfast, here comes this old guy who looked like a skinny version of Santa Clause.  He had this huge white beard and must have been at least 130 years old.  As all of us 20 year olds are sitting around huffing and puffing and trying to catch our breath, Santa is literally RUNNING up the trail.  Crazy!  This was one of the fist times I witnessed one of lifes interesting lessons, "There's always someone more hardcore than you."

Longs Peak for Chasm Junction
We continued our long trek around Battle Mountain until we finally got our first views of the infamous Boulderfield.  The keyhole is a truly interesting rock feature that looks just like it's called.  Crossing the boulderfield is basically a mile of hopping from one giant boulder to another.

Longs from the Boulderfield

The Keyhole

 Along the way we came across a couple of big bucks that were grazing up high.  I got a shot of them and later used the photo to paint a picture of it in one of my painting classes in College:

Two bucks with the Mummy Range behind

Acrylic painting of the above photo

Once at the keyhole, we stood for a while, staring at the remaining route.  The views from across the keyhole were breathtaking! From here, it's about another mile of scrambling on class 2 and 3 rock.  Decision time!

Mike at the keyhole
McHenrys Peak and Black Lake I believe

Well, we didn't come this far to turn around now!  The climb up the trough went extremely slow.  Once at the top, we found perhaps the most technically difficult climbing move, where a giant rock wall tops out where the narrows begins.  I didn't take many pictures here.  Mostly focusing on not falling to my death.

The final push to the summit is called "the homestretch."  A steep scramble of a few hundred feet straight up.  The rock is smooth and care must be taken not to slide and lose control.  Jason (who was ahead of me) actually watched a guy slip here and almost fall to his death.  He was able to catch himself before he fell though.  Jason said he looked a bit freaked out after the experience.  Understandable.

Rock towers along the Homestretch with Mt. Meeker behind

The summit of Longs is the size of a football field.  There must have been 50 or more people sharing the summit with us, but there was plenty of room for everyone.  We soaked up the views.

Summit panorama looking west

Chasm Lake and Twin Sisters looking east

Jason and I at the top of the Homestretch

The return trip took 3 weeks.  Or at least it seemed like it.  Never ending!  Apparently, Jason had not gotten any sleep the night before climbing the peak.  At one point, when we were almost back to the car, Jason sat down and said, "You guys can go ahead.  I don't care.  I'm going to sit here for a while."  We joined him.  He looked like a zombie walking back from that hike.  When Dad asked him how the hike was later that evening,  Jason replied, "It was awesome!  I'm never doing it again."