The reason we first came to RMNP.
This was our "rematch" from a failed attempt 2 years previous.
Thankfully, We managed to get a few hours of sleep. Sam and I rose at 1:30 and were hiking by 2:30.
We took a few minutes to review the sign in sheet at the trailhead to get an idea of how many people were ahead of us and where different groups were going. It was at this time I reminded myself to keep an eye out for one or two guys lapping us as they climbed Longs twice. That would be Smudge and/or Al.
There are things about hiking in the dark that are just plain interesting to me. Especially this hike.
The sound of water in the dark, the stars once your above treeline, the lights from Boulder, the surreal sight of of hikers with their headlamps as they silently snake their way along the winding trail.
On this particular hike about a half hour in we came across a childs hiking boot in the middle of the trail. I spent a few minutes thinking about what happened and what I should do. My guess was a dad decided to carry one of his kids for a ways and the shoe slipped off without him knowing. In such case he would have to backtrack to get it. So I should pick it up and hope to run into someone going the opposite direction looking for it. Right? But there were other possibilities I could think of so we decided to leave it there. We never did see anyone going the other direction so I suppose we made the right choice.
We took the route through mountain Jims grove. This path gave us and increased veiw of the hikers along the trail as we could see much more of the standard route as it heads up to Chasm junction then North to Granite Pass. As we walked through Jims Grove I was imagining what it must have been like for Isabella Bird camping with Mountain Jim in that area before her Longs attempt in 1873. I read that the night previous to their climb, they built a large fire and after supper sang songs, and Jim told some fearful Indian stories. Sounds a little bit like what I would expect if camping with Igloo Ed.
The whole hike we were drinking water religiously and trying to hold back our pace so as not to ascend too quickly. A friend told me if you can hear your blood pumping in your ears its time to slow down. I didn't want altitude sickness to burn us again. Every 15 minutes or so we would ask each other how we were feeling. By the time we got to the boulderfield I only had a slight headache and Sam the same.
We were feeling much better than the previous climb. I think I threw down 4 more advil just for safety.
The hike across the boulderfield to the keyhole is like the drive through Nebraska for me. It just seems to take much longer than it should and I'm worn out when done. I think the boulderfield is unde .
We stopped at the keyhole snapped some photos and chatted for a few minutes with other hikers who pointed out where the trough started, one guy also gave me some reassurance about the narrows as I was very nervous about that section. After enjoying the view to the West we remounted our packs and were on our way again.
The ledges were not as intimidating without a headache and I found myself wishing that I could identify the lakes below and the peaks to the West. Thinking back I wish I had known to take a closer look at the spearhead.
The trough is just a long steep climb up. It's One redeeming quality is that at least your on rock and not sand where every step up you slip back half a step like the dunes in MI.
We finally arrived at the top of the trough and the start of the narrows, the section of the hike I was most nervous about. Would I chicken out on the Narrows? Turned out to be no wheres near fearful as I was prepared for it to be and we quickly crossed without incident. However Sam was complaining of an increase headache and nausea. I made sure he was feeling good enough to continue and he said he was. Turned out he was OK as he beat me up the homestretch to the summit, a fact he reminds me of from time to time. As I worked my way slowly up the homestretch using hands much of the way, a few climbers just walked right past me like they were strolling up a steep driveway, I half expected one to turn back and say "what's your problem?". Finally made it to the top, what a great sense of accomplishment we had. We high fived each other and I think it was my most memorable experience with Sam.
Neither one of us was feeling great so we forced ourselves to take in the views and snap some photos. We spent no more than 30 minutes on the top before we headed down. Sam's Sickness was getting worse by the minute and about a third of the way down the trough he just dropped in exhaustion and emptied his stomach. I waited there with him for about a half hour. Since he showed little signs of feeling better and I was beginning to feel worse, I said we have got to move now or we'll never get down. As we hiked along the ledges I was cursing myself for doing this hike. I felt absolutely terrible. I could have done the riverwalk with Monica and enjoyed it instead of being in absolute torment. We stopped a couple times using all the self denial we had to drink a little and eat a little. But for the most part the hike back is just putting one foot in front of the other and letting gravity do the rest of the work. I remember at one point becoming almost delirious/hallucinating. I walked by a large object on the side of a trail and I thought it strange that someone would leave a wrapped Christmas gift on the trail, I looked again and saw that it was just a large boulder with many spots of moss growing on it. I told myself to get it together and that last thing I need is to slip and sprain an ankle up here. Somewhere near the end of our hike we crossed paths with a couple who looked like they had just gotten out of church. The lady had a dress on and the guy was wearing dress shoes. They asked how far to treeline but it seemed like we had just hiked 50 miles and my memory was vague as to how far back treeline was, and besides as I stood there looking down trying to think, I kept asking myself why is this guy wearing dress shoes. I finally said about a half mile and they were on their way.
We made it back to the trail head at 2:30 and were feeling much better. Within a couple hours we both felt great and celebrated with a burger at Penelopes. As bad as I felt on the second half of the Longs hike, it has been no match for the sickness that has hit me since. Hikers amnesia has set in big time and I haven't been able to shake it. I find myself just dreaming of doing this hike again. Hoping that with some of the butterflies gone from the first time experience I wont be as susceptible to AS. Or maybe someday I'll just learn my lesson and will no longer have this amnesia!
But in all honesty, even with the altitude sickness this is an absolutely great hike.
Edited by Twinebender, 31 July 2008 - 07:58 PM.