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Longs Peak Trip Report


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#1 invisiblewindow

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 09:43 AM

Here is my account of Longs Peak.
Be forewarned, this is lengthy!

My wife and I arrived in Estes Park on Sunday, August 7th in time for some swimming in the heated pool at our first night's accomodations after our 12 hour drive from Iowa.
Very refreshing indeed.

From out on the plains we had been looking up at the mountain, realizing that this year we were going to make our first summit attempt of Longs....and of ANY mountain for that matter. We had been to the park for the previous two summers and completed many hikes, we had just not tried a peak yet. Somehow, we just decided last winter that we were going to try Longs as the first one.

On Monday the 8th, we planned to head up to Bluebird Lake. We wound up only going to Ouzel Lake due to some weather moving in. We got a bit of a late start , but wound up escaping the rain by mere minutes. I especially enjoyed hiking through the huge, burned out area from the fire. It was certainly unique and it provided us many opportunities to stare up at Longs and talk about what was to come. I pointed out some of the areas we would be crossing, such as the narrows and homestretch.

On Tuesday the 9th, we planned to reach Sky Pond. Again, due to weather, we had to stop short at the Lake of Glass and eat our lunch with a bit of haste in order to get moving back down the trail before the rain moved in. We got sprinkled on a bit, but mostly we stayed dry. We regret not pushing it up to Sky Pond, but with the start of our Longs Peak ascent coming in 12 hours, we figured we made the right choice to head back.

We were planning to meet up with OKCatsFan and his wife at 1:30am at the Longs trailhead, but that fell through...

I had been periodically checking the Weather Channel forecast for the Estes area and it kept saying to expect very cloudy conditions and thunderstorms for Wednesday all day. That night at 10:00 (as it rained at our location), we decided to push the hike back one day, as the forecast for Thursday was much better. It called for partly cloudy in the morning and afternoon thunderstorms... the classic late summer weather pattern.

Wednesday, August 9th. We spent this day driving along Trail Ridge Road and enjoying the tundra. We have driven this road at least 8 times now and it is always extremely enjoyable. As we hiked up to the Rock Cut, we looked over to Longs, which was engulfed in cloud cover. We were pretty sure that no one was making much of an attempt to go beyond the Keyhole due to the weather. This is when the rain started up. We went over to Grand Lake and had lunch and ice cream. I saw a RMNPforums sheet up at the door to the ice cream shop and pointed it out to my wife.

We were rained on for the rest of the day and night.
My nerves were really getting twisted up. There we were, close to taking off for Longs, it was raining, and I could not eat my dinner. I was anxious to start, but worried that weather might ruin it all. We would only have one more day to push this thing off and the forecast was not going to get any better than what it was for Thursday.

I prepped our packs and got everything ready to go, so we would not have to mess with anything upon waking up at 1:00am. It was still raining and I was feeling a bit down about it....but the forecast said it would clear up at midnight. I held to that idea and tried to sleep a bit.

My wife was anxious and was not able to sleep at all.
In fact, she was envious of my TWO hours of sleep.

The alarm sounded at 12:45 and I was up like a flash.
My wife was moving much more slowly than I.
She will admit, she was a little grumpy and I was hoping she was feeling well enough to make a solid effort.

We got into the car and began our 25 minute drive.
Upon turning on the stereo I found that I had left a Talking Heads cd in and it played away as we drove through the darkness. I was in a wide awake state and my wife was zoning out...the music was oddly comforting to both of us though.
I noticed that it was still very cloudy and the roads were wet.
I was worried at this point that the route beyond the Keyhole would be wet as well.
This was an element of the hike I was hoping to not have to deal with.

As we passed Lily Mountain, the rain began. It was pretty light, but enough to make me a bit more anxious about the rocks ahead.

We arrived at the trailhead and grabbed our gear.
Headlamps on.
Rain jackets on.
Trail register signed at 1:50AM.

We were off.

Edited by invisiblewindow, 16 August 2005 - 12:08 PM.

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#2 invisiblewindow

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 10:28 AM

We were now off on our first summit hike, our first night hike, and the longest hike overall. I felt good. My wife was starting out quite tired and I was beginning to think she would want to turn around before even the Keyhole.

As we made our way up the dark trail, my wife tried the first drink from her hydration bladder. She did not like the plastic taste and decided she was not going to drink any of it. She wanted to dump the water to save weight. I was worried about her choice, but we had over 260 ounces of water between the two of us, so I figured her dropping the 70 ounces would be more beneficial for a lighter pack weight.
The bladder was one that came with her backpack, so I did not get too concerned about her not liking it's taste. Maybe she will have to try another type someday.
We also had 3 bottles along, plus my Camelbak Unbottle 100oz (which I really like, despite the slight rubbery taste), so I was not too worried about our water levels.

I must say this...I was at first nervous about night hiking, but I loved it. I did see what I thought to be some bear scat on the trail, but I did not stop to examine it!
The forest is so calm at night. There was no breeze down below the treeline and the rain was falling in a drizzle. It was not too cold either. Overall, pretty nice, even if a little wet.

My wife was doing much better now with the lighter pack weight, but she was still a sleepy one for sure. I issued out as much positive reinforcement as I could to keep her motivated and eager. It was an uphill battle for her in more than one way.
If she had slept for 6 or 7 hours, she would have been in great shape. My wife is the kind of person who must have good daily sleep. I am the kind of person who can sleep for 2 hours or 10 hours...although I normally sleep about 5-6 hours, I can make due with what I get.

It kept raining as we broke treeline, however, I could begin to see some stars. The sky was clearing off slowly. A bit later than the midnight clearing as forecasted, but better late than not at all.

The breeze picked up to perhaps 5mph (maybe a bit more) and it was fairly warm.
My optimism began to grow. It was clearing, it was not too cold....now if it would just dry up FAST!

As we hiked up the tundra we watched the headlamps of others far beyond, cut through the darkness above us. Upon looking behind us, we saw the same sight. Headlamps snaking up the mountain. It was neat to see.

By now it had almost cleared off completely and the stars were big and bright in the sky. The front range cities sparkled to the east and my energy was building.
We could make out the outlines of Meeker, Longs, and Mt. Lady Washington before us. We had been making pretty good time, even with my wife moving slower than normal. She would just take a quick stop for a drink and breather once in a while and we kept moving along.

I knew the Boulderfield was getting close.

The night sky began to give way to the sun as the eastern sky grew lighter by the minute. We were now able to see the Keyhole a LONG ways off and very tiny.
My wife was finally waking up some with the rising of the sun.

We reached the solar privys and tested them out before pushing it up to the Keyhole.

The Boulderfield is sure a workout. Loose rocks can set a person off balance pretty easily, so careful stepping was the order. I lead and my wife followed as I found the easiest path for her shorter legs. The rocks were mostly dry, so I began to think we were in good shape. I was feeling really good both physically and mentally. No signs of elevation problems at all. My wife was a bit dizzy and tired.

The Keyhole! It was 6:30am and we were there. We stepped up to the hole in the wall to get our first view from above Glacier Gorge. We had hiked to Green Lake last summer, so this new view was amazing! I could try to explain it all day, but neither words, nor pictures, can adequately describe such sights. I guess that goes for the whole park and the Rockies in general.

Edited by invisiblewindow, 16 August 2005 - 12:07 PM.

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#3 invisiblewindow

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 11:28 AM

We sat down and relaxed a bit and had a bite.
The wind was low and it was not too cold here. We were lucky for the conditions.
I noticed down below Green Lake that there was a lot of water collected from the solid day of rain all Wednesday. I was wondering just how wet the path ahead would be.

We finished our break and got up to head off down the ledges.
The sights ahead were amazing!!!!
No pictures of the ledges or trough had prepared me for what I saw.
The trough sure appeared to be much steeper than I had initially assumed.

We set foot onto the ledges and my wife expressed that she did not feel comfortable going on. She was a bit dizzy and tired and was kind of spooked by what was to come.
She told me I could go on ahead and finish the climb. We established that she would head back very slowly and carefully, or she would either wait in the shelter(or near it), or down by the Boulderfield campsites. I was sad to have her bow out, but it was for the best....and as I will soon get to, I am VERY glad she backed out when she did.

The ledges were pretty amazing and a bit more dangerous than I had expected.
For a tired hiker, I can see how there are so many places to get hurt very seriously.
Luckily, I was not a tired hiker and made it through the ledges with no problems.
Here is the first point where I was glad my wife turned back: the smooth slabs with the iron bars.

It was a bit smooth and slick here and I know she would have been nervous at this obstacle. There had been many areas along the ledges with water up to this point, so my boots were not as grippy as they would have been in dry conditions. This made the climb up and over the slabs a bit more risky and I was extra sure to be careful here.

I passed a few groups of hikers here and reach the trough.
I had been eyeing it as I crossed the ledges and it kept growing in size....bigger, steeper....rockier.....here it was.

To be honest, my first thought was: "oh s**t!"
It was going to be a long careful climb up this thing. I could see people in various stages of ascension and many of them were very tiny in my view.
The first thing I noticed upon starting my climb was the water.
It was VERY wet. I don't know what it is like in the trough normally, but I can only assume due to the day-long rains, there was a lot of extra water streaming down.

Almost immediately, my gloves were soaked and they would stay soaked the entire rest of the way up and back down.

I made my way up with a pretty good pace. I was feeling really well and the altitude was not a bother to me in the least bit. I would climb up good amount and stop to take a few drinks and a couple good breaths and off again.

I was careful not to kick lose any rocks, but I could see how easy it would be.
In fact, on the way down, I did notice a few people slide and knock some rocks loose. Luckily, they only fell 10 or 20 feet and stopped.

At the top of the trough was the chockstone. This move was more than I had expected, but still not too bad. I have long legs and arms to make it easier. I could see how a person could try to climb up this and fall backwards onto the rocks. It could be dangerous, if care was not taken. I failed to notice the easy way up on the way up, but upon coming down, I did find it. If you are climbing up, it is to the left of the chockstone, just off the main pathway a bit. On the way up I was sticking too close to the bullseyes to see this route. Next time, I won't miss it. In fact, for my wife's sake, I don't want her trying to climb the chockstone anyway. I found it fun, she would not.

Now I was at the Narrows. This was not at all as bad as many have said. I thought it was really amazing and dramatic. Of course it could be highly dangerous, if tired and/or careless, but it is easy to concentrate here and make sure you make a safe passage across. Again, the views are stellar and indescribable. WOW!

At the end of the narrows, I met up with a guy from Missouri and chatted with him.
We both thought that the climb from the Keyhole up was a bit harder than we had expected. He even left his pack back on the ledges to lighten his weight and keep from burdening him. There are many places were it would be advantageous to be 'packless.' The narrows being one such place. I had been carrying hiking poles for my wife and they were strapped to my pack from the Keyhole up. I should have left them with her, but forgot. A couple spots in the narrows they caught the rocks and if I was not being mindful of them, they may have tripped me up.

We climbed up, out of the narrows in another minor climbing move and rounded the corner to a view of the homestretch!

There were a handful of people going up and a few coming down. All were moving slowly.

I made my way over to the spot where the rock slabs take off up to the summit and here is where the climb got the most risky. There were little streams of water ALL OVER the slabs. It was VERY wet. I heard some guy on the way down talking about how it was 5 times easier when dry. I started up, choosing my hand and foot holds carefully, trying to pick the dryest spots (of which there were few).
This other guy and myself kept within talking distance of each other and tried to seek out the best route up. There really wasn't a 'best route.' All paths were wet and people were choosing multiple ways up and down.

A few spots left me stuck due to water and eventually I had to make moves which might have been a bit more risky by using foot and hand holds that had water running over them. I was careful and my gloves were soaked with cold water, but I slowly made the summit.

Again, I saw many chances for a person to go tumbling down the homestretch to his/her death or serious injury.

Yet again, another time where words are nearly wasted in their attempt to convey the sights. The view from the summit is absolutely stunning. Mountains as far as the eye can see. Clouds hugging the valleys and sliding up mountain sides. 360 degrees of amazement. I wanted to stay up there for hours to just sit and soak it all up.
I was told by a ranger the day before that on a clear day a person can see the area of the state of Ohio. This day was not 100% clear, but the view was still massive in all directions. I could see Pikes Peak, the mountains in Summit County and so much more. I would have loved to sit up there with a map of the mountains and just point them all out. That would be quite cool.

The clouds in the valleys that I just mentioned began to do their thing.
And of course, that thing is rising up the mountains and working their way towards rain. This peak stay was not going to last long. In addition, I was kind of lonely up there....the reason being that my wife was supposed to be there with me and instead, she was somewhere far below me.

I ate some snacks and started down the homestretch.
I must say, even in wet conditions, going down the mountain was so much easier than going up. It still took care and control, but a welcome break in the effort used to chug uphill.

I did slip in one spot on the homestretch and slide about 10 feet.
It was really no big deal though, I was nowhere close to any danger as there were a few dry areas that I was able to catch on. It was more of a controlled slip.

Edited by invisiblewindow, 16 August 2005 - 12:07 PM.

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#4 invisiblewindow

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 12:07 PM

I was very eager to get back to my wife and tell her about everything, wherever she was? I had really felt a great distance from her and I just wanted to get back to her as soon as possible. I knew it was going to take me almost as long as I had been separated from her to reach her again, so I moved carefully, but quickly.

The call of nature!!! I was just starting down the trough and the urge hit me like a ton of bricks.....or perhaps boulders of granite, either way, I had to go to the bathroom and there was none to be gone into. I safely quickened my pace down the trough.
It was still wet and a lot of people were still on there way up. Now, I failed to mention this earlier, but I summited at 8:40ish, so at approximately 9:40ish, there were plenty of people headed to the top. This of course, with the clouds beginning to build up.

Back to 'nature' nature. I was moving fast as safely possible when I passed a guy I spoke with at the top. I made this comment as I passed, "I am about to have a bladder incident here pretty soon." To which he replied, "You may have to toss out your modesty and go off the side of the mountain."

I was not about to whiz off the mountain in full view of all around, I was now on the ledges mind you. I had to wait in a few spots to let others pass, all the while in a great meditative state to cease the flow of many many ounces of H2O.

The Keyhole....no sign of my little lady! I was hoping to see her there, or by the shelter. She was nowhere in sight. I was really hoping she was there because I was getting quite tired and needed a pick-me-up. I climbed down below the shelter and that was it....I absolutely had to stop and let loose the flood gates. I did my best to get around a boulder, out of view to all....but after the flood gates were opened, I noticed a few young ladies down the Boulderfield a ways. I think they were plenty far away to only barely see what I was up to, but I felt hopelessly exposed anyway.
Sorry for being indecent! It had to happen, or I would have exploded.

The flood eneded and my trek began again. Down and down more rocks, I was getting a bit clumsy. I needed a rest and some water, but I wanted to make it to the campsites to see if my wife was there first. As I neared, I saw a person stand up and move toward me. After a few seconds, I noticed it was her! This was the pickup I needed. My energy came back in a big way and I moved over to her.

Breaktime. Water, food, and more importantly...sunscreen and lip balm, which were both being carried by my wife.

We sat for 10 minutes and watched the clouds building around the area. I could not believe the people who were still on the backside and top of the mountain. They were certainly going to have to deal with some cloud cover very soon.

We set off back down the lengthy Boulderfield and the rocks grew smaller and smaller until the trail re-emerged.

I was feeling really good at this point. Surprisingly so, in fact.
People always talk about being on a death march on the way down, but I felt quite the opposite.

As we made our way back toward the treeline, the clouds really moved in and began to cover Longs. I am guessing some people had an extra interesting time heading down in cloud cover along with all the wetness as well.

We hit treeline and the rain started up. It rained lightly all the rest of the way to the trailhead. We signed the register at 2:00pm, so with breaks and all, the trip was 12 hours and 10 minutes.
If I did this whole hike alone (or with someone faster than my wife), I think I could have really cut the time down a lot. My wife is much shorter than I, so her strides are not as long.

Back at the car!!!! I am thinking about going home, taking a shower, taking a short nap, and going out to get a plate full of unhealthy food!!!!

Mission accomplished!

Oddly, it was both harder and easier than I expected. More than anything, it was exciting and quite the adventure. Now I need to climb 53 more.

The next morning we both woke up and felt great. We were so very close to heading up Hallett, but we got a bit of a later start and by the time we reached the Bear Lake parking lot, it was long full. We did not feel like shuttling in after having already driven into Bear Lake, so we went over to the Lawn Lake trailhead to head up toward Ypsilon Lake. We wound up getting turned back due to clouds....but more importantly, our stomachs wanted some good food on our last full day in the park.

Next year a new mission will be planned.
Plus, my wife wants to give another go at Longs.
I know she can make it when it's dry!


Sorry for the massive posting, as well as possible spelling and grammatical errors!!!!


THE END
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#5 TempestT-37

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 12:14 PM

Great Report.
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#6 druwdowns

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 12:17 PM

I.V.,

Thanks for the Longs I.V. What a detailed report. I was hanging on every word!

Thanks!
~Druw~
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#7 Aaron

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 01:42 PM

Thanks for the report! five.gif Glad you made it to the top!!

--Aaron jockey.gif
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#8 Andy

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 02:22 PM

That was the....





















































cruellest way...
































































to post...



























































a trip report ever!
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#9 Andy

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 02:26 PM

But a very nice trip report. Congratulations! 12 hours is a very respectable time for your first major mountain climb.

I enjoyed your nature call dilemma. I have long since stopped caring. As long as I'm not facing anyone or whizzing where somebody is going to have to walk I just let 'er rip. #2 on the other hand always poses problems. The good o'l roll of toilet paper is much like the first aid kit. You hope you never have to use it, but if you do you'll be really glad you have one!
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#10 Dolenz

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 03:42 PM

Great report! I enjoyed reading it immesely!!
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#11 foxfire

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 08:50 PM

Really enjoyed your trip report and Thank You! smile1.gif wink2.gif peace.gif
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#12 JDgreen

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 09:02 PM

Thanks for the report. Love the details, don't always hear about the iron bar handles. I felt for you with your full bladder dilema not something thats always covered in the guide books smile1.gif . Glad you got down safely with the wet conditions.
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#13 Allie

 
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Posted 16 August 2005 - 09:26 PM

Great report. I laughed at the nature calling problem. Glad you were able to eliminate that problem jester.gif Thanks for telling us your story. It was very interesting. Hopefully your wife can make it next time. Being dizzy is not a good thing to climb with. yup.gif
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#14 GLENNinPA

 
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Posted 17 August 2005 - 05:46 AM

Great report, Thanks!
Very detailed. Any Photos?

Glenn peace.gif


I really have to climb Long's. With everyone doing it, I'm soon to be the only one left who hasn't.
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#15 invisiblewindow

 
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Posted 17 August 2005 - 08:19 AM

Glad you all enjoyed the report.
It took me longer to write than it probably should have.
I was doing work and writing at the same time.
That is the main reason it was broken up in such a fashion.

I do have a batch of pictures, but it seems they are mostly the same ones everyone else winds up with.

I will try to link a couple in here.

Here is the homestretch in all it's watery glory. You can kind of make out all the water on it, but most of it fails to show up adequately.


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#16 TempestT-37

 
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Posted 17 August 2005 - 08:21 AM

QUOTE (GLENNinPA @ Aug 17 2005, 06:46 AM)
I'm soon to be the only one left who hasn't.

No you won't, I have no plans on doing that one.
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#17 invisiblewindow

 
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Posted 17 August 2005 - 08:21 AM

I am pretty sure this was taken at the end of the narrows, just before climbing up and out of the area.

I really wish I would have taken more pics....next time I guess.


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#18 invisiblewindow

 
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Posted 17 August 2005 - 08:24 AM

I am thinking these were taken at the bottom of the homestretch?

Anyone recognize this area? I forgot to take note as I snapped.




Edited by invisiblewindow, 17 August 2005 - 08:24 AM.

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#19 invisiblewindow

 
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Posted 17 August 2005 - 08:25 AM

The standard 'top of the trough' picture.


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#20 invisiblewindow

 
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Posted 17 August 2005 - 08:27 AM

The standard pic of the narrows.


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