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SandyP's Long's Peak Story


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#1 SandyP

 
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 08:48 PM

Ok. . . . I know there have been tons of Long's Peak pictures and stories, and I hope you guys aren't sick of them just yet, but this was one of the most monumental accomplishments (and blessings) of my life, so here's one more story.

One of the reasons it meant so much to me was because before it happened, I felt so insecure about my abilities to make it. I had been warning everyone at the GTG, and at McGregor, that I didn't think I was strong enough to finish. I was terrified of the heights (even on the ground, and it got 100-fold worse when I was actually standing on a ledge in the middle of the sky, hugging a wall I was certain would give out and find me tumbling to the ground 14,000 feet below right in front of my forums friends). I feared that at the part of the hike where it was the most important to focus and be strong, I would be weak and weary, and would stumble over my toe. . .right over the edge. I actually wondered if I was even strong enough to get to the Keyhole. The whole thing produced so much anxiety!

So, the night before, we had dinner with Al & Lori at Mary's Lake Lodge (OMG. . .what a WONDERFUL discovery THAT was!!!) Alan helped calm my fears so much. I think it was the realization that Alan is so amazingly accomplished on those mountains! And he had completed 17 summits of Long's Peak. So his reassurances that he was going to be with us every step of the way went a long way towards infusing just a flicker of hope that mayyyyybe we could do it.

We were up at 1:30 am, and on the trail at 3:15am with Kristin, Ben, Chuck, & Lori & Big Al.

The first picture I took was in Jim's Grove just as the sun was coming up. It was so beautiful, even the steeeeeeeeep hill we had to climb at the end didn't take away the beauty.
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This is Alan, Ben & Chuck at the top of "the hill" at the end of Jim's Grove. If you look closely, it looks like Ben is sleeping on Chuck's shoulder :) I loved how the moon was still up even as the sun was coming up. That steep hill was a cruel thing to put at the end of Jim's Grove. There was quite a bit of huffing and puffing going on about then.
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But finally we made it to the Boulder Field. That in itself felt like a pretty cool accomplishment. Especially when we saw our friends waiting for us -- smiling, happy to see us, cookies and water in hand. I know it sounds corny. . .but I felt so much love for my Rocky Mountain friends as we got there and happily shared our adventure together. I wasn't sure how much more of the adventure we were going to be able to share tho, because Bill had twisted his hip on a misstep in Jim's Grove, and every step was excruciating. As I looked at the uphill climb to the keyhole, I felt like we'd be doing good if we made it up there as badly as he was hurting. But. . .. Big Al to the rescue. He took Bill and did some hip stretching exercises with him, and voila. . . he wasn't quite good as new, but he was once again willing to give it all he had, so off to the Keyhole we went:

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Here's Lora & Allen making their way up too. And I think that's John, Ed & JD Green up ahead of them:
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What an adventure scrambling up those boulders!!!
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Alan & Lori. . . alllllmost there :)
http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f313/bpowers2002/SP%20Longs/_MG_4022.jpg


OK. . . heeeeeeeeeeere's where the bottom falls out of your heart and you see what you are made of. As we poked our heads thru the Keyhole, the wind was blowing at what felt like several hundred miles an hour (Alan said it was about 40, but it felt like several hundred). And I can't even describe to you the feelings you get when you peer thru that window and see the entire planet laid out before you! With just a small little ledge to step on (did I mention that the wind could blow you off with half a puff?????) Lori went first, then me. When I got thru, I saw Lori hugging the wall, looking pale and woozy. My first reaction was genuine concern for her because she has always been so easy and full of life and "can do". I had never seen her looking so vulnerable and frightened and it shook me up. But then. . .for a split second, I took my eyes off Lori, and saw my own self on that ledge, and a terror filled my entire being like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. It felt almost like my mind and heart were not in my body, but I found my body involuntarily heaving with emotional sobs. I couldn't go back. I couldn't go forward. I didn't want to be there because I thought that at any second I was going to be blown off that ledge like so many others we'd heard about. All I could do was panic and cry. And the strange thing was. . .I didn't even know I had a fear of heights like that. Bill thought he did, but not me. But here I was in a panic attack like I'd never experienced in my life. And Bill, the one with the fear of heights instinctively went into his gallant protective mode and was as cool, calm and reassuring as if he did this every day. He told me later that his concern for me made him totally forget about his own fear. But the verdict was: There was noooooo way I would be able to stand up on that ledge and start making my way across that skinny little obstacle course in the sky. Bill was afraid for my fear and also for Lori's and said, "We're shutting it down." I couldn't disagree -- because I couldn't speak. I was still emotional and freaked out, but all of a sudden it dawned on me: "Hey. . . I'm not physically spent yet! I could easily continue on physically." And something inside just rose up and decided, "I am not giving in to fear because physically, I can do it!" Sooooooo, I stood up (still crying), hugged that wall and slowly (verrrrry, ever so slowly) started inching myself towards the next hurdle.

http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f313/bpowers2002/SP%20Longs/_MG_4029.jpg

The BARS!!!!! It was one of the scariest parts of the hike. There's a big rock in the middle of the trail, and the only way you could get past it was to hold on to these slippery metal bars and pull yourself over them. I still don't know how I managed to do it. I think I must have fainted from the fear and instinct took over. This was as far as JD could go. My heart went out to him tho because he wanted to make it thru so badly, but in the end, he would pass the bars, but just couldn't go any further. Here's my tribute to our friend -- knowing FULL well what he was going thru!
http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f313/bpowers2002/SP%20Longs/_MG_4036.jpg


I didn't take too many pictures along "The Ledges" because. . . well. . . I thought I'd die if I let go of the wall. Because I have to say. . . there really is not "a trail" up there. It's like a bunch of big rocks on the side of a mountain that somehow you have to maneuver steps around. Being careful that none of the rocks are loose or else. . .you know. .. But here is one I took looking back at the Ledges
http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f313/bpowers2002/SP%20Longs/_MG_4045.jpg


(continued)

Edited by SandyP, 02 September 2010 - 06:22 PM.

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#2 SandyP

 
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:16 PM

During this part of the trip, Alan was truly our savior! I know I never ever would have had the courage to do this if it weren't for his gracious reassurances and encouragement. I'd be sniffling, and he'd be saying, "You're doing great. .. You're really nailing this. . " and he'd tell me what to expect next. As I was finally able to stop shaking and crying, he said, "Look. . .just around that corner, and you're already at the Trough." Now. .. I have heard HORROR STORIES of the trough. In fact, if it hadn't been for Smudge's warnings the day before, the horror of that ridiculous STEEP stretch of rocks may have caught me by surprise, but actually, I was so terrified of the exposure, I thought the Trough would be a welcome relief. And you know what? As hard physically as it was. . . it was a relief. It was not exposed to those sheer drop-off's so I was ready for it! Here are some pictures of that dreadful journey. For me, I had to use both hands the whole way up (but must confess that part of that was so I could lean on my hands and take restful breaks. It was BRUTAL!!!)
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As we were slogging our way up the Trough, we saw Glenn, Michelle, Kelsey & Meghan heading down. They had already summitted, and had that tired glow of victory on their faces, so it inspired us to keep our minds on the payoff and keep going (Thanks, guys!!!)

When we got to the top of the Trough, we had another hurdle to conquer. A BIG ONE! There was a huge boulder on the trail, and the only way around it was to do what I thought looked like technical climbing over it -- putting your feet in little ridges and holding on to other little ridges. But to me, the ridges looked wayyyyyyyyyy too little to be taken seriously as something that would get me over that rock safely. But lo and behold, a stranger with a rope and knots in the rope called out, "Hey. . .anyone want to use my rope before I put it up." ????????? Seriously ????? I think he was an angel. . . ."Thanks, God!" :) So now. Hurdle conquered: The NARROWS. OMG, the Narrows!

'Nuff said: (This is Bill's photo. I was way too scared to take my camera out)
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But thankfullly, it really isn't as scary as the Ledges, and its relatively short. Then. . . unbelievably, there we were at the Home Stretch! Unfortunately! The Home Stretch threatened to do us in. Bill's head was pounding and he couldn't get his heart rate down, and as much Magic Goo (OMG, Alan and Smudge's Magic Goo was freaking AMAZING!!!) as I'd had, my legs were telling me, "DONE!. . . . NO MORE. . PERIOD!" And feeling like that. . .how would you like to face this. Slick granite rock, only climbable by cracks in the rock to stick your feet: Sigh. . . .

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We could see the top, but weren't sure we had it in us to make it. But one step at a time we kept pushing. Then, about the time we were totally spent, we saw the most glorious site! It was a bunch of smiling, cheering faces -- faces that we knew and loved -- peering thru the summit. Clapping. Waving, "Yayyyyyyyyy, You've made it. . . Come on up. . . You're here!!!" Kristin, Lora & Allen, Igloo Ed, Junkie & his kids Alex & Jen, Ben Stafford, Monica & Rick, & John. I wanted to cry. We DID make it! We really DID!!! When we crawled thru that summit, I looked at Bill and Big Al, incredulous: "We really made it, didn't we! We really DID!" Tired turned to euphoria. Sometimes, I still can't believe it:

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Ta-Daaaaaaa!
http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f313/bpowers2002/SP%20Longs/_MG_4067.jpg


http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f313/bpowers2002/SP%20Longs/_MG_4066.jpg

And a Toast with Red Bull :)
http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f313/bpowers2002/SP%20Longs/_MG_4063.jpg


:). . . My favorite picture I think of the whole hike. It pretty much says it all.
http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f313/bpowers2002/SP%20Longs/_MG_4075.jpg

Edited by SandyP, 02 September 2010 - 09:13 AM.

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#3 Grannyheart

 
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:34 PM

OMG Sandy!!! What an awesome report and pics!!! You and Bill did an amazing job getting to the summit!!!! It's so cool how this forum family works together to help others achieve their goals and do what seems to be impossible. You guys DID it!!!!!.....with help from some amazing people, but YOU did it!!! Congrats on your amazing accomplishment!!!! (congrats, too, to the others who summited.....as well as those who ALMOST summited!!!). ALL of you did yourselves proud!!!!
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#4 SandyP

 
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:35 PM

I would say the way back was uneventful. . . .but this is the only hike I've ever been on where the way back was as brutal as the way up. And the way back makes you FACE the exposure. I slid most of the way back sliding down on my seat. . . and ummm. . . .ended up with no seat in my pants by the time we made it down (Ooops!!)

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Back to the Ledges. .. . YIKES. . . . . . . .
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We all swore the hike back added an extra 10 miles! The closer we got to the Boulder Field, the more tired and thirsty we got. Our feet hurt. Our minds hurt. Our butts hurt. . . .but somehow when we all got together, we found a way to laugh and share good times.
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The only damper was how we were all worrying about Rick Stafford, who we thought had sprained his ankle -- but as it turned out -- he actually BROKE it on the Trough, and somehow hobbled all the way back with a broken ankle. Some Rangers came to help him, but seriously, I am in total awe of Rick's Mojo to be able to do that. He is an amazing guy -- and I don't think he or Monica ever lost their effervescent smiles!

This is the last picture of the day. A beautiful pastoral scene to say good-bye to one of the most amazing experiences of my whole life. We got to the trailhead at 9:17 and met John, Lora & Allen who got there a little before us.

I'm so SO THANKFUL for all of my forums friends -- and this day -- my biggest thanks of all goes to Big Al for seeing us thru every step of the way like he said :)
http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f313/bpowers2002/SP%20Longs/_MG_4085.jpg

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#5 John

 
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:42 PM

This is the best trip report ever! Well shot and well said!
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#6 Bill 007

 
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:45 PM

It was a heck of a day, wasn't it???
I'm very proud of how you faced your demon and kicked its butt! Our kids tease Sandy for being all "ribbons & bows" and Foo foo coffee, but she's got a tough streak in her that won't quit. She showed that this trip!

Bill
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#7 SandyM

 
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 10:10 PM

Sandy, what an outstanding trip report and pictures! My heart beat unsteadily just reading it. You and Bill did a fabulous job.
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#8 mistylady

 
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 10:26 PM

Sandi, what an incredible journey! You are one tough cookie. Those pictures are amazing. I don't know how you even had the courage to take out your camera to get those shots. The ledges would have done me in. Congratulations to you and to all those that were there that morning. What a trip!
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#9 dianeh85

 
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 10:44 PM

Great narrative Sandy. Thank you so much for putting this together and taking/posting all these gorgeous pictures. OK so now I have to worry about stumbling over my toe, but....with my new boots, maybe I can over come this new found fear too.

Fabulous post, and your tribute to Jim was so touching and sweet. I know how much he wants to "just do it".

It was a heck of a day, wasn't it???
I'm very proud of how you faced your demon and kicked its butt! Our kids tease Sandy for being all "ribbons & bows" and Foo foo coffee, but she's got a tough streak in her that won't quit. She showed that this trip!

Bill



As I have told my sweet children NEVER underestimate the powers of a mother/woman!
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#10 smudge

 
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Posted 01 September 2010 - 11:08 PM

Good stuff Sandy! Congrats again!
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#11 Monica

 
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 05:32 AM

Sandy,
I hung on every word and loved every picture. A wonderful report by a wonderful, strong, brave, lady!
You and Bill rock! And, Big Al, what a guy!
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#12 hahn23

 
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 05:38 AM

Super great photos and narrative. I really enjoyed reading and viewing. Thanks for posting! Great job.
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#13 soatley

 
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 05:40 AM

Very motivational report. There have been many reports and tons of amazing pictures, but your detailed descriptions really show what you went though mentally and emotionally, but you pressed on. You are an inspiration. The next time I want to turn around for no good reason I'll remember your strength and continue on.

Sandy O
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#14 Mark Zemmin

 
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 06:46 AM

Sandy,

That is an inspirational trip report. I enjoyed the retelling of your internal struggle and how you persevered and conquered your fears. I am really impressed with your courage.

Mark
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#15 renate1

 
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 06:56 AM

Sandy,
Great report of your experience on Longs. Way to battle through and reach your goals! As always wonderful pictures!
Staci
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#16 hector

 
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 07:49 AM

You are AMAZING! :hifive:
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#17 Igloo Ed

 
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 08:06 AM

Amazing Powers!
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#18 Scrapinator

 
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 08:12 AM

Great report...amazing pictures. I especially like the very first one! You should be so proud.
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#19 ProfHall

 
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 08:35 AM

Sandy, not much to add to what folks have already said. This is a great report, and I really appreciate your honesty in telling just how hard it was to keep going at the keyhole, struggling with that autonomic instinct to stop versus your will to keep on. The photos are amazing (no surprise there!), though I agree with an earlier post that my trip wouldn't have many pictures as I'd be too afraid to get the camera out and not be clinging to the rocks!

Way to go, Sandy and Double-oh. I am so glad you made it, and now that one is yours to hold forever.
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#20 junkie

 
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Posted 02 September 2010 - 08:35 AM

Great report...amazing pictures. I especially like the very first one! You should be so proud.


Awesome report Sandy! Still my brightest part of that day was starting to head back down and seeing you and Bill almost to the top!!!!!!! Congrats again.
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