Longs Trip Report
Posted 30 August 2005 - 05:50 PM
We left the trailhead about 1:30AM, the first to sign the trail register that day. I was a little sleepy because it's hard to re-arrange your schedule to be well rested in the middle of the night. For me this is Longs first challenge. But once the cool air hit me and I got into stride, my body awoke and I found energy and enthusiasm. We made quick work of the Goblin Forest and rounded Lady Washington to the boulderfield just in time for a spectacular pink-then-red-then-orange-then-purple sunrise on the diamond face of Longs. It is short lived so it felt very special to be there.
The trip to The Keyhole took a while; we were starting to feel the elevation and had to rest more often. After a 15 minute break at the Agnes Vaille shelter we rebuilt our stamina and began 'the second hike' past the Keyhole. Since we had done the ledges section before, we both felt like we knew what to expect. It turned out to be more exposed than we remembered and even a little scary in places. We often walked in a crouched position with our fingertips grazing the smooth rock. Aside from a few butterflies we got through the ledges just fine and after that lovely section where you have to hike downwards we reached the bottom of the trough. We have also been here before and this time, aside from blue skies and sun instead of snow flurries, it was just like we remembered. There was zero snow in the route so we could take whatever path looked easiest. We zig-zagged our way up what we felt was the path of least resistance, pausing more frequently now about every 15 feet to catch our breath. We were relieved there was not much more climbing around the corner to the right where you cannot see when you are at the bottom. The chockstone happened upon us very quickly. I thought I knew what it would look like but I wasn't even close. Andy was able to very awkwardly maneuver his way up but I had considerable difficulty. Fortunately I had read about an alternate approach to the left. It worked great for me and I highly recommend it to anyone who has trouble with the chockstone. I have heard many reports of hikers turning back at this crux but I wonder how many would have been able to continue if they had found this alternative. To expend the energy to make it all the way up there but not complete the route would be demoralizing.
The narrows were narrow. Go figure. We had a little trouble at the beginning as there is a narrow gap you must pass through but our packs wedged in it awkwardly and we had to wiggle our way through. There was some decision making necessary to choose a safe path down the thin passage but we soon found ourselves in front of the intimidating home stretch. From the bottom it looks almost gravity defyingly steep. We chose our paths carefully and followed a series of 1 foot wide vertical cracks that had (what can be best described as) tiny little 'stairs' in them. Andy was really feeling it and needed to rest a lot. It probably took us the better part of an hour to get up the homestretch which is pretty laughable but with blue skies in all directions (and a relatively low number of climbers out today) taking our sweet time felt prudent. Some folks were up at the top looking down urging on the others coming up. It was kinda nice to get a little applause upon reaching the apex.
We did all the usual summit stuff; signed the log, teetered on the summit stone, took some photos and had ours taken. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Chasm Lake is easily viewable from the summit without having to teeter too close to the edge. Now I have a clear memory of being at the top looking down to recall when I make future trips to Chasm Lake - one of my favorite places. Neither of us were able to eat much of anything and this concerned me. My caringly-made honey baked turkey ham sandwich with spicy mustard tasted dry and unpalettable. Andy rested while I felt compelled to walk to all the corners of the square shaped summit to see all the vistas.
We could not really 'relax' up there knowing we'd have to negotiate all the difficult and exposed areas again on the way down with gravity not on our side. Feeling as ready as we were going to get, we started down the homestretch. Most folks feel most comfortable sliding down on their rear ends in a slide-and-crabwalk fashion. We were no different, in fact it's a good thing we didn't wear right through to our drawers. There were a few decisions to be made on which path to take as there were a number of flat slabs that were too smooth to safely slide down. Once down, the narrows again posed a challenge with the bullseyes on the rocks only hinting at the path to take. It was not fun climbing upwards again and we had to stop often to breathe. I thought it was important to not be huffing and puffing through the exposed sections for fear of an ill-timed dizzy spell. It took a while but we eventually found ourselves back at the top of the trough, now looking down at that chockstone. The proposition of going straight down it was too intimidating so again I followed the easier alternate route, this time to our right. I had to make a short jump down but fortunately my landing was true.
The trough on the way down was not all that much easier than going up. Aside from bracing against gravity, you have to be careful not to dislodge loose rocks. Eventually we were able to move a little better and it felt easier to breathe as we descended. We reached the bottom and slowly we followed another group across and back to the ledges. Again we had to be careful to make wise decisions on which path to take as the bullseyes, when visible, only allude to the general path. The V-rocks were fairly simple with their nice grippy dry surface, but some of the other exposed moves were a bit more disconcerting. We took our time and piece by piece we make it across the ledges and back to the relative safety of The Keyhole and the Agnes Vaille shelter. Finally it started to sink in what we had accomplished.
To make a Longs story short, the hike back down was long. Very very long. Our water supplies dwindled and Andy had to purify some water from a questionable stream in the boulderfield. Six liters between the two of us and only a couple bathroom stops shows how much we must have perspired! The sun, now high in the sky, was taking its toll. Nausea set in on the both of us and the 6 mile hike back to the trailhead seemed like 60. I'm sure it didn't help that we weren't able to eat much all day. Other symptoms of exhaustion crept in and it became a slog. My feet hurt on every step that landed on rock and I found myself looking forward to short patches of dirt. Eventually Mount Lady Washington provided a welcome shield to the sun and we felt much better walking in the shade. We were running very late on our planned return time as it was already after 5pm. Fueled by impatience, our pace quickened and breaks became few as we descended through the seemingly endless Goblin Forest. It seemed like an eternity until we came to the Estes Cone turnoff that marks 1/2 mile from the trailhead. Even that last 1/2 mile felt more like a full one. Finally through the trees we caught a glimpse of the welcome sight of incandescent light from the illuminated trail register. Finally our expedition was complete.
We certainly didn't 'conquer' Longs, to me it's more like the mountain allows you passage. It was worth the price, not so much for the views and the terrain (which were spectacular) but for being able to overcome the physical and mental challenges that Longs demands. I am very glad to have reached my goal.
Posted 30 August 2005 - 06:49 PM
Congrats on the summit! And thanks for the report!
Posted 30 August 2005 - 06:50 PM
Posted 30 August 2005 - 07:29 PM
I really enjoyed your report. Especially your thoughts about each of the various sections of the climb. In particular, your sense of acomplishment coming through the keyhole. I had that exact same feeling at that point. Thanks for allowing me to relive that great memory!
Posted 30 August 2005 - 07:37 PM
Posted 30 August 2005 - 08:02 PM
Posted 30 August 2005 - 09:59 PM
Edited by kcmule, 30 August 2005 - 10:22 PM.
Posted 01 September 2005 - 06:51 PM
G'ma and G'pa Downs
Posted 02 September 2005 - 12:12 AM
Posted 21 July 2006 - 12:56 PM
It is indeed unforgettable.
Posted 21 July 2006 - 03:38 PM
Can anyone discuss this alternative to the left in more detail? Does it go around the chockstone?
0 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users