Longs...a long time ago.
Posted 24 July 2006 - 01:57 PM
This is more a collection of memories than an out-and-out trip report. There are already many of those done by folks who can write far better than I.
It was late September, 1984 when we made it to the top of Longs. ‘We’ was my best friend in the world, Roy, and me. This was our third attempt, the previous two having been tried also in the prior two Septembers. In our first try, we simply under-estimated the commitment needed and after spending a night camped out at Jims Grove (yes, you used to be able to camp there), Roy and I just weren’t up to the task. The next year (’83), we tried again and were turned back at the Boulderfield by a very boisterous thunderstorm.
For our final attempt in ’84, we decided to try a day-hike blitz. We went to bed around 6:00pm and were at the trailhead and hiking by 1:00am the next morning. By the time we made it to the Agnes Vail shelter around 6:00am, we were both tired and COLD! Mind you, this was a couple of 31 year-old, smoking, flat-landers, with zero training. On the way up to treeline, I remember Roy saying, “I don’t know Philip…I’m not sure I can do this.” My reply was, “you ARE doing it. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.” Sunrise was utterly spectacular. But it was the view of the night stars that had Roy and I in such awe. I had to convince Roy that we were looking at the Milky Way and not a cloud.
Unfortunately, I’ve always had some minor problems with my knees and they had been ‘talking’ to me since the first hour on the trail. We were even considering heading back down. About that time, some other hikers showed up and they were moving up through the Keyhole. Between the light of the new day, the temperature warming just slightly, and those other hikers, we garnered enough motivation to keep going up. I’m glad we did.
Without pictures, and of course even those come up woefully short, I won’t bore you with a section-by-section narrative. But I will say that every step of the climb past the Keyhole was exhilarating and the views soul-moving.
By the time we made it to the Homestretch, we were pretty spent and my knees were BLOWN OUT! I had talked to a doctor about hiking and he had told me that if I could deal with the pain, I would not be doing further damage by hiking. I kept thinking of that sage advice while trying to get ten upward steps before having to rest both my lungs and knees.
Then we were there. Five years of staring at Longs every September and wishing I could stand at the top, and it had come true. My knees were in such bad shape by then that about all I could muster is to get a picture of the summit marker, sign the log, relax and try my best to let the view and the experience burn in before we had to head back down.
Summiting Longs does indeed take commitment. A different level of tenacity and perseverance for each person of course, but for all who reach the top there is, for sure, a payment to be made. My payment was 8 miles of climbing up, and 8 more of climbing down with each step akin to having a hot knife jabbed into the side of the knee. After meeting another buddy who was picking us up at the Ranger Station, the first words I said was, “I’ll never do it again.” That was just the pain talking; it was worth every agonizing step.
The one thing I can guarantee about climbing Longs is that those who do it will NEVER forget it. Even now, 22 years and many many life experiences later, I can look at the great pictures and descriptions here on the forum and memories come flooding back. Vivid almost to the point of being there again.
And you just might learn something about yourself on the way up.
Two years ago on a Sunday morning, as I was getting ready to go over to Roys house, his wife called and told me he had passed away. A heart attack that came out of nowhere.
I wish we could still get together and re-live our grand adventure of ’84 (and 30 years of being best friends) as we had done so many times. My recollections and ruminations of that remarkable day are now ‘solo’.
Okay gang, sorry for such a looooong post. Other than to my wife and two sons, I haven’t talked much about that extraordinary hike.
Posted 24 July 2006 - 02:35 PM
My hat's off to you and your buddy, Roy. What a great way to commemorate your friendship for us. It is amazing that you two were able to just will yourself up that mountain. It was hard enough for me when I was in shape.
Thanks for sharing such an epic adventure,
Posted 24 July 2006 - 02:46 PM
Posted 24 July 2006 - 02:57 PM
We've done a lot of great hikes, climbed Hallett and Chapin, but never have
made it to the top of Longs. After 26 years of hiking in RMNP, now I feel like
Posted 24 July 2006 - 05:57 PM
Posted 24 July 2006 - 07:11 PM
Thanks for sharing!
Posted 24 July 2006 - 08:23 PM
Posted 24 July 2006 - 10:11 PM
Posted 25 July 2006 - 07:57 AM
Thanks a lot for the kind words. I think Roy would really like the fact that a bunch of friendly folks who also share his love of the Park, now know that he made it too.
And for me, there was something oddly comforting in telling the story.
P.S. - John, you make an excellent point.
- Hike WI, if we could make it, you can. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other
Posted 25 July 2006 - 08:47 AM
Posted 25 July 2006 - 12:16 PM
Posted 30 August 2006 - 12:11 PM
Roy stepping through the Keyhole:
I THIINK this was at the Ledges:
Posted 30 August 2006 - 12:13 PM
Up the Trough (ugh!):
Posted 30 August 2006 - 12:14 PM
The summit marker:
Looking out towards Twin Sisters with Chasm Lake and Peacock Pool below:
Posted 30 August 2006 - 12:21 PM
Very well written. Sorry about Roy. I got goose bumps when I got to that part.
The pictures that followed are priceless.
Thanks for a great "feel good" story.
Posted 30 August 2006 - 12:23 PM
Thanks so much for posting the pictures of your memorable climb.
Posted 30 August 2006 - 12:29 PM
Film pictures really seem to capture it for me, more so than digital.
Posted 30 August 2006 - 12:54 PM
Posted 30 August 2006 - 12:58 PM
story for us...
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