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9-1-2006 Longs Peak Summit


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#1 OklaHiker

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 01:58 PM

Warning this is really long and detailed.

On the morning of Friday, September 1, my eyes opened to the blue interior of my tent and the beeping, annoying sound of my cell phone alarm. It took me a moment to realize exactly where I was and what I was supposed to be doing, then I quickly sat up and looked at the time. I was relieved to find that it was only 7:30 AM. I hadn't overslept, my tent was still intact and I was relatively warm. Most days I'd be content to lay there and slowly come to my senses, but most days I don't wake up in huge boulder field at approx. 13,000 feet smile1.gif. So I got out of the wraps of my mummy bag and stepped outside my tent to see this.



... and this...



It was a beautiful, clear, crisp morning and I was going to summit Longs Peak. Longs Peak is the reason I was in Colorado. I had set the summit of Longs Peak as my goal and then planned the rest of my trip around that goal. Everything I had already done in my trip was to prepare me for this day. So, I ate some Teddy Grahams for breakfast, put on my hiking clothes, gathered my gear, laced up my boots and I was ready to go. I went to the little hole in the rocks that Boulder Brook was gurgling out of (literally) to fill up my water bottle filter and set my sights on the Keyhole.

As I began the trek across the boulderfield, however, I began to feel absolutely horrible. Now I'm one of those people that generally does not function in the morning. I don't like to talk to people until I wake up, which is generally around lunch time. A lot of early mornings I don't feel that great for whatever reason, but I began to feel REALLY bad. It was like I was at high altitude for the first time all over again. I had a throbbing headache and was experiencing some major nausea. Plus, climb up the boulderfield to the Keyhole is not exactly easy and it was really cold.

There is very little "trail"; most of the way you're boulder hopping. I was getting pretty worried that if I didn't get to feeling better, I wouldn't be able to summit. But I just kept pressing on, focusing on the the next rock, looking for the easiest way up. I was going slow, but the Keyhole was getting closer, which was encouraging.



I finally made it to the Agnes Vailles shelter, which was a pretty cool little place.



And then up to the Keyhole.


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#2 OklaHiker

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:00 PM

Now stepping up into the Keyhole was one of the most amazing things ever. You've been in and surrounded by what is basically lunar landscape for a while and then the world just opens up to you. You go from this...



To this...


(You can see the shadow of me taking this pic in the Keyhole.)

And this...



Glacier Gorge just opens up before you. You can see Black Lake, Blue Lake, Green Lake, Frozen Lake and other peaks for miles. The view is refreshing and exhilarating! Oh, and the view is pretty cold. The wind was gusting through the Keyhole pretty strongly and it was pretty chilly up there. I moved over to the side and sat down to rest and soak in the views. I also stashed my trekking poles on my pack at this point because they were becoming pretty useless.

After making it to the Keyhole I started feeling a lot better and had some renewed enthusiasm. So, I located the trail of little red/orange targets and set out across the Traverse. At this point I wrongly thought that I was going across the Narrows for some reason. The Traverse really wasn't all that bad. It's a fairly steep slope into Glacier Gorge, but it's nothing to make you wet your pants. The route is not too bad. You lose some elevation and then gain it back. You just follow the little targets...



Foot picture smile1.gif


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#3 OklaHiker

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:02 PM

Looking back at the route



The cool thing about the Traverse is that every time you turn around you see more of this. You can see Mills Lake and Jewel Lake in this picture.



I finally reached the end of the Traverse and the bottom of the Trough.



I quickly re-named this section the Torture Chamber because that's exactly what it was. This was definitely the hardest part of the Longs Peak climb for me. I would literally take a few steps upward, stop to rest, take a few more steps and stop to rest. Repeat 1,593 times. There was absolutely no way I was going to quit, but if I was the quitting type, this is where it would happen.

Up, up, up I went. Slowly but surely. The only redeeming quality about this section was the views of Glacier Gorge when you turned around. I was doing that quite a bit along with the huffing and puffing.

Looking back down the Torture Chamber


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#4 OklaHiker

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:04 PM

I finally came to the big boulder at the top of the Torture Chamber. I think somebody called this the chock stone or something like that in another post about this section. It was pretty tough to get over. On the way down I saw some people coming up the right side of it, but I chose to go up the left side of it. While I was scrambling over, my foot slipped but luckily I had a good handhold. Otherwise, I might've really hurt myself.

Looking up



Looking down from it



Now that I had made through the Torture Chamber unscathed I knew nothing could turn me back now caribou.gif. I got to the top of the Trough and it was another one of the those "world opening up before you" experiences. My senses had been numbed by the Trough and my focus had just been getting up to the next little ledge for the last while. So when I topped out and looked around it was just beautiful. If you look to the right when you get to the top of the Trough you'll see this...



So the next obstacle was the Narrows. I had heard all about the Narrows while reading about this trip and I expected it to be pretty bad. Honestly, it wasn't that bad to me. I'm not really afraid of heights all that much and the handholds were adequate enough to make me feel secure. There were a few tight spots like the one below, but it looks scarier than it was.

Tight spot



After that spot you can follow a crack down and around to the Homestretch. As I said, it really wasn't all that bad. I never felt like I was in danger of falling or anything like that. If you're scared of heights, just don't look down and focus on the next few feet, taking advantage of any handholds along the wall.

Looking back


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#5 OklaHiker

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:05 PM

My cold, but happy self on the Narrows (I think... that is I think it's the Narrows, I know it's me)



So after negotiating the Narrows I came to the Homestretch. About this time I caught up with a man and woman climbing this together. The route up the Homestretch isn't real obvious so I watched the way they went up and followed. The man had obviously done this sort of thing before so I paid attention to his guidance to the woman. I caught up with them on the Homestretch and found out the man's name was Mike and he was leading his wife up Longs for the first time. He told me he has climbed all 55 14ers in Colorado and that this was his 3rd time up Longs. It was nice knowing I was following a very experience mountaineer up the Homestretch.

The view out from the bottom of the Homestretch. Some guy was just sitting there.



Mike and his wife (can't remember her Japanese name) on the Homestretch



There is some exposure on the Homestretch but it's really not as bad as it looks. There are plenty of cracks to provide handholds and footholds. It was huffing and puffing all the way up but I was pretty motivated knowing that the summit was right THERE.

Almost there!



As I got closer to the top it got a little easier. I could almost taste the summit. My summit attempt of Flattop got spoiled by weather so I was to really eager to climb to the summit of a mountain for the first time in my life. I could almost taste it.

When I climbed the last few feet of the Homestretch and finally reached the flat top of Longs Peak the most satisfying feeling came over me. I was there and I had reached my goal. WOO HOO caribou.gif
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#6 OklaHiker

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:07 PM

On the summit



US Geological survey - 14,225 feet



Some views from the top




Chasm Lake


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#7 OklaHiker

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:08 PM

Did I mention that this was an absolutely gorgeous day? You can tell from the pics how clear it was, but the wind wasn't blowing very hard and it really wasn't very cold on the summit. It was PERFECT! I was expecting there to be a lot of people on the summit but there only 5 when I was up there.

I left the Boulderfield around 8:00 and reached the summit around 11:00. I stayed on the summit for about 45 minutes before heading down. I followed Mike and his wife down to the Boulderfield, which was cool. They were really nice people.

There were a quite a few people coming up when we were going down. Here are a few shots of the way down.

Down the Homestretch



The Narrows



The Trough (aka Torture Chamber)



The Traverse (it started snowing on us a little here)



Me at the Keyhole


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#8 OklaHiker

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:14 PM

I made it back down to my campsite in the Boulderfield at around 2:00 and got some water and cooked some food. I was in for a surprise though when I reached my tent. I had accidentally left an empty food container inside my tent and a marmot, or maybe some marmots, broke into my tent! They made a hole in the front screen, a big hole in the side screen and a couple little holes in the back. They also chewed up my sleeping pad a little bit. However, the biggest abomination was that they tried to steal my TOBASCO SAUCE! I found my Tabasco bottle outside the rock ring around my site. THE NERVE! So, if you're staying in the Boulderfield, remember this. Use the ammo boxes for everything that smells!

I was getting a little worried about the clouds that were moving in. I still had to break down my tent and pack up before leaving the Boulderfield, but if a storm was coming I didn't want to break down the tent just yet. Some clouds were moving into the Boulderfield and I couldn't tell if they were storm clouds or just... regular clouds.

Approaching clouds



I was glad I wasn't still on the summit



View of cloudy Boulderfield from my tent



As I was in a quandary about what to do, a ranger came by checking permits. He said he was on his way down so I decided that if was going down, I was going to follow him. So I quickly packed away my gear and headed out. Visibility was getting worse and I hiked out of the Boulderfield really fast trying to catch up with the ranger. The ranger and 3 more people were cutting across the tundra off trail so I left the trail to catch up with them. I finally caught up with them and they welcomed me to their little group. With the ranger were two off-duty rangers and another man. They said they were taking a short cut down. I'm telling you that it was a short cut. We weren't really going down any trail, we were going straight down the mountain. There were no switchbacks on this route down. This "trail" eventually led to the Jim Grove trail (??) and also followed an old telephone line down. It was pretty cool to go down with the rangers. You can see how foggy and cloudy it was in the pic below. That's the on-duty ranger I was following down.



We finally made it down to the Longs Peak trailhead around 4:00 and I was very happy to take the pack off my back and sit down in my car. I was really happy, really tired and really satisfied at accomplishing my goal. There were a lot of people worried about me doing Longs by myself, but I'm glad I did most of it by myself. When you're by yourself there's no one to try to impress and your true motivations are exposed. You also see your true fears, strengths and weaknesses. You see what you are truly made of and when the going gets tough you have to reach within yourself, and to God, to get strength and determination to keep going.

Longs Peak was probably the hardest thing I've ever done but also the most rewarding. The summit was truly satisfying and awesome. However, it's the journey that made it so special. The Keyhole route on Longs Peak was truly an epic adventure that I'll remember for a lifetime.


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#9 Andy

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:19 PM

Congratulations! Nice trip report. I was especially interested in that last bit because I big cold front ripped through Fort Collins that day at about 4:00pm. I was curious what that must have been like up on Longs - but it seems it was no big deal except for the fog. Again, congrats on your climb!
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#10 ProfHall

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:29 PM

What a great report...thanks for sharing your adventure. Congrats on summiting! caribou.gif
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#11 Rhonda

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:30 PM

BRAVO!!!

I'm so proud of you! I feel like your mom! I guess because I have a 25 year old son who is very independent minded and strong-willed and I could see him doing all the things you have done.

Rhonda
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#12 John

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:33 PM

This is simply one of the best Longs trip reports I have ever read. Great, great job!
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#13 GLENNinPA

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:38 PM

Thanks for a great report and photos. I felt like I was there.
Congrats!!
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#14 John

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:51 PM

QUOTE (RhondaM @ Sep 8 2006, 03:30 PM)
BRAVO!!!

I'm so proud of you!  I feel like your mom!  I guess because I have a 25 year old son who is very independent minded and strong-willed and I could see him doing all the things you have done.

Rhonda


(Watch out or she'll be telling you to sit up straight and chew with your mouth closed...)
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#15 becky

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 03:05 PM

QUOTE (OklaHiker @ Sep 8 2006, 03:05 PM)
I was to really eager to climb to the summit of a mountain for the first time in my life. I could almost taste it.



I was struck by what you wrote here, because it's amazing that your first summit ever was Long's Peak! Do you think all other summits now will pale by comparison? smile1.gif

This was such a great trip report, and congratulations on your awesome accomplishment! I felt like I was there with you as I was reading. Thanks so much for sharing your pics and adventures!

Becky
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#16 JDE

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 03:17 PM

That was a terrific report. Your descriptions and pictures flowed together perfectly. Thanks for sharing it with us.
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#17 mwilson

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 03:38 PM

Thanks for your wonderful report and pictures and congratulations on your summit!

Marsha
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#18 wjmann

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 03:45 PM

awesome! i was in the park during some of the same time you were... every time it was getting foggy like that I wondered what it was like up there. i would've tagged along with those rangers too!

and not to mention those pictures are great!
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#19 Pretzel

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 03:53 PM

Way to go Oklahiker.. That's a great report and I also really liked the pictures. Congratulations.

Bill
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#20 B-Jay

 
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Posted 08 September 2006 - 03:56 PM

That was a super report! My heart was pounding as I was reading about and seeing the pictures of the "Torcher Chamber" and the Homestretch.

Congratulations on your accomplishment.
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