This is my first season hiking 14ers, and Long's has been in my mind since I started. I have read so much about it on this site and in Roach's book - and I'll be honest: some days I felt it was too much, and some days it got me really excited. I had a few chances to do this peak, but it finally happened yesterday. My buddy had off from work and the weather reports said it was going to be the only sunny day of the week. So I took my last vacation of the year and we went up Wednesday night around 7pm. We got to the Long's Peak campground around 10, and there were a few campers who said the lot had been full till 3pm and they had been turning people around to camp in Estes. We talked a while, then said our goodbyes and that we would go to Estes. My buddy and I debated whether to go so far only to get up at 2am to start the hike. So, we ended up driving down the road a bit, walking into the trees and sleeping under the stars. NOTE: there is no camping allowed at the trailhead parking lot. At 2am the alarm sounded and we instantly decided to wait till 3. My buddy slept - I didn't get a wink. Damn!
Up at 3am, on the trail at 330. The parking lot at the trailhead was completely full and we could see plenty of headlamps heading into the woods. Hiking at night is surreal. You catch a glimpse of the life around you, but it's mainly about putting one foot in front of the other and only experiencing the limited world of your headlamp beam. The woods section is a couple miles, and we eventually broke the tree line and headed up to Lady Washington. We still couldn't see a thing, but we were so excited for what was to come that the hike seemed like a half hour. The hike from the trailhead to Lady Washington through the Granite Pass all the way to the Boulder Field seemed like nothing on the way up - but the way down from Longs through all this to the car felt like the longest walk I've ever done! So pace yourself - it's a long walk back and you need plenty of energy.
Me at 5am on the way to Lady Washington
There aren't pictures that can accurately describe the vastness of the Boulder Field. It had high winds and tons of people choosing their own path across them. I wasn't sure how all the people in the field slept at night. The camping spots have little stone walls built around them, but it's still gotta be hard with that amount of wind. Passed the camp sites everyone chooses their own path up the boulders on their way to the Keyhole. The scrambling was painful up there, but the wind instantly stopped on the other side of the mountain. Standing in the Keyhole we just assured all the worried faces climbing beneath us that the grass was greener on the other side so, "Keep Coming! It's awesome over here!"
In the Boulder Field on the way to the infamous Keyhole
Next were the Ledges. I was so excited to start the meat of the hike. This section was just a blast to find my way through the bull's eyes and enjoy the gorgeous views around me. This passage moves up and down the mountain side but the path is easily found. Just keep your eyes on your feet and keep a hand on the rock. The Trough was next, and it was easily the worst part of the ascent for me. It has some solid rock, and a lot of loose rock. The bull's eyes were there but there are plenty of alternate routes to take. Some parts we had fun with each going a different direction and seeing who got there easier. The wind got pretty brutal at the top of the Trough, but again stopped immediately once you turned the corner and headed to the Narrows.
Heading up the Trough. The hardest moves we faced went up 8ft or so
Making a move in the Trough
View looking down in the Trough
As soon as we turned into the Narrows both of our jaws dropped, and instead of saying "Holy S*^t" in fear, we said "Holy S*^t!" in complete awe. This was my favorite section. You had to hug the mountain a few times, but the footing is good enough to where you can cross this pretty easily. It was just amazing to see the drop off and feel the vastness of the gully below you. It made us feel alive to be overcoming all these different challenges on the journey.
Me and Mike on the Narrows. A nice foreign gentleman was nice enough to snap this one off for us
Crossing the Narrows
For some reason we didn't take any pictures in the Homestretch. But it consists of a smoother rock that goes up pretty steep. The harder thing about this stretch is the descent. But keep your butt close to the ground, use your upper body to hold your weight as you move down, and be careful. It was so great to have to keep all my hands and feet on the rock moving up and down the Homestretch. All the 14ers I've done this summer have been walk-ups. And as daunting as hiking is at 14,000ft - I wanted to try to climb! Long's Peak was amazing for me at this moment in time. I needed confidence that I could something like this, and it only makes me want to do some harder mountains next year. I've been working extremely hard in the gym since February(for the first time in my life I'm in shape!) and this has been the first natural test of my body. I'm ready to climb....I'm ready for more 14ers.....I'm ready to challenge myself. Here's to a great summer!
Mike and me on the summit. Which, by the way, is a huge area! Could we possibly have a party up here someday?!
Epic picture of me sitting a ledge with thousands of feet below me
The descent was equally as challenging, but once we got into the Boulder Field it morphed from physically challenging to mentally challenging. This is what really turns me on about climbing these things. It stretches every part of you and makes you overcome things that you never thought you could do. My challenge for the descent: hiking four hours with blisters all over my feet. I've learned something new on every mountain. Hiking 14 miles over 11 hours made me realize that I need a pair of comfortable trail runners or something. I love my boots - but it was too much on my poor little pinky toes.
The trip was 6 hours, the trip down was 5. From 330am-230pm.....what a great day! Can't wait for the next one(Kelso Ridge of Torrey's on Sunday Aug 28th if anyone wants in!)
My feet hurt!!!