Longs Peak has probably been at the top of my 14er wishlist since i started hiking these mountains last year. I frequently see longs when i drive to boulder. It just looks so huge, much bigger than anything around it. I had always thought longs would be too hard for me...i remember looking at the pictures of the narrows and the ledges when i first joined 14ers last year, and just thinking there would be no way i could get up there. It looked really, really scary. Still, i really hoped that one day i would be able to do it.
The weather forecast for wednesday looked stellar...0% chance of storms and calm winds. Almost seemed too good to be true for early august. I have now done a few class 3 routes and felt that i was up for the challenge on longs. Chase, Annie, Will and I decided to go up and give it a shot. We left Golden at 2:15am, and instantly hit construction on 93. We detoured, picked up will in boulder, and made it to the ranger station around 4. no parking spots, so we ended going about 1/4 mile down the road. After some waffling, we hiked up the road and hit the trail at 430.
The trail through the forest is so mellow and gentle you almost find yourself wishing it would be steeper. no such luck though, as its an easy walk through the woods to treeline. We made it to treeline right as the sun started coming up...not sure what the mountains are to the east of longs, but they made for an awesome sunrise.
Turning back to longs, the alpenglow on the diamond was amazing. I have never seen a face like the diamond in my life...pictures really dont do justice to how huge it is. The fact that people actually climb this thing blows my mind.
Continuing onward, we hit granite pass and looked at the sign that said it was 3.3 miles to the summit of longs. I really wished i hadnt seen that sign. Hiking to the boulderfield was easy going on a great trail. Pretty soon we could see the keyhole and i started getting excited. I was ready for something different after 6 miles of walking.
The keyhole looks so cool from a distance, and it just gets better as you get closer.
We came to the campsites, where we took a quick breather and a couple of us elected to use the solar toilet. We noticed a lady set her pack down, and almost immediately a marmot poked his head out of the rocks. It was comical to watch him creep up to the pack, looking around to see if anyone was paying attention. We called out to the lady and she managed to save her pack. the marmot slunk off to the boulders to wait for his next mark.
i wouldve gotten away with it too if not for you meddling kids!
There is a sign at the keyhole that proclaims the danger of longs, but apparently a lot of people dont take it seriously. Throughout the day, i was blown away by how unprepared people were. Jeans, tennis shoes, wifebeaters, no packs, tiny water bottles etc etc etc. We saw one group below granite pass that had 1 small backpack between 5 people. They were headed up at 430 in the afternoon.
self reliance is essential
I found the hike through the boulderfield to be kind of fun...after reading countless trip reports of people complaining about the endless slog through the boulders, i was expecting it to suck. But there were plenty of cairns and big stable rocks to walk on. Coming up to the keyhole, we stopped to check out the little stone hut.
Coming through the keyhole was one of the more impressive sights ive seen in the mountains. It was just breathtaking. The keyhole is really well named...it really does feel like you are passing through a little keyhole. The huge over hanging piece of rock that forms the keyhole is spectacular.
So now the real route begins, over the ledges. As we started out, i realized that the ledges were nowhere near as difficult or exposed as pictures had led me to believe. It gets a little narrow in spots, but for the most part its plenty wide. The rock with the metal bars is very easy to get around...i didnt feel like i needed to use the bars. The route finding is extremely easy thanks to the bullseyes. The only real hazard i noticed was the polished rock in some places. I found it slippery in my trail runners, but most of it was avoidable. Pretty soon we were staring up the trough!
most exposed section of ledges
The trough is big, and looks pretty difficult, but once you get going, its very easy. There are bullseyes every 20 feet or so. We all took different paths, with chase and will (rockclimbers) opting to play around on the slab the right side of the trough. I just tried to stay where it was most solid, which was generally 'off route' but id say there is no right or wrong way up the trough. just whatever feels best and gets you to the top.
me and annie in the trough
chase picking a much harder line
The most challenging part of the whole route is at the top of the trough. The chockstone is a big, imposing rock blocking an easy exit. We went around it to the right on a slab, but there is an equally easy way to the left. If you were shorter, i could see it being more difficult, but we all made it up and over no problem.
Next came the dreaded narrows. I fully expected to be scared shitless right here. But, much like the ledges, they really arent that narrow. There are a couple of narrow spots and there is expsoure, but the moves required are little more than walking. I couldnt believe how calm i felt. We walked across, climbed the little wall at the end and we were at the base of the home stretch.
most exposed section of narrows
The home stretch looks impossibly steep and difficult in pictures, but in reality its not bad. There are some very polished sections of rock, which are slippery, but they are avoidable. We worked our way up, generally staying on the left crack. Chase, wearing approach shoes, just walked right up, barely using his hands. I had more trouble in my well worn trail runners, but it was not difficult. When I reached the final 20 feet of the homestretch, i realized that i was about to summit longs peak. I pushed up and over onto the huge summit of longs and felt elated. My goal had been realized.
you really could play football up here
me and keith richards on the summit block
peering down the diamond (i think)
We summitted in about 6.5 hours from the car, with a 20 minute break in the boulder field. We took our time, since the weather was perfect. We sat on the summit for about 40 minutes, had some food, took some photos, and just relaxed. Walking from one end of the summit to the other takes a surprising amount of time. During the summit block photos, i had my camera and chases in my hands and managed to fumble both of them. Luckily the only damage was to mine, and it was minor.
Coming down was uneventful, just long. The homestretch is easy going, just watch for the polished granite. the hardest move going down is the same as going up: the chockstone at the top of the trough. I went around to the right and was basically able to walk around it, with a biggish step down. Once we came through the keyhole the difficulties were over. We started the slog through the boulderfield (which seemed much longer on the way down), down to granite pass, down to the forest and finally to the ranger station. one last walk down the road to the car and we had made it. 12 hours car to car.
A few random observations/thoughts
- we were the only people wearing helmets. seemed like we didnt really need them, but i prefer to keep my brain intact
-there was a bag of poop on the ledges. several more on the length of trail. Also lots of horse doodoo on the trail in the woods.
-had it rained for 10 minutes, a lot of people would have been in major trouble.
-narrows/ledges are generally wide enough that there can be 2 lanes of traffic
-the last half mile to the ranger station seemed to take a lifetime
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):