| Long‘s Keyhole with a rap down the North face
So for the past 5 years I have looked at Long's, heard stories about Long's and read trip report after trip report on Long's. I felt like I had climbed the mountain before I even got there. I was telling people what was coming up next the whole day. I hadn't climbed the mountain because I was scared of it. I hadn't done any "GerryRoach" class 3 climbing yet and wasn't sure if I was going to get freaked out on the exposure or not. It was more the fear of the unknown than anything though. So I just had to try it this year.
Wow- I don't know what everyone was talking about. It was a blast and I wasn't scared at all!!!!
We drove to the campground on Tuesday night, got there at 10pm and quickly tried to catch some ZZZZ's. I couldn't get comfortable in the back of our SUV so I only slept about 2 hours. My husband got about 3.5 and our friend Greg who slept in a tent got about 2 also. We were all up by 2am with the help of coffee and redbull and at the TH at 3am for the start. We moved fairly quickly through the trees with our headlamps and we all commented on the amount of headlamps ahead of us and behind us.
We arrived at the Chasm junction at 5:15 and we stopped for a privy break. Those Privy's are cool! We quickly continued on with hopes to be at the keyhole for sunrise. Unfortunately we weren't as fast as we thought we could be and made it to the boulderfields by sunrise or 6:15. We headed quickly through the field as we listened to the Ptarmagins and marmots chirping. The wind began to howl as we closed in on the keyhole....somewhat of an eerie feeling when you are worried about what is next.
We were in and out of the Keyhole by 7am. I couldn't believe the view from the other side. That mountain is gorgeous all the way around!
Looking through the keyhole
So we began the traverse of the ledges. I personally was not scared on the ledges. I kept my cool knowing my husband was a little freaked by some of the exposure. My trick was not to look to my right. If I pretended that there was no fall risk, then it was like walking on a sidewalk. There were a few moves along the ledges that required use of your hands, but very few and they were more fun than scary, imo. There is one rock that has some metal stakes on it that you use for hand holds on the way up and foot holds on the way down. I heard that this might be a big deal, but again it wasn't.
Looking from the keyhole at the ledges
Looking back at the keyhole after the start of the ledges
After passing through the ledges we merged into the trough. Not even close to what I expected. Lavender Colouir on Sneffels is a ton worse. The bullseyes mark the way the entire way from the ledges to the homestretch. If you are following them you can't go wrong. Although there is some dirt and loose rocks in the trough, it is more solid rock and fun for climbing on and around. There is a pretty decent trail through the trough as well. Since it can be dangerous to be climbing up with all of the people there, I tried to make the best of it and talk to everyone. I met several really nice people from all different places. It was nice to encourage and get encouragement from others!
At the end of the ledges looking to the trough
Looking up the trough
At the top of the trough there is a block to climb up that didn't really seem too big a deal, plenty of hand holds and footholds. On the other side of it was the entrance to the narrows. At the beginning you can stay to the left of some solid boulders and really never get that close to the edge.
Me at the top of the trough
Climbing the block into the narrows
I never once felt scared crossing into the narrows. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and walk using slow, purposeful, steps. It was about 8:20 when we reached the narrows which only took us about 10 minutes to walk through. It is so quick that as one person put it, it is a welcomed change after the trough. The whole time you're walking on the narrows you never have to get that close to the side with exposure, I thought.
The narrows leads into the homestretch and again no big deal. The angle is not that bad. For a great angle picture see stevevets689 picture in his report. You just use your hands and feet and walk up, many times not even having to use your hands.
Almost at the end of the narrows
Looking up at the homestretch
We were on top by 9am and spent 30 minutes hanging out looking at the scenery.
The gobs of people on the summit
For the descent we decided to go down the old cables route on the North Face. Our friend Greg is a climbing instructor and guide and told us before we left that he would be happy to teach us a rappel and give us two forms of backup protection to make us feel safe. I had rapelled once before, but my husband had not. We have spent ample time in the rock gym learning the basics behind rock climbing, the knots, etc. We just hadn't done anything with rapelling. So with a 1 hour lesson from Greg before we left Tues night we brought our harnesses just in case. We were happy with that decision after seeing the amount of people on top knowing we would otherwise be going back down with them. We and a couple other hikers who had gear headed down the North face so we could rappel together. The top of the the North face is just a series of broken ledges that have little fall risk. We followed cairns to the 2nd cable and set up a rap site. The hike down to the 2nd cable took about 30-45 min, about a half mile of slow, cautious walking and a little bit of downclimbing class 3 stuff.
We each took 3 rappels back down to the carined trail that leads back into the boulderfields. The rapelling was fun and with the huge eyebolts that are there, plus a firemans belay, and an auto block on the rope, it was the safest rappel you could possibly get. It was 12:30 when we reached the Boulderfields again. We took some time to refuel, take off the harnesses and helmets and then headed back towards the trees.
Rapelling down the North face-5.4 section
The trail back to the car was brutal...the stairmaster from hell! Thank god for trekking poles which I pulled out of my pack and used the rest of the way down to save my knees. We reached the car at 3pm and enjoyed a cold brew. Home to pizza and more beer! Yeah I finally have Long's under my belt!!!!!!
Standing at the Chasm junction in front of the diamond with Christian and Greg
Just an additional note- this is a long hike. SO many people attempt this hike/climb. It is not for everyone. If you are in good shape, you can handle altitude, maybe have climbed some high peaks in the past, have some knowledge of placing your hands and feet for simple climbing moves, can walk at least 8-9 miles without being entirely exhausted, etc, then this mountain is for you- you will love it. There were several people who turned around because of exposure fears, too long, not able to handle the altitude, etc. To them I say good job for trying and even a better job for turning around and not risking others lives. As I may have made this seem easy, it is not. I run 8+ miles several times in a month, I compete in triathlons, and I rock climb in the gym regularly. It is a long arduous climb up a 14,000ft peak that takes no prisoners. Just know your ability before you climb this mountain because I think everyone can agree that there are way too many people on that mountain that shouldn't be there. I thought everyone I had walked with during my climb was fit and ready for it, but past several groups in the early morning hours that were already struggling at mile 3 and they were supposedly going to make it to the top. I hope they had the sense enough to turn around when they realized it was too much. There are sections of this mountain that become more dangerous when there are people up there who don't know what they are doing.
So my last piece of advice is to start before 3am otherwise you risk being on that mountain with someone unprepared and dangerous to others. Not to mention storms that can happen as early as 11am and I would not want to be walking on that slick rock when it is wet. That would be a nightmare! Remember you want to be back in the boulderfield before any threat of storms so plan accordingly!
Like I said I was not scared, but in the last mile and a half that mountain has no place for people who are scared and out of shape. One person panics and makes the wrong move it could cost others there lives. It doesn't seem to happen very often because most people have a healthy respect for that summit, but it could happen and I think everyone needs to know that.
For more pictures I will post more on my husbands trip report. His name is "holyshist"
I have a ton of pictures so if anyone would like better views just let me know.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):