| You Can Do It
This trip report is for the people who are wondering whether they can take on the challenge of climbing Long's Peak. This might be your first Cat 3 climb. It's many miles, etc. I understand. I have had Long's in the back of my mind for a couple of years. Every time I looked at the photos on this site, I got butterflies in my stomach wondering how I would deal with the exposure. I finally climbed it with my friend Ernie Edgar on Sunday, 3 Aug 2008. Short story: It was an exhilarating experience. It was a lot easier for me than I thought it would be. Ernie put it in perspective a couple of days before the hike: "…a hundred people a day climb this thing. How hard can it be?"
1. We did this on a Sunday in August. We were forced to this date by the weather forecast, and our work schedules. We thought it would be crowded, but we were not ready for how crowded it actually was. When we got around the rocky trail after the Keyhole and could see "The Trough" (I am not kidding), it looked like a tour bus had unloaded. There were 50 people in a continuous line from the bottom to the top. We underestimated how hard it would be to find a place to park at 4:15 AM. The lot was 100% full, with cars lining up for a half mile down the road to the Rangers Station. Advice: You might want to consider one of two options (drive to the Rangers Station to arrive around 11PM and sleep in the car, or camp out overnight in the area).
2. Bathrooms: There are clean, well-lit bathrooms at the Rangers Station trailhead. When we were there, they were fully stocked with toilet paper. The toilets were real, commercial, flush types. There is one toilet at the trailhead to Chasm Lake at about 3 miles into your hike to Longs. You might miss it because you will likely be in the dark. When you come to the Chasm Lake trailhead sign, the toilet is along the ridge line to you East South East. There are two toilets at the 5.5 mile point in the lunar landscape as you approach the keyhole. You can't miss these.
3. This is probably not a good choice if this is your first 14er. We met several people along the trail who chose this as #1. Though if you are in good physical condition, it is within your grasp, there is a good chance you will be wigged out by the exposure on many places in the last mile. Somewhere in the Roach book he talks about the "trip and die" rule. There are places along this hike where if you trip, you die. That being said, there is not a lot of reason for you to trip
4. The photos on this site are excellent, but they do not give you a sense of scale. Even in "The Narrows" you will have quite a lot of room most of the time to pass people or to let them pass you. Where this is not the case, you can wait in a strategic location for them to clear an obstacle, or vice versa.
5. The Homestretch looks scary in the photos, but once you have gotten to the spot you will be surprised how easy it really is (when it's dry). If you stay left there are plenty of places to hold on while you climb up. Going back down on your backside is straightforward. One cautionary note: This is not a place to get a final hike from your old boots. Pick your hikers that hold on to granite well. I carried a pair of trail shoes and changed out of my boots before climbing The Homestretch. In hindsight, that was overkill. I saw 100 people negotiate the spot with little problem other than a few terrified facial expressions.
6. The trip back to the car. 14 miles is a long way especially considering 30% of your time is spent above 13,000 feet. Our summit took 4.5 hours. It took us 4 hours to get back to the Rangers Station.
THE TRIP. Ernie and I got to parking at 4:15, used the facilities, signed the log at 4:33 and took off. He is 47. I am 54. We were moving pretty fast with good headlamps. The trail is excellent with some rocks, but it's mostly smooth sailing. The trail is very easy to follow. We had GPS with the track plotted (.gpx file from 14ers.com), but you will not need that. You can make good time if your lungs permit it. About the time we hit Granite Pass, the sun was rising to the east.
You will pop up over a rise and see The Keyhole from about a mile away. Lots of people had tents pitched below The Keyhole. I was not fully prepared for the surface of Mars that approaches The Keyhole. The bouldering is pretty easy, but you will be finding your way through large boulder from the first tent (near the toilets), about a third of a mile to the ridgeline (Keyhole)
By the time we arrived at The Keyhole (7:30AM ~ 3 hours), we had passed around 25 hikers. I took one of my full Nalgene bottles out my backpack and "hid" it in the rocks for the return trip. I found out there are jerks (there are other words for "jerk") everywhere. I never saw the bottle again. This did affect my hydration on the return.
A friend of mine said it well, "When you step through The Keyhole, your whole world changes." Here you face the final mile of your trip. From here, it took Ernie and I an hour and a half to Summit. Part of that was our cautiousness. Part was the hundred people ahead of us.
The "Fried Egg" markers were painted by a Saint. Though it would be challenging to find a route without them, it would double your time on the slope. Ernie and I relied on them (and the views of people ahead). We never had any problem scoping out a Fried Egg to shoot for. Heading to The Trough was moderately easy. There is the odd rock you have to climb around. And there are a few places where you might not want to look down. When we got to the spot where we could see "The Trough" we were not expecting a line of 50 people from top to bottom. The Trough is steep, but moderately easy. The only hard part for me was getting past the final obstacle at the top. It's a funnel, so the granite is slick from the thousands of climbers before you. Once I figured out there were handholds and footholds on both sides of the crack, I was up in short order.
If you are like me, you are freaked out reading about The Narrows.
I certainly over worried it. Though it is narrow, I never had a problem taking a step without something to hold on to. Like a prior trip report, I was shaking a little, but in the end – looking back, it just wasn't that hard, or scary.
The Homestretch has some great slots (staying left – North side) to hold on to while you climb. And, if you stay left and you do slip, you are not going over. At most you will fall a few feet. If you go right (South Side), the story is different. At the top of the Homestretch you will step right onto the Summit with no problem. There is nothing to try to get over. You are just there. Ernie and I summited at 9:00AM, just under 4.5 hours. Great trip!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):