Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Date Posted:  07/17/2008
Date Climbed:   07/13/2008
Author:  mountaingoat-G

 Long weekend in RMNP  

I had wanted to do Long's Peak for years now, but never seemed to make it a priority or to "have the time". It seems that I have too many hobbies, so they all get short-changed for time. I have some friends whose daughter was getting married this past weekend near Estes Park. I was invited to the wedding with a free place to stay Friday & Saturday nights. The wedding was Saturday afternoon, so I got to thinking: how can I maximize this weekend and get in some high-altitude training on top of it (thought it might help in preparing for the Mount Evans hillclimb bike race I was planning on doing July 19th)?

I headed up to Boulder after work on Friday to a BBQ thrown by some friends of the GF. That was good, but ended up staying a little too late. Drove up to the lodge near Estes Park and got in around 9:30 PM. The plan was to get up in the morning and ride the bike from the lodge to Alpine Visitors Center via Trail Ridge Road, then make it back in time to clean up for the wedding. Problem was everyone was partying and it was hard to get to sleep. Oh well ….

Woke up Saturday and found the free breakfast buffet at the Lodge- not all the great but better than nothing. Then it was time to get ready for the bike ride. I rode down from the lodge to Estes and then into the park- was a long line at the entrance station. Road up Trail Ridge feeling slow as a sack of potatoes. I got to the Rainbow Curve and started feeling a little better. I saw a group of (I presume) Japanese tourists at a pullout a little ways above timberline. They were taking pictures of themselves with a small snow bank in the background. One guy was flexing like he was Superman for the camera. That was amusing…
Up higher, beyond the rock-cut, there was a group of elk- some with full racks. I climbed up to the highpoint and then down to Alpine Visitor's Center. The weather was very mild with not that much wind. I hung around for maybe 2 minutes till I decided it was getting late. I headed back up the road and started the decent. Just after the section where you cross the old ski trail (Ski Estes Park ski area) there was a car that had gone off the road into the trees. It was actually a straight stretch of road and I'm not sure which direction the car was heading, but it looked like it was going downhill and crossed into the oncoming lane and went into the trees. The ambulance had not even arrived yet. I thought it best to keep going as there were several people on scene already. Continuing the decent, I was stuck behind some slow moving cars and wasn't able to ride the downhill at my own speed- but that's to be expected on a road such as this. Anyway, saw the ambulance rushing up the road a bit before I got to the flats. I got back to the lodge and I think my cyclo-computer said 49 miles and 3 hours, 20 minutes?
Got cleaned up and went to the wedding- wow the dinner was good. I knew I was heading to Longs tomorrow so I better stock up on food. I had seconds at dinner.
Got back to the condo and changed and went into the hot-tub for a while. Legs were feeling sore from the bike ride. After a while I headed back to the condo and everyone had returned and was in full party-mode. I didn't really get involved as I knew I needed to get an early start the next morning. I ended up going to bed around midnight (found out later as I didn't have a watch). The alarm was going off at 3:00 AM and I seriously considered blowing the whole thing off. I hit the snooze button, but eventually got up. I drove to the trailhead and stated hiking at 4:18 AM.
I've never started a hike by headlamp in the pre-dawn hours before. It was sort of a unique experience for me. It got brighter as I hit timberline and I saw the sunrise from above timberline for the first time in my life? I've seen plenty of sunsets, but I don't think I've ever seen a sunrise from above timberline- at least night in summer when it rises so early. I'm not a morning person.
Anyway, I went up the trail to Chasm Lake just a little bit to scope things out. The view of the diamond is impressive in real life and that doesn't really come across in pictures. I returned to main trail and made it up to Granite Pass and there was a little bit of wind. Once I finally got to the Boulder-field, the sun had come out fully and the little streams were flowing from the melting snow. There were some tents set up in the Boulder-field and one had a pirate flag flying nearby!
I don't think my knees would do well hauling a full backpack up there with all that camping stuff inside.
Anyway, I saw the Keyhole and there were maybe a dozen people already scrambling up there. I reached that stone shelter and went inside. It was filled with snow. Then climbed up to the Keyhole. The other side was all in the shade and was a lot colder than the side I was coming up- but what a great view. I looked out along the ledge traverse and thought it would be a bit intimidating were it not for the painted route markers. I put on some more clothes and went off without delay. Didn't have any trouble getting to the Trough. Going up that is when I first remember getting a bit tired. There was a little bit of ice here and there, but nothing too bad at all. I think I tried to ascend too fast as I started to feel a slight headache. Anyway, got to the top and was feeling a little heavy with my pack when I had to make that one little move at the top. Then I looked out onto the Ledges section. Wow, that was a bit more intimidating. It wasn't intimidating in a relative sense to certain things I had done before, but more because this was the standard route in a well-used National Park (if that makes sense). Anyway, I headed out and didn't have any trouble. I did think about how much it would suck to be out there in a rain storm or in lightning, or if it was snowy/icy, though. Definitely not something you would want to do in your Rollerblades. The ledges was an interesting section. I got to the Homestretch and was glad there were not too many people there. The rack was solid and therefore much safer than some other stuff I had done. Still, if you did fall on this section, it could be bad. I was lucky to have dry rock to climb. The exposure to the weather could be real bad on this section, too, I could see. Anyway, I went up and my headache was getting worse. I was drinking water and thought my camelback was empty. Not good. I made it to the summit at 9:15 AM and there were a small handful of people up there. There was a hazy brown cloud visible on the horizon in ALL directions. I've noticed this from other summits as well. Was it from the fires in California? Or just general atmospheric pollution? I don't know, but it's uniformity suggested to me that it was general atmospheric pollution. Has anyone else noticed this disturbing trend as well?
Anyway, there were people at the summit register. I never sign those things, don't see the reason. I used to do it back in my early college days, but no longer. I walked around the broad summit and tried to get some good pics looking down in various directions. I was also hungry. After easting a Cliff-bar, I headed down knowing I would need to filter some water in the Boulder-field (thankfully I did bring my filter). Going down the Homestretch wasn't so bad, but I really was getting hungry & tired by this point. It was going down the Trough, though that I really started to "bonk". It was at that time that I started seeing a lot of people coming up the mountain as well. After reaching the bottom of the Trough, I started the traverse back to Keyhole and got off-route once. I was tired. The trek from the Keyhole to the far-side of the Boulder field actually took me some time because I was way tired by this point and super thirsty. It took me a while to find a good spot to filter water and I eventually found it. The filter started out not working at all and I had to take it apart and figure it out with a splitting headache- not fun. Anyway, after sorting all that out, it was great to finally be able to drink some water again. I was still tired and the rest of the hike felt sort of like a death-march as I was tired and the trail seemed so long. I think I made better time going up in the morning than I was making now. The section below timberline seemed especially long. I ended up back at the car at 2:50 PM and was glad to be done. I wish that I had something to eat there, but had to drive all the way to Denver first Ugg. Well, Long's Peak sure has an accurate name, as it was the longest hike I've ever done on a mountain and second only to hiking the Grand Canyon down and back in one day as far as hikes I've done in a day…

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