Climbed on 6/1/13
Mountains can be easy to climb, or they can be hard. It usually has nothing to do with the rock and snow found on them. Only sometimes.
My first attempt at Longs was with a friend – it was going to be an incredible early morning start, complete with meteor shower, while we hiked up the Goblins Forest part of the route. My friend bailed, as we couldn’t find a place to camp and he was worried about not sleeping enough. He’s since broken his leg in a few places, so trying this with him again may never happen.
My second attempt got me a few feet after the Keyhole where afterwards, I became incredibly terrified because of my inexperience and lack of proper equipment, but somehow made it back to
the trail head, with a huge amount of adrenaline surging through my veins, wanting nothing but to be back up there again.
Third attempt was with a large group of people, most all that knew what they were doing. We all turned around at Chasm Junction, as it was, “too windy”. Hiking down was demoralizing, as the wind was letting up, and many more climbers hiked past us, going for much more difficult routes.
Failure in April, 2012
So I gave myself a 50% chance of summiting in this attempt. Shit was getting old. Conditions were technical: lots of snow on the route, but I had paid a bit more dues this time, having a week before completed a snow route on Shavano. And I’m in pretty crazy shape.
Longs Peak, from Superior, CO
At 3:00pm, I left from the house, on bicycle, towing the retched trailer full of gear – a little less gear this time, as it’s only a sub 48 hour trip. Forgot my wallet about 5 miles in, turned around for it, got lost in my own neighborhood. Agitating. Stopped in Estes Park for some food and supplies and made my way up the final 9 miles in the dark. 85 mile bike ride.
Camped a little off the parking lot – I checked out the campsites, but it looked like people were having fun. I just wanted to sleep, really. Wake up time was 3:00am. Signed the guestbook at 3-something in the a.m. saying I was going to climb perhaps all the subpeaks and Longs/Meeker – what the hell. Aim high, I say. The previous day’s log was filled with people complaining of a failed summit bid. “Welcome to Longs”, I thought.
But it felt good, to me, today. The trail to the junction was easy, and I made it there at just about the time the sun was coming up. I took the junction left, to climb the Loft Couloir – I thought it a good step up from the Angel of Shavano. From there, it was to be Meeker, then to Longs proper, and whatever else I could fit in.
The Loft Route proved to be in perfect condition, and hiking crampons and an ice axe were really all I needed. A little bit of exposure here and there, pretty much silent and only enough other people to count on one hand. These are rare Longs Peak conditions. Meeker was summited in little time, and I turned my attention to Longs. A gully had to be found to be taken down a few hundred feet, then back up to Homestretch. I overshot this gully, and found a much crazier route down, which I gave up on, then backtracked to the, “proper” gully. Tons of fun, with all the snow.
Homestretch simply didn’t come into view, until I realized I had been climbing it for the last ten minutes: it was completely snowed in! Happy days. Seemed a bit easy, this time.
Had a cookie, and made my way down, this time via the Keyhole route, – a little spicier with all the snow. Forgot all about Pagoda, or wanting to summit it, or any of the other sub peaks really – had no idea how to do so (left my map at home).
Made a wrong turn, going the wrong way and thought I overshot the Keyhole. In reality, I undershot it, and found myself well onto the North Face, clinging to almost nothing, save the shitty snow my ice axe could bite into, and crampons could stand on, on a near-vertical face. Had the idea that this was an OK position, and I could just wing it down, until I realized I was simply cliffing-out myself and the best – only sane decision was to delicately reverse my moves. I was at about 80% towards my freak-out tolerance, but kept it together, got on the other side, found the Keyhole, and made it to the Boulderfield, and the long slog to the TH. Happy to have done so much indoor climbing on fake, plastic rocks.
Center of the photo is where I entered this side of the ridge, attempting to climb to the viewer’s left down, which did nothing but cliff me out. The snowfield to the far left is much steeper than one would assume. The cliffs at center, below where I was screwing around are near vertical, and a few hundred feet high. Keyhole proper to the far right.
Doesn’t get much better.
Back at the trailhead, I sorted my gear and watched the tourists look around the TH, wondering if it could be their turn next to summit. I wish them well. There was still the small detail of getting home.
Going back the way I came via Estes Park didn’t look too attractive, as you have to climb out of Estes Park, after descending down from the Trailhead. Instead, there’s a much more direct route to Lyons, which bypasses Estes Park completely via HW 7 East. It’s an incredible hill to descend on a bicycle – highly suggested. Would have been funner without a trailer, but I get what I get.
Stopped at Lyons to eat, and then took a very much out of the way route home, missing Boulder (and it’s hills), to ride almost to Longmont and then South on 96th, almost all the way home. It proved much faster and quieter. I was very tired by this point, so all these things were very much welcome.
As I turned into the driveway, I realized I forgot my keys! But, knew that the door on the second floor was open. Looked like one more pitch before getting into bed. The dog heard me, and opened the door, before I started my climb, followed closely by my housemate, who went downstairs, and opened up the door for me. Saved.
Meeker/Longs seen from Longmont