Attempt #4, Longs Peak

narrows.jpgClimbed 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 Enchanted 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 become 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 in my veins, wanting
nothing but to be back up there.

Third attempt was with a large
group of people, most all that knew what they were doing. We all turned around at the 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.

longs_defeated.jpgFailure in April, 2012

So
I gave myself a 50% of summiting in this attempt. This 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_from_superior.jpg
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
couloir to the Loft – 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 sumitted in little time, and I turned my
attention to Longs. A gully had to be found, to take me down a few
hundred feet, and then back up, to Homestretch. I overshot this gully,
and found a much crazier route down, which I gave up on, and 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.

summit_cookie.jpg
Had
a cookie, and made my way down, this time, via the Keyhole route, which
is a little spicier with all the snow. Forgot all about Pagota, 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. 

whoops.jpgCenter
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 verticle,
and a few hundred feet high.  Keyhole proper to the far right. 

Doesn’t get much better.

happytobedone.jpg

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.

longs_from_longmont.jpgMeeker/Longs seen from Longmont