Y’all, I finally climbed Longs Peak!
About a month back there was a theflightdeal bargain to Denver and thus a fairly last-minute plan was hatched to climb Longs Peak over the last weekend of summer. I have been screwed out of climbing this mountain the last few times I was in Colorado, so I had some srrs business with Longs. David and I gave ourselves a whopping 3 days to acclimatize and climb the peak with not a lot of weather wiggle room. Somehow it (mostly) worked out and no one vomited from altitude sickness (just wanted to :D)!
Our half-crazed plan was to “acclimatize” with a short jaunt up Mt. Evans on our first day and sleep at Echo Lake campground (elevation 10,600 ft). The next day we’d hike up to the Longs Peak boulderfield camp and sleep there (12,700 ft), and on our final day we’d make a summit attempt. The itinerary went according to plan, but i would not recommend it if you enjoy sleeping or not feeling like death 🙂 🙂 🙂
Day 1 we headed to Mt. Evans from Denver (after arriving at 1am the night before… weeeeee!). The trail up Mt. Evans from Summit Lake has the advantage of being super short and has a starting elevation of around ~12,500 feet, so it’s an awesome punch in the gut if you’re coming from sea level!
I slogged up the trail like some wheezing slug and by the time we made it to Mt. Spaulding the clouds were rolling over the ridge something fierce and I wasn’t super keen to continue on to Mt. Evans (also: wheezing slug). We headed back down and magically, I could breathe again! Also magically the weather did a 180 and the sun came out in all its glory. We decided to just drive the rest of the way up the road to the summit of Mt. Evans and hang out there for a while to acclimatize more. Many a squeaking pika were spotted before my altitude headache got the better of me and we drove back down the road to Echo Lake campground.
The next day, things got srrs. It was time to start our climb up Longs. We drove the 2 hours up to the Longs Peak trailhead and packed the bags with all of our overnight gear. After approximately 15 seconds of hiking, I felt like I was dying again. What’s that you say? One day is not an appropriate amount of time to acclimatize? Pfffffft to you, I say!
The 6 miles up to the boulderfield were filled with a lot of complaining and increasing general malaise, with the only distraction being the hoards of adorable squeaking pika ferrying bunches of flowers in their adorable pika mouths and running across the trail constantly with their adorable pika feet.
After approx. 500 hours we made it to the boulderfield and set up camp for the night. After not sleeping terribly well (shocker) we awoke at 5am to a cacophony of chattering hikers already headed up the trail.
I felt 100% like death and wasn’t sure I could even get up out of the tent, but I knew I’d hate myself later if I didn’t try to get to the summit. Somehow, some inner fortitude was discovered and we started our way up the boulderfield to the keyhole.
For those not familiar with Longs, the 6 miles to the boulderfield is very easy terrain (by New Hampshire standards) but all bets are off once you get to the boulderfield. The last 1.5 miles to the summit is 100% rocky terrain where you have to navigate around boulders, scramble up steep rock faces, and step lightly across a narrow path with a vertigo-inducing drop-off to the side. Yeeeeehaw!
A combination of major bottlenecking, general altitude malaise, and difficult terrain made the trip to the summit excruciatingly slow. On the trough lots of climbers from above were constantly kicking down rocks to the hoards below and I started to think the people wearing helmets weren’t so crazy after all.
The slog up the trough almost destroyed my soul, but somehow I made it to the top and was suddenly realizing the narrows were going to be around the corner. Having a wee bit of a panic attack, I peeked around the side of a rock, expecting to be terrified by the narrow trail next to the sheer drop-offs. But…. it wasn’t that bad (I MEAN IT WAS SUPER TERRIFYING I AM SO HARDCORE).
We carefully navigated the narrows without falling off any cliffs, and then it was the homestretch! The homestretch is very much like Huntington’s ravine in that you have to scramble up rock faces, but I actually thought the terrain was slightly easier going than Huntington’s (but that could’ve been the delirium). Thankfully, the homestretch is also quite short, and then you’re on the summit!!!!
The summit was super busy with climbers, some guy in a tuxedo, and the summit marmot scavenging for unattended tasty treats. We ate our snacky snacks before the marmot could and I sat in a stupor, amazed that I had somehow hauled myself up the mountain. The celebration was soon over, though, as we knew we had lots more hiking to do before we were down, and descending the 1.5 miles of class 3 terrain took almost as long as ascending it.
When we finally got back to the campsite at the boulderfield I helpfully sat on a rock while David packed up the tent and sleeping gear 😀 😀 :D. We blasted down the remaining 6 miles of trail with lots of complaining (from me) and were back to civilization!
And that’s how you climb a 14er with only 3 days in Colorado.
*keen observers and/or knowers of Longs might notice that the sun is all over the place in these pictures. i have not in fact broken the laws of space-time, but mixed my ascending and descending pictures 🙂