Sunday, July 10, 2011

Longs Peak - Another Box Checked

Soon after moving to Colorado I found myself at a party in Boulder. As I made conversation with the typical Boulderite (you know, Ph'D's, environmentalists, and of course, outdoors folk), the topic of climbing 14ers came up. That night, as I left the party, I decided to point my SUV towards the Longs Peak trailhead. I typically kept an assortment of gear in my car, including the necessities for camping and hiking. I parked my car off the road close to the trailhead and hopped in the back for a little shut-eye.

Finally, after being continually woken up by the numerous folks headed to climb Longs and planning to get an early start, I got up and readied myself for a day on the mountain. As I walked under the light of my headlamp, I couldn't help but wonder what I would encounter in the Trough, the Narrows, or the Homestretch.....sections of the trail I had read about. Regardless, my mind was made up; I was bound and determined to check Longs Peak off my list.

I felt like I was making good time, as I was continually passing people on the trail. As I neared the Keyhole, I saw a number of people turning around and heading down the mountain due to the extremely high winds. I decided to take a pit-stop in the hut to grab some food and get a break from the wind myself. While huddled inside, someone walked in, windblown and tired. He said he had just came from the summit and he was the only one up there and encouraged me to keep going. With that, I layered up (long pants, fleece jacket, wind shell, winter hat, and gloves to be exact) and made my way through the key hole.

As I was grunting, breathing hard, and stopping every few feet, I caught a glimpse of a guy in running tights and a thin shell, practically running up the Trough. He called out a few words of encouragement, shot up the remainder of the couloir and quickly disappeared. What seemed like only minutes later, he came bopping by again, making his way down the mountain. He again spit out words of encouragement like, "doing great man" and "you're almost there." I was completely blown away that a guy, in such little gear, this high on a mountain, could be moving as fast and effortlessly as he was. I was sure he had ran from the trailhead to the boulder field. From that moment, the thought of running a majority of Longs Peak was burned into my brain.

Yesterday, I was able to place another check-mark by one of my longtime goals. I headed up to Longs Peak to attempt to run as much of the mountain as I could. Despite the snow that made for slow going at times, I was pleased with the effort and the day. I was able to run a majority of the mountain between the TH and the boulder field. Here are my splits:

TH - Battle Mtn Junction - 40:24
Chasm Junction - 54:54
Keyhole - 1:52:38
Summit - 2:56:30

It took me almost an hour to get back to the keyhole, which meant I spent almost 2 hours total between the keyhole and the summit. I'm confident I could knock a considerable amount of time off the total if the conditions were better (i.e. drier and warmer). Although, it's rare for someone to say they had a lone summit of Longs Peak on a summer Saturday and that's exactly what I had. I finished with a total time of 5 hrs 13 minutes.

Looking up at the Diamond from the Chasm Junction

One of the only views I had from the summit, as it was pretty socked in with clouds

Longs partially blocked by clouds. As seen from Mt. Audubon today.

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