Ascent of Longs Peak on 2012-09-04

Climber: Trey Pinkerton

Date:Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Longs Peak
    Elevation:14255 ft / 4344 m

Ascent Trip Report

Departed Boulder early in the dark to drive to RMNP. Got to Lyons and ended up taking a wrong turn and driving towards Estes Park. Lost a little bit of time turning around and doubling back, but still got to the trailhead at a good hour. There were already a lot of cars, and some people getting their gear ready. After some last-minute gear changes and a small snack I began heading up the trail. I was tired but caffinated Gu Packs and Gatorade did the trick and soon I had a decent pace going and was enjoying the full moon and stars overhead. I turned off my headlamp

The trail began to climb and eventually the trees cleared and I was in the Alpine Tundra. I met up with some others and we began to hike together. The alpine route became more strenous, as we climbed up through 11,000 and 12,000 feet. The lights of a city were visible below and finally the sun rose spendidly from behind the peaks on the horizon. We continued on, spotting ptarmagan along the way.

We reached the boulder field leading up the keyhole and broke for some food, spotted a weasel and some pika who were checking us out. There were a few campers at the sites prepping for the climb. We continued on over they large boulder field, the keyhole growing larger and larger to our view. Finally we reached the keyhole and I glanced over the edge and witnessed the view and trail ahead. When you first see the ledges, if you are not accostumed to exposure, it is an awe-inspiring site. In addition there was wind...The wind was gusting at 50mph and it didnt seem like a good idea to continue on. The other three I was with went on and I stayed in the small stone shack deciding if I was going to go on.

After 30 minutes or so, one of the people I teamed up with popped his head in the structure and said "come on, the wind dies down, its not that bad!" I thought about not completing Long's that day, and how it might be a while before I could try it again. With great anticipation, I stepped across the keyhole.

The ledges were the first section on this climb. They are not really so bad, but I was not accostomed to the exposure and a few points I found pretty exciting. There were a few spots where you were right at the edge of a huge cliff with no room for error. Excitement! We finally made it through the Ledges, and after a short section losing some altitude we arrived at the Trough.

Altitude... I was feeling a little bit of a headache but nothing bad. The keyhole is at 13,000 or so we were already up pretty high. The Trough was serious work. We followed from one of the bulleye marks painted on the rocks to the next. I stopped at every one and tried to catch my breath. Finally, we arrived at the crux move, a large boulder which demanded of us some climbing moves. There were people above and below trying to figure it out. I busted a move and powered past it. And there we the Narrows.

The Narrows were very exposed but enjoyable. There were some very tricky spots but good handholds along the way. I decided not to look down at most of them and concentrate on my footing and the wall to the left of me. Finally after this excitement we got to the Homestretch.

The Homestrech...damn who designed this trail anyway...this was pretty much a scramble which looked fairly straight up to my inexperienced climbing eyes. I used my rock-climbing experience however and didn't have too much trouble ascending, although the altitude was taking its toll and my headache was slightly worse. Finally, I arrived at the summit.

The summit of Long's Peak is a beautiful sight. About the size of a football field, with expansive views in every direction. I had reached the summit of my first Colorado 14er(Rainier was my first 14er) and was exstatic. But also tired. I signed the summit register, took pictures, ate, and lay down for a short nap.

The downclimb was not easy. The homestretch required crabwalking ( well for me at least) , the Trough has spots of ice and loose rock, and my whole body was fatigued. The Ledges just seemed tiring. Finally made it to the keyhole, I said goodbye to my faster climbing buddy whos ride was waiting for him and slowly hiked down the boulder field.

The rest of the hike back was seriously painful. I think the altitude, having too much weight in my pack, and it just being a long day( I didn't sleep the night prior) had wiped me out. I finally made it back to the car a little bit after dark and took off my boots to discover a toenail coming off. Put on some more comfortable footwear and drove back to Boulder.

It was the best and hardest climb of my life so far. I think next time I will lighten my pack more, although it wasn't too bad. The altitude got to me a little, which I think contributed to exhaustion on the way back. I am now excited to try more 14ers and take my climbing to another level. Longs was a great experience and hope to do it again soon.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:5100 ft / 1553 m
    Elevation Loss:245 ft / 74 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:5100 ft / 1553 m
    Extra Loss:245 ft / 74 m
    Trailhead:9400 ft / 2865 m
    Time Up:9 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:0 ft / 0 m
    Trailhead:14255 ft / 4344 m
    Time Down:5 Hours 30 Minutes

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