Ascent of Longs Peak on 2005-08-27

Climber: Jabon Eagar

Others in Party:Ben
Date:Saturday, August 27, 2005
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Longs Peak
    Elevation:14255 ft / 4344 m

Ascent Trip Report

I have a passion to spend time in the great outdoors and feel the anxiety and stress flow out of me. One way to "recharge" my batteries is to climb mountains. There are several steps I go through that leave me energized for a long tome. First, the mental preparation of such a difficult task. Second, while on the ascent, I have to reach deep inside for the strength to finish the climb when exhaustion overwhelms. Third, the indescribable feeling of reaching the summit. Fourth, is a combination of finally reaching the car and heading home to sleep!

I called my good friend Ben, after setting up plans with two other acquaintances to climb Longs Peak in Estes Park Colorado , to invite him along. So the plan was set to make the climb on Saturday the 27 th . Ben and I worked for the same employer and after an 8 hour Friday at work, we packed the car and meet up with my two other friends that had slept most of the day in preporation, the four of us left Colorado Springs at 10:30pm. We arrived in Estes Park CO at 12:45am and lined up on the trail head at 1am. We signed the registry and kicked of at a quick pace often out walking the light of our headlamps. The trail wound through the trees and passed streams that we could only hear. Slowly the trail became gradually steeper and we finally broke tree line. The temperature had dropped noticeably and the trail was getting steeper. None of us had ever seen this mountain in the light so we had no idea what was past the headlamps. We worked our way through some steep switchbacks and noticed small specs of light from three other teams climbing on what I thought was the sky. They were so far up from where we were I was having a hard time getting a grasp on the size of this mountain.

We were still making a blazing fast pace and eventually passed all the groups we had seen climbing. It was startling to catch movement off the trail and to whip my headlamp into the face of an exhausted climber resting on his pack! The wind had picked up while the temperature fell even more as we found the trail winding through football sized rocks that had been stacked trail side to mark the way. Soon the ground became so rocky that the trail consisted of piles of rocks. Several times we lost the trail and just headed in the direction we guessed. The Boulder field grew from the football sized rocks to the size of a golf carts. We could hear water running under us in the deeply stacked rocks. At this point we had been awake for 21 hours and fatigue was setting in so we decided to take shelter from the ice cold wind behind the large rocks. I had dressed in a pair of nylon running pants and a fleece so I was quite chilled. I knew I needed a power nap and the rocks were too cold to lay on so I crouched and leaned my shoulder on a rock. I was only able to rest and after 30mins of shivering uncontrollably, we pressed on. Ben had failed to pack any food so I shared some granolla bars. By this point we were at almost 13,000 ft and the thin air along with the steep climb slowed us to a careful walk.

We made it to the Keyhole and spent a few minutes in the rock hut resting. We passed through the Keyhole and on to the narrows.

The trail was marked by red bulls eyes and our headlamps showed a sheer drop-off to our right.

By the time we made it to the bottom of the trough, the morning sunlight had just started peaking over the mountains to the east. We put our headlamps away and started up the trough. This feature is a rock face at about 600 feet tall and at a 45 degree angle. Progress slowed to several steps up then stopping to suck air for 30 seconds then repeat. Getting out of the Trough was a challenge. It involves scrambling up to a ten-foot-high ledge. There are three routes -- left, right, and straight up the granite slab starring you in the face. We chose the direct route, up the granite slab. By the time I reached the top of the trough and stared at the narrow ledge ahead, I knew I was going to make it to the top.

The trail only looked harder but I knew I had just accomplished such difficulty that nothing was going to stop me. This set of ledges is higher and steeper than the narrows behind us but with an even more fantastic view. After briefly slowing our heart rates we pressed on. I was not aware there was a false summit on this climb so when I pushed past the point where I should have rested and clambered to what I thought was the summit, wich was the bottom of the home stretch, I had to build up more energy to push the few hundred feet past 14,000 feet. The home stretch looked impassable as it is much steeper than the trough and at a 60 degree angle.Normally I could not have climbed a wall that steep with out equipment, but thankfully there are numerous rock formations that formed natural hand holds to make it surprisingly easier than I first pictured. Our own fatigue and thin air were more significant obstacles than the wall itself. The final 400 feet up the home stretch seamed as long as the entire trip so far as we could only progress a few feet before resting. When my eyes became level with the summit, I felt the second wind kick in and I launched onto the football field sized summit.

I looked at my cell phone to note the time—7:20am. It took 6 hours and 20 minutes to reach the 14,255 foot summit. It seamed like 20 hours because of my fatigue. Then I realized that I had been awake for 25.5 hours and I needed to rest. The sun was now visible and I made several 360's to try and take it all in. I could see Colorado 's Rocky Mountains in every direction and I was higher than any of them. We took the obligatory smiling (wincing) summit photos and headed down.

The trek down the Home stretch, ledge, and trough were even more difficult for me probably because I had made the summit and there was no longer a huge prize around the next bend and I was beyond exhaustion. I was snapped out of my thoughts by Ben commenting on the large number of climbers making their way toward us. I think we passed about 40 other people making their way to the summit. I felt proud as I passed the struggling climbers because I had already accomplished their obstacles. We made it past the Keyhole and took a break in the boulder field realizing what we had accomplished in the dark. My two acquaintances made a mad beeline off the mountain due to an appointment leaving Ben and I.

We both were out of food and water with 4.5 miles of switchbacks to navigate. We made it back to the car at 11am. I am leaving out most of the eventsduring the hours Ben and I had to overcome our extreme fatigue and the pain in our knees. There were several times where I gave up and sat down almost passing out. Ben pushed me on and I had to do the same for him as we moved on past a level of pain and fatigue worse than I have ever experienced before or since. On the 2.5 hour drive home to Colorado Springs I had to ask Ben to drive as I slept. I awoke to the sound of my car tires going over the ridges on the shoulder and realized he had fallen asleep at the wheel. He pulled over and I took the wheel. We made it back safely and I slept great.

You may not fully understand the level of desire we had to accomplish something great. Making the summit for 30 minutes was enough to recharge me for a long time… well until the next mountain :)

Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Frigid, Windy
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:6 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics

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