Longs Peak Summit Log (#4545)
- Signed By: Michael Jensen
- Date Submitted: November 01, 2004
Well, let me just start by saying that I read all of these hike logs and found plenty of other websites with others sharing their Long's experience; detailing the entire trip, and I was still not prepared for what we were going to experience. This was my 3rd Long's summit attempt, the first 2 I can now say that I would not have stood a chance due to my lack of physical conditioning, but I did have convenient excuses for the failed attempts. ;) Anyway, a couple of co-workers of mine and I started talking about a possible Long's attempt this past spring. We're all IT Software guys in Denver who sit behind desks all day and we did most of our conditioning by riding our bikes into work 2 to 3 times/wk for about 2 months before the hike (approx 20 miles each way). We decided to hit the trail at 3 a.m., a total of 4 of us: Rick, Sai, Andy, and myself, Michael. Roughly the first 4 hours were spent getting to the Boulder field. I was having serious doubts approaching the Boulder field about my ability to make it to the summit. But I pushed that to the back of my mind and decided to trudge on 1 step at a time and see how things played out. I don't remember any of the logs I read talk about the effort required to make it through (up) the last stretch of the Boulder field and into the Keyhole. It was a bit of a rude awakening for me, and didn't help my feeling of exhaustion. But it's definitely true what they say about the views once there. And it's also true that the Keyhole marks the beginning of the 'real fun' of the trip. It's almost like stepping off into another world. Somehow I found a bit of a 2nd wind past the Keyhole and onto the Legdes. I didn't find the Ledges to be quite as difficult as I had imagined, but let's make sure that we understand that that's a relative thing! This entire hike is one challenge after another. One wrong move anywhere from the Keyhole on can spell horror. The Trough was I believe what I was fearing most after reading all of these logs. And it didn't disappoint. It's overwhelming standing at the bottom of the Trough looking up. It seems like 2 miles to the top of the Trough from the bottom, and you can't even see the top from the bottom. But one 25 foot exertion after another and soon you're looking down and seeing all your progress; and you just keep on moving and before too long you've done it! Of note, everything that other people have said about the dangers in the Trough are completely true. It's really important to a) make sure you don't kick/dislodge rocks and send them hurling downhill as they can quickly gather speed and become deadly projectiles and b) be on the constant lookout for those above you potentially doing the same. Even being extremely careful, the most you can really do is MINIMIZE the chances of sending rocks downhill by constantly watching your footing, both up and down. Not an easy task when you're fatigued. There is a move around a big rock at the top of the Trough, once past that it's onto the Narrows. Whoa. I went to the top of the Trough and thought I'd stop and take a break and catch the view and I was quite shocked to realize that the top had a couple hundred foot (more?) drop-off. I'm not really afraid of heights, but I must admit some points on this climb really got my attention, if you know what I mean. This climb DEMANDS your full attention. It's hard to put into words exactly what this climb is all about. It really does need to be experienced. But it's my strong feeling that anyone who ventures past the Keyhole needs to understand what it is they're getting themselves into. It's kinda funny, I have always fashioned myself a bit of an adrenaline junkie. This hike filled the void for a day. :) But you EARN the adrenaline. Anyway, past the Trough and onto the Narrows! The Narrows were just as the name implies, narrow. With severe drop-offs the majority of the way. I think I purposely made an effort to NOT look down; instead, I tried to focus on the trail and move on as I was anxious to get to the top and was starting to smell it! I knew that all that lie ahead was one semi-difficult move out of the Narrows and onto the Homestretch. Somehow I had been led to believe that the Homestretch was an approximate 200 ft near vertical climb to the top. When I got my first look at the Homestretch, however, I was pretty demoralized. Thinking the hard work was pretty much over, I once again gazed at what looked like a mile long hike UP! Crap. But hey, the call it the Homestretch for a reason, right? So no whining, just move on, one foot in front of the other. It's hard to describe the Homestretch (like most parts of this trek), but it almost seemed to me to be like trying to scale one side of a massive, smooth pyramid, only the angle of dropoff isn't directly below you, but below you and to your right. Kind of like the side of a pyramid turned at an angle (told you it was hard to describe). Granted, for probably the majority of this part of the hike there are pretty good hand-holds and foot-holds, so it's not like you have to be Spiderman here or anything; but I was as uncomfortable here as anywhere else. On our way down the Homestretch, we were about 3/4 of the way to the Narrows, someone dropped a Nalgene bottle. It was very eerie hearing the bottle echoing and bouncing about every 2 seconds as it hurled down the smooth face and then finally off a cliff. Everyone either going up or down got real quiet for a minute. But back to the ascent! Like the rest of the hike, it was pretty much one foot in front of the other and soon there we were! WE DID IT!!! Awesome! We spent about an hour total up top on a PICTURE-PERFECT day! The decent was, for the most part, the reverse of the trip up. It really became a 'death-march' after the Boulder field. It's hard to comprehend when you're at the Boulder field that you still have so far to go back to the trailhead. You feel like you've exerted so much effort and energy (and well, you HAVE!), and the most dangerous parts are over, but the effort is not! And no matter how many times I hike, I am always deceived on the return at how long it is. The last mile seems like 5. Needless to say we were elated to get back to the cars (4:50 p.m.). We drove back to the Denver area and I think all I did was put my son to bed, shower and fall into bed for 9 of the most sound hours of sleep I can remember. All 4 of us who summited were thrilled to make it and grateful to come home safe.