Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summiting Longs Peak

I've had a long over due goal that I've wanted to do since I was a senior in high school, to climb Longs Peak. I always had issues like time of year, working, and other things that got in the way. But, in a recent change of my work schedule I now had the time without even taking a day off work. I studied up on the mountain the best that I could, and the main advice I got was to be careful, and they were not kidding about that, I nearly saw a guy hit by rocks the size of softballs falling from about 70 feet up. The crazy thing with that, we were at that guy's location less than a minute before.
I was able to round up a couple of my little in-laws, Ruben and Katrina (Trina) Kackstaetter to go with me, Trina is a good hiker and Ruben I had to nickname him the mountain goat cause he got up and down the rocky areas with little problem or fear.
We left the house just after midnight and got to the trail a little after one am. After tightening shoes and the final preparations we were off on the trail around 1:30 am. The trail was pretty much all up hill, however at night, because we could only see a limited distance in front of us, we could hardly tell how bad it was until we came down later in the day. Not too much happened on the lower parts of the hike, a bat nearly flew into me, could see lots of stars, and there was a meteor shower that was going on the night.
We made it to the Boulder Field at about 5:30 am and could see the light starting to come up in the east. Though we could see the trail of headlamps behind us most of the way, it was up here that we really found out how many people attempt this mountain everyday.
We crawled up the boulders and made it to the keyhole where it was windy, crowded and beautiful and also met up with a group that we would be playing leap frog with the rest of the way. From the keyhole to the summit my nerves were truly tested. There were areas where my heals were literally hanging off the ledge as I hung on for dear life. I must say that I am very great full that I live at a high altitude that I didn't have to worry about altitude sickness.
Past the keyhole we had to cross the ledges to the trough which was beautiful and treacherous. The next part was the trough, a 600' steep climb up the trough with loose rock, and through out the climb you would hear "ROCK!!!!" because some dislodged a rock and down it went. Reaching the top of the trough, we had to sneak through a small space, trying not to loose our balance or down the cliff we would go. This took us on to the Narrows, an area that once again was very steep and you had to hang onto the rock for dear life. Needless to say, after the Trough, I really did not feel comfortable at pulling out my camera until we got to the summit. After the narrows was the home stretch, a climb on your hands and knees to the summit. We finally got to the top at about 8:15am nearly 7 hours after we began.
We enjoyed a small lunch and the view for a little while, until we decided it was time to go. Going down wasn't too bad except the crowd of people trying to come up. Imagine trying to pass people where you hardly have room for yourself. We were lucky though, we didn't have to pass too many people at the worse places, like the Narrows. Surprisingly, coming down was less terrifying as the way up, not sure if it was because we already did it or we were focusing on each step rather than stopping as often to catch our breath like on the way up. We cruised down and out rather quickly, making it back to the ranger station at about 2pm.
It was a great trip and accomplishment, but I'm not sure if I'll do it again any time soon (if ever again).

For those who don't know Longs Peak, this is the view from the plains

Here is the route we took, it's known as the Keyhole route. It is a 14 mile round trip with nearly a 5,000 foot elevation change from the Ranger station to the top.

the 3 of us right before the hike
5 more miles to go

Hiking in the dark

The sun light starting to come up

Reaching the Keyhole

The view through the Keyhole

At the top of the Keyhole, soo many people!

The ledges

More fun ledges!

Sun coming up

Near the bottom of the Trough

Looking down the Trough

The view to the left of the Trough

The top of the Trough

Looking over the edge

The view over the edge at the top of the Trough. (after this point I didn't dare take out my camera for pictures because of the narrows and home stretches)

We Made It!!!

The very top of Longs Peak

The highest man in Northern Colorado, for a moment anyway

Signing the registry

The three of us at the top

Beautiful view!

Going down

The boulder field and keyhole during daylight

The mountain behind me!

Half way down the trail, we all made back safe and sound!


Doug said...

Congratulations - great accomplishment. I summit-ted Longs back in July of 1978 and never had the desire to try it again, remembering all the "fun" parts near the top.

Carrie said...

I'm jealous! One of these days I'll have to do I just need some volunteers to take along with me!

Nice work, and I'm glad you made it back safely!

Marti said...

Way to go Matt, Katrina & Reuben! That is really quite the accomplishment and you can be very proud of yourselves! Your pictures are all I need to see to know I will never have the desire to do what you've done! Congrats!!

Darcey said...

That's awesome, BoOgS! Fortunately I've never had that goal so I won't have to surpass those treacherous heights. I read Uncle Steve's comment on Facebook about how he almost died on Longs Peak - yikes!