Monday, September 5, 2011

A Walk in the Park

Craig and I decided to climb Longs Peak this past Saturday. We've lived on the Front Range for so long, have looked at this 14, 255 foot peak so many times and finally thought why not, something different and we both needed a release from the day to day world. It gets sacred above 10, 000 feet, like a different world all together and that's what we were looking for, some sacred ground. We knew it would be a busy climb but we had no idea that the parking lot would be full at 3AM or that the trail would spread out in front and in back of us with a line of tiny head torches. It gave the effect of a pilgrimage. I could have done with about 90 percent less people but everyone was really nice a long the way, greeting each other as you passed or were passed. There were so many different kinds of people out there in the middle of the night on their own quests, it was kinda cool in it's own over crowded way. We hiked for a couple hours in the dark under a canopy of dense stars, this was very special to me, to be out in the darkness in the woods, Craig and I both enjoyed it.

Sunrise slowly spilled across the sky. Headlamps turned off, being able to see the darkness turn into light and the stars fade away was also really special and sacred.

Early morning just at first light, sun not even up as we traversed above tree line. You could hear water running beneath the rocks.

First light with the Diamond on the East face of Long's behind me. I was feeling pretty happy to be just where I was.

Craig with the Diamond.
We kept adding rocks to the cairns along the trail as we went.

Making our way to the Boulder Field and the Keyhole, where our climb would slow down and get a bit more technical. Sun still below the horizon.

And then BAM, the sun broke the horizon and filled our world with warmth. Covering the lower portion of the Diamond in gold. The sun is king!

The Keyhole bathed in warmth and light. We had our breakfast here in the sunlight. I lose my appetite at altitude, this time was no different, I had to choke down some food to keep my energy up. These were large boulders and it took a lot of effort and high stepping and leg breaking to get up to and down from the Keyhole.

Just on the other side of the Keyhole existed a different world.
No sun yet, exposed to the wind and the deep Glacier Gorge below you and to the West. There was a part of me that wanted to stay in the sun at the Keyhole. The height we were at was dizzying at first but the route was solid.

Craig traversing towards the trough along narrow ledges with a steep drop off to one side and cliffs above. This is quite a fun and challenging trail for something so well traveled.

Making my way along the ledges, it was cold and windy but fun.

Craig headed up the Trough.
Once past the ledges you are greeted with a large, vertical couloir called the Trough. This couloir descends all the way into the basin below but we had to follow it all the way to the top and to the notch in the center top of the image. It was a arduous climb, my legs were gonna feel this after climbing up and down it. There was a lot of potential for rock fall here as well. Apparently this Trough is full of snow well into July.

I'm at the very top of the Trough, just about to climb up to the notch and out onto the Narrows.
The Narrows are a set of, well, narrow, exposed ledges. This took a deep breath for me as there are towering cliffs above and below you that drop off into the expanse and a set of dramatic cliffs known as the Palisades in front of you. However it is quite thrilling to be able to be in such a dramatic place and having worked hard to get there. We headed on to the Homestretch which is a less then vertical slab to the top of Longs. There were people the whole way, it wasn't too bad on the way up but more crowded on the way down with people coming up, you never felt totally alone. However it was nice to see people helping and encouraging others a long the way, there was a spirit of camaraderie out there.

Craig in the Narrows just before climbing up and over to the Homestretch and back into the sun. There was some ice on the route from the night before. I can see where you would not want to get caught on this section of the route when it's wet. You can only move so fast and the rock is quite polished from years and years of use.

Finally on top, still early morning. We found a spot out of the wind but it was cold and I was beginning to shiver a bit so we ate some food and walked around a bit, then descended and began our 5 hour hike back to the car.

Craig on the summit of Long's Peak.

The summit is very flat and wide and there is nowhere to hide. I think the summit needs a large cairn and some prayer flags, but that's just me, I tend to ritualize things.

Team C & C.
Enjoying our adventure together.

The views from the top were amazing, there's something quite humbling about being up high in the mountains, you know you can't stay, you're a visitor and the only thing that can remain are your prayers.


Buzz said...

Wow! That climb is something that looks worth 'ritualizing'. Definetly!

Prayers at the top of the world...the perfect place to do it?


Thanks for sharing this one Carey.

Very nice!

JenyJo said...


Thank you so much for sharing ALL that. You have such a grounding perspective ;-)

Huge love your way!