Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,259 feet
Mt. Lady Washington  -  13,281 feet
Date Posted:  07/18/2015
Date Climbed:   07/09/2015
Author:  Craig Cook
Additional Members:   Lady McClimbsalot, dillonsarnelli, Cookiehiker, Oso Blanco, Shawnee Bob
 Tour de RMNP, Day 4: Records Fall, and Falling Short, on Longs   

Longs Peak
Mt. Lady Washington


A climb almost a year in the making!

My goal of climbing all the Colorado 14ers is a slow and steady one. Living in Missouri, I have a finite amount of opportunities to get out to the Rockies and hike. So I've made a plan to hike two 14ers each year - this year was to be Longs and Torreys, which would complete the Front Range for me.

However, I've never done a class 3 14er, and wasn't comfortable doing Longs alone. While hiking Huron Peak last August, I mentioned to Bill and Dillon of my desire to climb Longs this summer. Dillon immediately responded with, "I'll climb it with you," and I was off to the races. What better person to join me on my first class 3 than someone who has finished all of the 14ers? After descending Huron, I mentioned Longs to Noel, who said she needed it as well. Now we had a party of three. Soon after, I learned that Chuck also needed Longs, so he hopped on board the party train. Our group was completed earlier this year when Bob joined us. Just for review, here's how many 14ers the members of our group has currently done;

Dillon: 58
Noel: 47
Chuck: 44
Bob: 16
Me: 14

I'm easily the low man on the totem pole, which suited me just fine - I was looking for experienced hikers/climbers, and I got it in spades. The original plan called for us to do the Loft route, but due to all the snow, we called an audible and decided on the standard Keyhole route. I've never needed to use climbing gear before, but Noel set me up with microspikes, a helmet, and an ice ax. Even so, knowing the Trough and Homestretch still contained quite a bit of snow, I didn't feel comfortable testing them out, and I left all but the microspikes in her vehicle.

I woke up at the unseemly hour of midnight, sleepwalking through our cabin to get ready for my 1:15 a.m. pickup by Noel (along with Chuck and Bob). Meanwhile, Kellie got to sleep in Thursday morning, as she had a 10 a.m. massage appointment at the Stanley Hotel. We got to the trailhead at roughly 1:45, fifteen minutes early for our departure time. At two, we saw headlights and heard the roar of an engine flying up the road, and knew Dillon must have arrived.

In the "You can't make this stuff up" category, we'd planned this climb since last August. The exact date of July 9 had been set since Christmas, at least. So of course it also just happens to be the same morning that Andrew Hamilton set the speed record for climbing all 58 14ers! The trailhead parking lot was packed, and we saw numerous people descending as we started up. Before long, we saw the main contingent, along with the man himself - Bad Dad. Noel, being more awesome than the rest of us, had brought him a container of cookies - she'd done this before, when he was on Pikes Peak - and while I didn't
hear him say much (maybe he was tired? Haha!), he was all smiles when he received the cookies!

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Noel takes an early morning selfie!


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Bad Dad himself, fresh off a record-setting run


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Who is more famous: Bad Dad or CookieHiker? The debate rages on...


Also part of this group was Danielle - someone I'd only known online from her cool trip reports, and carrying jars of pickles up 14ers for summit photos in exchange for free pickles from Vlasic. She told us hello, hugged Noel, and told us she was going to go back to the trailhead, get her pack, and catch back up to us. I thought she was joking, and Chuck said once she got back and the party started, we'd never see her again. Turns out, we were wrong.

We made good time through the darkness, taking turns being the lead hiker. If we hadn't done this, Dillon would have led the entire time, and the rest of us would have lost him by sunrise - he won't admit it, but he is a crazy-fast hiker. Before long, we saw we were above a vast sea of clouds stretching to the east, with a bright crescent moon shining above us. I have to admit, it felt great being above the clouds for once, instead of them being above me!

As we reached tree line, Dillon began pointing different areas out to us. Most of what he described was lost on me in the darkness, but I did see a massive hulk of rock towering right in front of my face. It was Mt. Lady Washington, a seemingly tiny bump in front of Longs' Diamond in the pictures I'd seen, now a monstrous shadow leering before me. Appearances can be deceiving, though, especially at 4 a.m.

After rising above tree line, but before the boulder field, we were treated to the most amazing sunrise I've ever seen. Standing high above the clouds that stretched all the way to the horizon, we stared in awe as the sun first poked the tip of its eye out at us, then gradually rose to shine upon all the hills, clouds, and mountains surrounding us. It dawned on me (see what I did there?) that all the people down in Estes Park were missing this - just another cloudy day down there. After being struck dumbfounded for a moment at the sheer beauty of it, I grabbed my camera and started snapping photos. I saw everyone else doing the same. We all agreed that our photos did absolutely no justice to what we'd just witnessed, but Chuck, the professional photographer among us, got close.

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My attempt at capturing the sunrise


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Chuck's much better attempt at capturing the sunrise


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Thoughtful, or just tired, in the early morning hours?


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Aside from my wife, this is my favorite hiking buddy


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We all look so serious...


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Dillon enjoys the sunrise


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Chuck and Bob taking a break


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Longs begins to come into view


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Dillon finally takes a break


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Longs looking sinister


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It's already been a long morning!


It was on to the boulder field, a vast expanse of, well, boulders. The Keyhole was clearly visible, and I felt a tingle of excitement. Would we be able to continue? Or should I say, would I be able to continue? It was here that we also met a young man from Chicago, wearing just jeans and a hoodie, who came up to us and said he'd gotten lost in the boulder field. His cousin (who made it very clear he'd hiked Longs 11 times) was supposed to be guiding him up, but had moved on so quickly that this young man didn't know where he was anymore. He asked if he could follow along with us, and we said sure.

MINI-RANT
IF YOU ARE GUIDING SOMEONE WHO LIVES 1,000 MILES AWAY UP LONGS PEAK, OR ANY OTHER 14ER, MAKE SURE THEY HAVE ADEQUATE GEAR AND DON'T LEAVE THEM ON THEIR OWN!!!

The young man told us his cousin's name, and Noel began screaming it, along with the fact that his cousin was going to kill him. It was a very humorous part of a not-so-humorous situation. It got even better, though, when we found the cousin, who had been up at the Keyhole eating a sandwich. Noel told him his cousin had gotten lost in the boulder field, and that because he left him, he wasn't going to get a cookie. The guy stared at her, dumbfounded, while I did my best not to erupt in an explosion of laughter. We all continued up to the Keyhole together, where Noel did indeed let him (and the rest of us, of course) have a cookie.

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Solid advice


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The Keyhole!


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Memorial sign at the Keyhole shelter


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Looking down on the Boulderfield


We took turns going through the jet stream, err, I mean Keyhole, and looking at the amazing views on the other side. I don't know what the wind speed was in there - I believe Danielle later said 80 mph? - but it was crazy. I asked Dillon what he thought it was, and he responded, "A lot." He certainly wasn't wrong! As thin clouds blew through the Keyhole, it felt like tiny ice pellets drilling me in the face.

We could see the Trough was full of snow, the wind was bitterly cold, and from what we'd heard, the Homestretch seemed pretty sketchy as well. We made a unanimous decision to call it a day, and return for Longs when conditions were more suitable. Instead, we went into the shelter and ate cookies! The two cousins began their descent, and Dillon let the young man from Chicago borrow his down puffy summit jacket (did I get that right?) to stay warm. My faith in humanity was restored a bit later when we found that the guy actually left it in Dillon's Jeep, instead of running off with it.

As we relaxed, we saw a bright neon jacket ascending through the boulders. Someone asked, "Is that Danielle?" Noel, never the shy one, screamed, "DANIELLE!!!" Sure enough, the person waved at us, and soon our group went from five to six.

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The Ledges, hiding amongst the clouds


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Chuck chillin' at the Keyhole


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Looking out at Storm Peak


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Bob with the Keyhole on his head


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Time for lemon cookies!


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The group takes a break


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Yep, I'm good here!


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Glamour shot!


After looking through the Keyhole one more time, and giving Danielle time to take some photos, we returned to the boulder field for a short break. As I was lying on a rock, Dillon asked me if I was going to go for Mt. Lady Washington, so I could at least get a 13er. I said I didn't know.

About five minutes later, he said, "Why don't you go get it?"

I jokingly responded, "Are you going to carry my backpack while I run up there?"

He looked at me for a moment, then said, "Yeah, I'll carry your backpack if you want to go up there. If you head straight for the ridge, it shouldn't be too bad."

The offer was too good to pass up, so off I ran, boulder hopping up towards the ridge as the others began their way back down the trail. Dillon had described it as a "choose your own adventure," and he was right on the money. There was no trail (at least from the boulder field side), so I just started scrambling, zigzagging up the path of least resistance. As I moved up the ridge, the views of the Diamond and Chasm Lake were beyond impressive. Dillon had also warned me about the two summits, saying when he went up there, he never could figure out which one was the true summit. Just to be safe, I did both, then descended off the other side, where I met back up with the group on the main trail.

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Longs, while ascending Mt. Lady Washington


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Longs, near the summit of Lady Washington


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Chasm Lake, as seen from Lady Washington's ridge


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All alone on Lady Washington, must be selfie time!


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Looking back at my descent from Lady Washington


The descent was rather uneventful, save for the group of young girls riding horses up the trail, and the poop-filled trail they left behind. It was like hopping through a mine field. Upon our return, the comically-inclined Danielle, who after going up and down much of the trail twice in a row, and having not slept for roughly 24 hours, decided to simply lie down on the scorching hot asphalt of the parking lot. I don't think she could have cared less. Despite not making the summit, Noel broke open her bottle of bacon soda back at her vehicle, where she, Chuck, Bob, and I all partook of what might be the nastiest pop we've ever had. Oh well, it was a fun idea in theory!

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Evil marmot


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Hikes are always more fun with the CookieHiker


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Noel breaks out the bacon soda


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I take the first drink


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Noel is next, to her chagrin


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Bob really gets into the action


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Chuck brings it home


Noel dropped me back off at my cabin, where I picked up Kellie, fresh from her massage, and we all met down in Estes Park at Bob &Tony's Pizza. Kellie and I got pepperoni and bacon, and it was glorious. It was a fun lunch, full of exhausted hikers. After eating, we said our goodbyes - until next year! - and Kellie and I drove back past the Longs Peak trailhead to see the famous St. Malo church. We finished the rest of the evening relaxing in Estes Park.

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Kellie at St. Malo


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St. Malo surrounded by clouds


While there was no 14er summit this day, it was still a wonderful time out with friends. I'm lucky to have found such a wonderful group of hiking partners. And hey, I did get a 13er summit for my efforts!



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
IAmtnclimber
User
Great report!
07/19/2015 10:54
How much snow would you say is left in the trough? We are climbing that route in less than 2 weeks. Debating on purchasing an ice axe.


Craig Cook
User
Trough
07/19/2015 14:25
From what we could see between clouds blowing over the peak from the Keyhole/Start of the Ledges, the trough looked full of snow. I saw someone say today that they did Longs with ice ax and crampons – and that those without that gear had to turn around. A lot can change in two weeks, but I’m guessing there will still be some snow.


IAmtnclimber
User
Thanks
07/19/2015 16:25
Thanks for the info. We will keep our eyes on it for changes in the coming week.


Shawnee Bob
User
Nicely done
07/19/2015 20:16
Something tells me you’ll have more summits than me in no time! Let’s do this again sometime.


Cookiehiker
User
Awesome TR!!
07/22/2015 15:30
Craig, it is ALWAYS a pleasure to get to hike with you!! What a cast of characters we had this time around that made things even more fun! You’re pretty darn impressive of a 14er hiker for a kid from Missouri! ;)


Oso Blanco
User
Great Moments
07/22/2015 22:09
The pleasure was all mine Craig! Was good to mingle w/Andrew Hamilton on the trail and spend a gorgeous day on the mountain with you and our crew! Let’s get this done next time you’re in town.


Michael Wyckoff
thank you
07/25/2015 15:22
great report, thanks for the info on the trough especially. I’m looking to do this later this week and was researching the need for crampons/yak trax, ice axe. I think you’ve made my decisions!

Michael



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