Peak(s):  Mt. Lady Washington  -  13,281 feet
Longs Peak  -  14,259 feet
Date Posted:  07/23/2015
Date Climbed:   07/14/2015
Author:  Mtnman200
 Longs Peak & The Lady 45 Years Later   

Monday, July 13, 2015 - I awoke abruptly in my tent to the sounds of my noisy neighbors, who hadn't been there when I dozed off to sleep in my tent at the far end of the Meeker Park Overflow Campground. Anybody care to guess which state the noisy bunch was from? (Hint: It's not Texas.) I'd driven to the campground late this afternoon with the intention of going to bed early so I could get up in the middle of the night for an attempt on Longs Peak. Having read reports of the icy snowfields in the Trough, I knew I might have trouble but wanted to try anyway. It didn't take me long to grab my gear, relocate to the other end of the campground, and go back to sleep. Of the three times over the years that I changed campsites due to rowdy neighbors, I've never regretted the move.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - After about five hours of sleep, I quietly packed up and drove the short (two miles) distance to the road to the Longs Peak trailhead, where I ate breakfast. The parking lot was surprisingly empty when I set out on the trail. Soon I passed Goblin's Forest, which in the dark looked like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie. I half-expected the trees to start talking to me.

Much of the way, I was able to follow the trail without using my headlamp. Eventually I got above the trees, where I could see skies beginning to get light to the east.

This photo's exposure makes it look a lot lighter than it actually was

Ditto for this photo 15 minutes later

Soon, I was treated to a glorious sunrise.

Sunrise from the Longs Peak trail

A minute later...

And another minute later...

As I climbed toward Boulder Field in the early morning light, I got a nice view of the east and north faces of Longs Peak.

Longs Peak

The well-named Keyhole from Boulder Field

The north face of Longs Peak from Boulder Field. Later, I'll cut across the large snowfield to the right of the photo

The sun's almost visible over Mt. Lady Washington. (Taken from the same location as the previous two photos)

The route across the ledges was essentially snow-free, but when I reached the Trough, things suddenly took a more serious turn.

The Trough

I was able to stay mostly on rock and bypass the snow. The snow evidently has been softening in the afternoon and then refreezing overnight into ice. It was too firm for kicking in steps.

Further up the Trough

Even with microspikes, I was starting to feel a bit nervous about continuing, as there was a lot more snow above me. I'd only seen two climbers ahead of me, and they had motored up the snowfield and continued on to the Narrows. I was too far away to tell what type of traction aids they had, but it was clear that a slip on the snowfield could easily result in a speedy and unpleasant return to the rocks below. I decided to pull the plug on Longs Peak and headed back to the Keyhole but refused to go home empty-handed. My planned consolation prize would be Mt. Lady Washington.

I cut across the snowfield below and to the left of the Keyhole. Microspikes weren't needed.

Once past the snowfield below the Keyhole, I climbed to the ridge between Longs Peak and Mt. Lady Washington.

The consolation prize is getting closer. Clouds were building, so I stepped up my pace.

It was a fun scramble to the summit of Mt. Lady Washington (13,281'). This is actually my second climb of Mt. Lady Washington. The first was with my dad on July 8, 1970, which means my second ascent is just over 45 years after the first. It made me wonder if anyone else has such a large gap between first and second ascents of a 13er or 14er.

The fantastic view of the east face of Longs Peak from Mt. Lady Washington

I continued east and headed directly toward the Chasm Lake trail junction, where I returned to the Longs Peak trail and continued down to my car, happy that I'd stayed ahead of any rain. I may not have made the summit of Longs Peak today, but the views made it all worthwhile.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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