Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,259 feet
Date Posted:  08/09/2018
Modified:  09/14/2018
Date Climbed:   07/30/2018
Author:  MtnHub
Additional Members:   unclegar
 Longs Peak - A Journey with Old and New Friends   

Longs Peak - A Journey with Old and New Friends

July 30, 2018

Peaks: Longs Peak (14,256')

Trailhead: Longs Peak Ranger Station
Elevation gain: 5,100'
Distance: ~15 miles

Start time: 2:35am
Return: ~3:30pm

Climbers: unclegar (Gary), Jeff, Hailee, MtnHub (Doug)


Every year I try to come out to Colorado to hike and climb in the mountains. Initially, my wife and I usually spend a little time with family and friends living in CO, and then we rent a room in various places of the State depending on where I plan to do some hiking or climbing. We usually spend our last full week in Estes Park. I love RMNP and will attempt to climb Longs Peak at least once every year.

I usually get my annual physical in late spring or early summer, about a month before we leave for our vacation. At my last appointment, I first met Jeff, who is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist. He was reviewing the medications I was currently taking.

During my interview, we got to talking about hiking, where each of us has been, and what we've done. He mentioned that he and his daughter, Hailee, have always wanted to climb Longs Peak. I offered that if our schedules ever coincided, I'd be happy to climb it with them.

After looking over our calendars, we realized that our time in CO this year would indeed overlap nicely. Hailee is a UI medical student and would be finishing a special rotation in orthopedics in Denver. Jeff would be flying out there in late July to meet her when she was done and then spend a couple of nights in Estes Park.

We made plans to climb Longs together on July 30.

The Climb:

I meet Jeff and Hailee in the Estes Park library parking lot, which is halfway from each of our motel rooms. They load up their gear into my vehicle and we are off to pick up Gary who lives just north of the Ranger Station.

I've climbed with Gary a few times in the past and when he heard that I was planning to climb Longs again this year, he asked if he could join us.

Because of the increasingly large numbers of people who attempt to climb Longs every year, we wanted to arrive at the Ranger Station no later than 3am. In the past, I've always been fortunate to find a place in the parking area, but I know from experience it fills up fast, and late-comers may need to park down along the road necessitating in added distance and elevation gain.

This time, we are pleasantly surprised to find the lot only half full, so we have our choice of parking places and we are on the trail earlier than expected.

We set a leisurely pace, and Gary offers to lead us up a park service trail to bypass a section of the standard route. By the time we start heading up to Granite Pass skirting Mt Lady Washington, the sun is just beginning to rise in the eastern sky. It is beautiful!

The rising sun between Pine Ridge and Twin Sisters.

Once we pass Granite Pass, we begin our climb up the switchbacks leading us to the Boulder Field.

Gary, Hailee, and Jeff on one of the switchbacks.
Looking back at the Mummy Range of RMNP.

We reach the top of the slope just as the sun is blazing brightly on the Longs Peak Diamond and the Keyhole Ridge. What a sight!!

The Longs Diamond and Keyhole Ridge with the waning gibbous moon setting overhead. (photo by Hailee)
Hailee and Jeff stop to pose with the Diamond and Keyhole as a backdrop. (photo per Hailee)

The Keyhole lies directly in front of us and entices us like a carrot on a stick. But it is still nearly a mile of boulder-hopping, requiring careful footing over the uneven terrain before we can attain it. The groomed trail is now behind us.

Gary, Jeff, and Hailee aiming for the Keyhole.
MtnHub, with Gary and Jeff nearing the Keyhole. (photo by Hailee)
Coming up to the Agnes Vaille memorial shelter just below the Keyhole. (photo by Hailee)

I reach the Keyhole first and I document the rest of the team's arrival as they climb up to join me.

Jeff arriving at the Keyhole.
Gary is next in line.
After first checking out the shelter, Hailee climbs up along side us.
We made it!

Taking a short break of water and sustenance, we scope out the magnificent Glacier Gorge which opens up to us on the other side.


We also find someone to take a photo of our small group.

At the Keyhole: Gary, Jeff, Hailee, and Doug. (photo per Jeff)

The Ledges give Jeff and Hailee their first taste of some real rock scrambling. Initially they're a bit tentative, but soon they take to the rock like a couple of mountain goats. It's a blast!!

Watch your step!
Scrambling up a steep and narrow section.
Gary looks ahead while Jeff and Hailee climb up to him.
MtnHub brings up the rear. (photo by Hailee)

The day is perfect. We have comfortably cool, clear weather right on top of us, but some beautiful wispy clouds drift by around us creating some lovely photo ops.

A window of wispy clouds between Pagoda and Chief's Head.

A trio of climbers from Michigan catch up with us, but after hearing that Gary and I have around 30 Longs summits between us, they are content to follow along behind us.

The Michigan trio traversing the Ledges behind us.
Gary leading the team on the Ledges.

The Trough is the next section we need to ascend. You gain a lot of elevation quickly and the loose scree and gravel can make it a bit tedious at times. But once the top is reached, the Narrows is a fun relief.

MtnHub and the others nearing the top of the Trough. (photo by Gary)
Hanging out at the start of the Narrows.

The Narrows is actually not as treacherous as one may fear. It's really quite solid and secure, and is frequently several feet wide with a high rocky curb.

Gary leads the group across the Narrows.
Looking back along the Narrows where Hailee and Doug are traversing. (photo by Gary)

And the views into the Wild Basin are amazing!

More wispy clouds in the Wild Basin.

I always regret that the Narrows goes by so fast. You climb up to a bend in the rock face and soon you find yourself at the base of the Homestretch.

Coming out of the Narrows at the base of the Homestretch.
A look up the Homestretch can be intimidating, but taken step by step, it's really not too bad.
Two of the Michigan crew start up the Homestretch while Hailee and Jeff ponder their next move.
MtnHub with two of the Michigan crew about halfway up the Homestretch. (photo by Gary)

At about 10:30 we finally hit the summit!

Hailee, Jeff, and Gary arrive at the Longs Peak summit.
A successful summit! Hailee and Jeff revel in bagging their first 14er.
View from the summit of Longs Peak. (photo by Jeff)
Gary finds a nice perch and looks like a mountain guru meditating on the meaning of life.
The mystical Palisades!

After enjoying the summit for about half an hour, we begin our descent.

The descent down the Homestretch. (photo by Gary)
Returning along the Narrows section.
Another look at the Narrows.
Return on the Narrows. (photo by Gary)
An amazing view of Mills Lake in the Glacier Gorge from the Trough.

When we reach the Chasm Lake Junction, Gary once again offers to lead us down a different way bypassing the high stone steps of the standard trail. We take the ridge down to the trail below us weaving through scrubby trees and alpine vegetation. We pass by some old, weathered tree stumps which remind me of one of my favorite poems, Materfamilias, by Luci Shaw:

Mother tree, bald, old, with shoulders white as bones bleached

but still green as a girl where mosses crust your south

and life tufts some of your knotted fingers.

You cup small jays in your elbows, wrinkle your brown skin

to shelter larvae and your roots beam and buttress marmot halls.

Today the morning mountain is a breathless gold,

yet you bend to an eternal gale.

You are a signal to weather, a signpost in time

pointing the way the wind went.

This stump reminds me of a Star Wars Tusken Raider, or a Sand Person, gesturing, "Halt!"

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Great job...
08/10/2018 15:20
Well written and set up trip report. Beautiful photos!

08/10/2018 15:26
... as all your TR's are, Doug.

Cool cloud effects
08/11/2018 09:32
Yep, even for an old hand at Longs Peak like you, each climb
is a new experience. Love the shot of the misty Palisades
(Photo #27). You gave me the short version of the hike when
we hiked Fern and Odessa Lakes a few days later, but it was
neat to read about it in more detail with your fine pics.

Thanks for your conmments!
08/11/2018 16:59
Thanks, guys!

Jay, still anxiously awaiting your report on Pyramid!

Kevin, good to catch even a short hike with you this year. And the Meeker/Longs loop is still on next year's agenda. If and when we ever try that route we'll come right up alongside the Palisades.

Pyramid TR...
08/11/2018 14:09
Working on it as we speak... Lots of pics to sort through.

Hey! Nice surprise
08/15/2018 09:59
seeing your report here tonight! It was good to get out with you again. I think our new friends enjoyed their first 14er summit and they did great! Just sent you my pics before I knew you even had a report. See you next year!

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