It was cold when we woke up at 2:45 this morning. We got dressed and packed up camp as quickly as we could. We then got in the car and headed to the Longs Peak Trailhead. We got to the trailhead at 3:20 and it was already packed! There were cars everywhere. We ended up parking about a half a mile down the road from the trailhead. We hit the trail at 3:45 in the cold and dark. It quickly became apparent that we were not alone. As we looked up the trail we would see headlamps in the distance. We moved pretty quickly too!
When we hit tree-line the sight of a line of shining headlamps snaking up the mountain was incredible. Never before have I seen such a sight! We were part of an army of people marching up a mountain in the darkness.
The sun finally started to shine when we reached the Boulderfield with the Keyhole now visible. In the sunlight you could better see all the people who hoped to achieve the summit. Some of them seemed to be making easy work of the rugged terrain, while others struggled mightily.
It was almost as steep as the Manitou Incline that Kris and I had hiked up a few weeks ago. Only this time there were no stairs to walk up; only scree and loose rocks that occasionally were misplaced by climbers to a chorus of “rock!” The Trough left us thoroughly tired, yet we still had quite a bit of ascent to go.
From the Trough we moved up the Narrows. The climbing was again difficult and the air was thin. We took lots of breaks. Finally we crested a ridge and there she was, the objective of our strenuous climb: the summit of Longs Peak. There were lots of people up on the flat summit. We lounged on some rocks for a while, ate a snack, and then we signed the summit log and Kris took my photo on the summit.
We didn’t spend much time up there though, there were some dark clouds moving in.
As we made our way down off the mountain our progress was slowed by the traffic jams caused by people moving in both directions. We still made pretty quick time though. We were back to the Boulderfield in an hour. I used the toilet there and then we rested on a nice flat boulder in the sun. It started to look even darker and so we moved on.
Despite the dark clouds and the rumble of thunder, people still continued to head up the mountain. Soon slushy precipitation started to rain down on us. I couldn’t believe that few people seemed deterred by the weather. I thought the descent was difficult enough without the rocks being wet. Kris and I both agreed that we were glad to be down where we were and not up on the summit at this time. When we reached tree-line things did seem to clear up a bit. Soon the sun was shining and before we knew it we were back to the car. We had spent a total of 9 hours on the mountain. We had made quick work of our ascent (and descent) indeed!
We were starving when we got back to the car and so on our drive through Boulder we stopped at Qdoba for lunch. We then got our weary bodies back into the Civic and headed to Kris’ Denver apartment where I showered and took a nap before heading back home to South Dakota.