Longs Peak (14,255′)

Activities23 Comments

Distance 14 miles
Ascent Time 2 hr 27 min
R/T Moving Time 4 hr 32 min
Summit Elevation 14,255 feet
Elevation Gain 5,542 feet
Route Keyhole
GPS Export KML GPX
GPS Analysis Gamin Connect

Previously.

Well, that was 2001. It was pre-blog and I later threw up a page just as a marker. My sister had a detailed post on Geocities but that’s old Internet these days and no longer exists. So I feel that I must fill in a little pretext now. I moved to Colorado in 2001. Settling in the city of Longmont. Longmont’s main view…Longs Peak. Get it? Well, through that summer I heard a neighbor and others talk about hiking Longs Peak. I asked a few questions, bought the Gerry Roach book, and did some research. When my sister came to visit that Labor Day, I asked, “Wanna try something crazy?”. She was game. So we woke up at like 1:30 in the morning and drove to the trailhead and hiked all through the night. It was grueling, brutal, yet magical. We arrived at the famous Keyhole at dawn. Summited the monarch at 8:30 and then began the long journey back to where we started. We got hailed on during the descent. I thought it would never end. We both got angry. Then slap happy. Then crazy. Finally, we got to the parking lot and swore to never do that shit ever again. Took us days to recover.

Like any good epic adventure, you don’t know it while its happening. It pretty much just sucks during and later you come to appreciate it. I think it was 5 more years before I climbed another 14er. Since then, I have done about 20 more. However, I started running about 5 years ago and more recently that changed my perspective of (some) 14ers. Instead of being all day adventures, they now have become very nice training nuggets. So after hitting Mount Elbert last weekend, I was in the mood do get up high again this weekend. But I didn’t want to drive back to the Sawatch. Need to stay close. Why not go back to Longs? It had been 9 years. I swore to never return but times change. There was a ring to it this time. Returning to where it started.

I did some recon emails with JV on splits and saw what others in my blogosphere had put down there. All in all, that mileage to the boulder field was going to be perfectly runnable. From there, its all a hike given the terrain but I was ready. I dropped word of my plan on the blog and got some bites. Ended up penciling in Sunday and my good buddy Jim P. said he was in. We would meet at the trailhead at 4:30 AM. Time to get to bed.

Ended up sleeping poorly. Always happens. Wasn’t tired but got out of bed before the alarm. Had my stuff packed already so I jumped in the truck and made the relatively quick 45 minute drive to the trailhead outside Allenspark, Colorado. When I arrived, I found the main parking lot already packed. Whoops! I knew this would be the case but it was fun to see. Were we late? Nah. We just gave them a head start. I drove down the road a bit and found a place to pull off. Sat for about 15 minute until Jim drove up. We geared up and headed out.

It was in the 40s but felt warm. I went with a tech shirt, arm panties, shorts, Crosslites, hat, and my LT100 vest for grins in case the cold came. Wore my hydration pack to get more time with it. Had my new Petzel headlamp that I was testing for the LT100 race on. We hit the head for a minute then signed the big ass register and hit the watch. It was go time. We headed up in the dark to only the glow of our headlamps. There was a full moon but until we could get above treeline there would not be a lot of benefit. Saw a few hikers here or there and went cruising past them. For whatever reason, they didn’t seem to interested in our running lifestyle. Probably saying “fucking runners” under their breath. It was pretty uneventful through the trees. When we got out of them, more hikers and the friendliness quotient went up. Got some at-a-boys and such. Felt good.

Longs Peak 2010

Jim and I never really broke stride until we hit the boulder field. There isn’t really an official start to that section but when the rocks got big enough that I couldn’t run over them, I figured that was good. Exactly 90 minutes to cover that 5.5 miles to the start of the real fun on Longs Peak. HR was averaged at 152. So about as high as a normal run up Green Mountain. Not a PR effort. I wanted to simulate something I could maintain on race day. Jim showed that he is still the man beating me up to the boulder field and probably holding back some while following me up to the Chasm Lake turn before taking over.

Longs Peak 2010

At the boulder field, we had great light from the rising sun. I could see the keyhole and all its beauty. Its still a sight! Not quite as cool as the first time but still notable.

Longs Peak 2010
Longs Peak 2010

I meant to take a split at each notable section from there on out but plain forgot. So we motored through the keyhole, then across the field of bullseyes. Still moving pretty well.

Longs Peak 2010

Got to The Trough and remembered the pain I felt upon seeing this big climb in 2001. All the way up there!?!? Today, it was enjoyable yet challenging. We continued passing everyone in sight up through this section but still being respectful of their space and their probable lack of confidence as some first timers. Had fun on a few pitches as I didn’t take the easiest routes much of the time because other hikers were clogging them up. Wasn’t helping my overall time but it was more fun.

Longs Peak 2010

Hit The Narrows and nearly laughed at how its not really that narrow anymore. Cruised that section in good time then hit the Homestretch.

Longs Peak 2010

As said by Roach, this is the weakness in the cliff that you nearly circle the entire mountain just to reach. Its like a vertical staircase of rock that you climb with hands and feet. I felt a burst of energy and my shoes were gripping so I went in sprints up this section. Passing hikers in order to make it to the summit before the clock hit the bottom of the hour.

Longs Peak 2010
Longs Peak 2010

Jim and I got over the lip of the Homestretch and ran the 100 feet to summit rock and hit the watch. Time: 2 hours 27 minutes! The fastest known ascent times (FKT) are sub-2 hours. JV claims a 1:52 himself. So a pretty good effort and solid time. Could be improved upon especially on a weekday with less traffic and a PR effort to the boulder field. Maybe next time.

Longs Peak 2010
Longs Peak 2010

We stayed on the summit for about 30 minutes. The weather was perfect. Not a cloud. No wind. Couldn’t have asked for better. I could see the glimmer of Union Reservoir in the distance and looked a little to the right and pretended to see my wife and kids still in bed sleeping away as I look down on the Front Range of Colorado. I was grateful for the return and promised to be back again. She’s a great mountain. She’s my hometown mountain. She isn’t easy. People die on her — one just a couple weeks ago. But be respectful and careful — and she rewards you with an awesome experience every time.

Longs Peak 2010
Longs Peak 2010
Longs Peak 2010
Longs Peak 2010

On the descent, the adrenaline wore off and I got tired. I was slow down the Homestretch. Sort of embarrassingly slow. People were passing the “fast runner guy”. I didn’t care at the moment. You go ahead and fall and die. I don’t need to do something stupid and screw up my race in less than 30 days. So I took it nice and easy. Jim was out of sight but I was still cautious. I would start to get moving and catch a bad rock and back down the effort again. No worries. Take it slow. Groups of hikers who were ascending were coming into my path. I was giving them their space and often talking with them. It was really fun to hear the first timers talk about their day so far and what they had left to go. I don’t know how to describe it. Sort of innocent and pure but motivated? Kind of took me back to 2001 when I was dumb enough to give it a shot like they were today. The start of something? Who knows. But it was great sharing their moment with them if only to take me back to that state of mind myself for an instant. I got to respond to fun questions about how long it took me and what I was training for. One guy specifically said, “Are you training for the Leadville 100?”. I simply answered “yes” to the question which seemed like a real accomplishment to even get to say that. One girl was I passed was telling me how she was going to break 5 1/2 up today. She was dead set on it. Not an exciting time in the FKT sense but it was her world record. I hope she got it.

Finally hit the Keyhole and found Jim. We ventured into the boulder field and over to the sky potties. Those shitters have the best view in the world. Finally got out of the rocks and on to some trail and picked up the run again for the descent. Rocky trail. Not used to all those steps and loose rock all over the place. However, it reminded me of Hope Pass at training camp. Jim and I chatted a lot on the descent. As we got to treeline, it was really heating up and the shade was very welcome. As we continued down, I started catching and rolling my left ankle. Ouch! I felt that roll from LT100 training camp in there. Not perfectly healed up. Be careful. Ouch! Did it again. Kept running on it. Jim was following and had a front row seat to the misery. Finally, it again and had to take a walk to reset myself. It was tolerable but some stabilizing motion really hurt. Limped it for a few miles on the tilted trail until we finally got back to some flatter ground and I could pick up speed. Passed Kraig on the way down.

Longs Peak by fullerbra at Garmin Connect - Details

For as nice as the ascent was today, the descent sucked. Didn’t have a good effort from the summit to the keyhole. Then sort of moderate until treeline. Then the ankle. Wasn’t proud of that. Noted to Jim that if I fail the LT100 its going to be because I rolled my ankle 100 times and I can’t run on it anymore. Need to watch myself there. No jinx. Just taking note of a weakness. Anyway, ended up back at the lot and said goodbye to Jim. Both of us had to get back to our families. As I drove back to Longmont, Longs Peak sat in my rearview mirror most of the way getting smaller yet taller with each mile. Hard to believe I was standing on top of that just a little bit ago. Amazing.

I went 13.78 miles with an elevation gain of 5,542 feet in 04:32:19, which is an average pace of 19:45. Heart rate average was 144. View my GPS data on Garmin Connect.

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