Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Purple Mountain Majesty

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hiking my first Colorado 14er. I know I know, it's been hard to call myself a true Coloradoan having never hit one of our 56 peaks that reach 14,000 feet. Anyway, I picked a good one to start off on. This is Longs Peak up in Rocky Mountain National Park just a short drive from my parents' home in Fort Collins. The summit is 14,255 feet and it's a long hike to the top, over 8 miles each way. I've posted a bunch of pictures of my experience.

This is Longs from the road that leads up to the trailhead. It's a pretty spectacular mountain.

This is my friend James. We went to school together at CSU and he's summitted Longs several times so he knew what to do. Here we are in the parking lot at 4 am. We had to leave Fort Collins just after 2 am to put us there on time. Leaving early ensures that you'll be back down the mountain before the afternoon thunderstorms. Not a good place to get caught in nasty weather.

This was the sunrise from the mountain. We had just gotten above the tree line.

About half way up at around 6 am. That's a 2,000 foot sheer cliff on the east face of Longs. Some people use that rout to the summit. No thanks.

Break time before we cross the boulder field and start the real work. We're about 6 miles up at this point.

After crossing the giant boulder field, we had to climb up to that opening which is called the keyhole. It's a lot bigger than it looks. You can see some little people there in the keyhole, and a little stone shelter to the left of it.

At the keyhole.

This little shelter was built as a memorial for someone that died from exposure on the way down during a winter climb back in 1925.

After passing through the keyhole, you follow these little red and yellow bulls eyes painted on the rocks.

This is called the "trough" and the picture does it no justice. It is like a 60 degree incline of pure hell. You're over 13,000 feet at this point and the altitude really kills. I could go about 10 steps and I'd get so dizzy that I'd have to stop for a few deep breaths. The trough was really long. If you look hard you can see people up there to give some perspective.

A spot called "the narrows" just after the trough. Only a short steep climb called the homestretch before the summit.

The summit. The views during this entire hike were amazing and I took tons of pictures. I was in awe most of the day. Read on to see why that awe didn't last.

James packed up a glass bottle of Coke to celebrate the summit.

Here I am sharing lunch with one of the locals on the summit. That marmot practically ate from my hand.

This is my favorite picture of the trip. I'm sitting on a ledge there pondering the eternities. I had good reason to ponder too. Just as we left the summit, we came upon a group that we had passed just before we reached the top. They were on their way down. A 62 year old man was there hiking with his daughter. Shortly after we passed him he had a heart attack and died. As we came down, his body was there covered with jackets and his daughter was on a rock crying. James and I quietly passed and overheard a ranger that was there tell the girl that she needed to head back down the mountain and her father would be air-lifted out.

When James and I reached the shelter at the keyhole, the girl caught up to us with the person that was escorting her down. She asked to use a phone and another guy there obliged. As James and I rested and shed our jackets we listened as she called her mom and told her what had happened. I had to fight the tears and I felt so terrible for that girl. The rest of the hike back to the car was quiet and somber.

All in all, this hike was quite the experience, but I can't wait to do it again.


Sarah Jayne said...

Wow, Jeff! Awesome job on the hike. That's really terrible about the girl's dad. What a sad thing. Cool pictures, though.

the man said...

what up's tang. congrats on the climb! but that's freakin' crazy about the girl. especially sucks to think about when you've got a daughter of your own huh? makes me more emotional anyways... hope all is good with you guys!

Laura Hall said...

Wow Jarvis! Good work on the hike, it looks like it was an amazing day. I pretty much cried reading your post.

Ryan said...

Great 14er report, Jeffrey. I love your pictures. Terrible way to end the hike, though! I've never done Long's Peak, but I've heard a lot about it. Thanks for calling me to do it with you.

Ali the B. said...

What an amazing hike! Are we not so blessed to live in such an amazing world where there is so much beauty? I love all the photos! Wow about the dad/daughter situation, I couldn't even imagine!!

We sure do miss you guys in the ward & now Miss Laura & Johnny gone too :( please send more Green our way!! Give Audra & little Eva a hug & my love!!

Ali Bawden

Ryan said...

Totally rad. Now that you have Long's under your belt, we should do CO's tallest, Elbert, next year.