For the first weekend of fall, some friends and I set out to conquer the tallest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, Long's Peak.
We left the comfort and warmth of our beds and were on the trail by 2:45am to start the roughly seven mile trek to the top of the peak that involves 5,000 feet of elevation gain. This hike was no joke, to say the least. The first 5.5 miles of the hike are fairly straight forward and just follow an obvious trail that switchbacks its way up to the boulder field, near the base of "The Diamond," which is the shear face of Long's peak that makes it look much different than other fourteeners. We arrived to the boulder field just as the sun was peaking up over the mountains and headed towards the "keyhole."
Upon reaching the keyhole section, there is the Agnes Vailles Shelter that was built to commemorate a hiker that got lost and the man that tried to save her and lost his life while doing so. This hut provided a nice break spot to eat some food and get a little shelter from the cold (especially when it's packed with eleven other hikers).
After passing through the keyhole, the route becomes much more difficult and even a little sketchy at times. The trail follows a collection of rocks marked with a red and yellow bullseye across the west ridge of the mountain. We followed these helpful markings until we arrived at "The Trough." A hell hole of steap, loose rock and boulders that leads up to the final two sections of the trail and to about 13,900 feet.
After conquering "the trough" we entered "the Narrows," which is typically the most deadly section of the route because of its namesake. The trail gets narrow. Luckily, we passed it with ease and nobody even had a close call. We finally entered "the homestretch," which is the last section before reaching the summit. This section is rated Class 3 because it involves using your hands most of the time to scramble up the rock to the top. At last, we arrived at the summit.
Shoutout to the homies back home!
We took some time to relax and eat some more food and crack open a summit beer to share before we realized we were only halfway done... After our time on the summit, we headed back down the seven miles that we had come up and finally reached the trail head around 4:30pm. We headed straight to Penelope's in Estes Park and enjoyed some big juicy burgers and fries before heading home and promptly falling asleep for the night.
Being in the mountains is a humbling experience and this was one hike that I won't soon forget. I think everybody should spend some time in the mountains to learn more about yourself, to appreciate mother nature, and to just enjoy the view! Cheers to fall and to more summits!