Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Longs peak speed ascent

Looking up at Longs Peak (center) from the Jim's
Grove/Battle Mountain junction. Mt Meeker (left)
and Mt Lady Washington (right) are also pictured.
I've been planning on doing a fast ascent of Longs for quite a while and it finally came together last weekend. I ended up staying in Estes Park on Saturday night before getting up at 5am and heading to the trailhead with Dave. We hit the trail right at 6 and made fast progress up through the trees, quickly hitting the Jim's Grove/Battle Mountain junction. We headed left, keeping to the main trail. After a quick picture stop at Chasm Junction, things were mostly uneventful until the Boulder Field.
Showing off my sexy legs at Chasm Junction
Looking back down on the Twin sisters peaks
during the ascent to Granite Pass
I think we both started feeling the altitude here due to our fast pace and poor night of sleep (and less than stellar acclimitization?), but we soon reached the Keyhole and crossed onto the west side of the mountain.
The Boulder Field, I've still never seen a picture that
accurately shows how enormous it is.

It was a lot colder here (in the shade) and we quickly added layers, gloves and hats. The ledges passed quickly due to the relative lack of elevation gain and we soon started the slow slog up the trough. I was really feeling the altitude here (~13,800') and the loose rock combined with the occasional sketchy snow/ice patch didn't help. Our pace slowed significantly, but we eventually reached the top of the trough and transitioned to the narrows. Again, the relatively flat narrows section passed quickly and we were soon sucking wind as we scrambled slowly up the home stretch, avoiding ice and wet rock on the way. We hit the summit (14,259') at about 10:50 and made a short stop before heading back down the mountain.

Me on the summit.
Dave freezing on the summit
 The route to the keyhole passed quickly and soon we were shedding layers back in the boulder field. We felt a few rain drops as we left the boulder field, but nothing substantial and we started running as soon as we hit real trail. From that point on, we ran most of the way back to the parking lot, only walking where the trail was particularly poor. We also took the Jim's Grove cutoff to save a bit of time and distance. We finally arrived back at the parking lot at 12:30pm, 6:30 after starting.

I'm pretty happy with the time and very happy with the day spent on such an awesome mountain. When I consider how miserably slow the top part of the mountain felt I'm actually amazed at the final time.

We only saw significant numbers of other people in the trough and above, but on Monday the last bits of snow melted off the route and it's officially non-technical. For the rest of the summer there will be lots of crowds on weekends. Perfect timing!

I'm thinking about getting in some more acclimitization hiking and giving this another go later in the summer. If I do, I'll wait for a particularly stable weather day and leave around noon. Should be much warmer in the trough that way and I'll get better sleep and better food before starting out.

The stats: 6.5hrs, ~13.5(?) miles, 5000ft vertical


  1. Doug, can you please send me an email about the shortcut? Taking a couple of miles off is quite a lot.

  2. Peter,
    I sent you a detailed email, but figured a post here might help someone else too. The cutoff saves about .6 miles each way and can be found by heading right at the Battle Mountain sign on the way up or left at a broken of sign post and a couple big rocks a few hundred yards below Granite Pass on the way down. It's extremely steep near the top since you're trading distance for steepness and the trail is quite rough in some sections since it's no longer maintained. Probably better to use on the way down than on the way up.