On the Trail: Taking the Longs way
The Aspen Times
I needed to be in Estes Park a few days ago to pick up my oldest kid from summer camp, so I drove over Trail Ridge Road a couple of days early, intending to climb Longs Peak.
My timing was almost perfect. It was far enough into July that there was little snow and ice left on the so-called Keyhole route, making it less technical to climb, but there was just enough snow to drive most of the hikers away and make for an entertaining, mixed ascent.
I started the trek at 3 a.m. as Rocky Mountain National Park suggested, and watched a sunrise and a moonset on the way up. Before dawn I even glimpsed the lights of Longmont and Fort Collins out on the plains, a strange sight in a wilderness at 12,000 feet.
I reached the top of the great lump a little after 8, after gaining a climbing partner on the way up and making a couple of stops to put on and take off crampons.
My partner, a guy named Justin from Arkansas (an ice climber from Arkansas – go figure), and I were the first to reach the broad, tabletop summit that morning and we had it to ourselves for perhaps 10 minutes, which I gather is a rarity on Longs.
I was back at the car, tired and sore, by 1 p.m. The rest of the family (my wife, two girls 6 and 8, and a 2-year-old boy – don’t ask how it all came to be) was supposed to meet me at a campsite that evening for dinner, but they ran a little late and I was able to shower in town and power nap in the tent before they arrived.
When they finally pulled in that night, we feasted on enchiladas and went to sleep early.
The next morning we watched my 10-year-old perform in a horse show on the final weekend of camp. They announced his name over the PA system before he rode, and afterward there was a big picnic with barbecued beef sandwiches. We met fellow campers and listened to a month’s worth of camp-related stories, from the rain-soaked horse rides to the rock climbing to the riflery.
Two big days, completely different, back to back.
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