A few trips in the past month. Trail work. A wedding weekend (not mine!) stroll. A quick backpack where I did not bring any camera memory (doh!), and a day hike last weekend with an old friend.
But the most interesting trip I did, at least for me, was continuing my evolving into an all around outdoors person.
I've been getting into alpine climbing this past year. Combine a thru-hiker's endurance and over-all outdoor experience add in some technical skills and you get alpine climbing.
I have no desire to walk in 100 yards and perfect gnarly moves all day. Hiking in 6 miles and gain 1000'+ vertical with scrambling and ropes? Sounds good to me!
The climb this past weekend was Longs Peak. A Front Range classic, this 14260' is a rite of passage for many people. But, it also epitomizes why I seldom DO NOT do 14ers: Crowds of people (Picture Franconia Ridge on Labor Day weekend!), people who put themselves into situations they are frankly not ready for (out of shape, not acclimated, poorly prepared, no outdoor sense), and people disregarding outdoor ethics (No dogs..and look who brings a dog up???)
Basically, doing a 14er makes my 36 yo self a premature cranky old man.
So, why did I do this peak? Because I needed the practice for Grand Teton later this month. Like most classic alpine climbs, Longs Peak (and Grand Teton) is not difficult on a technical level. You need ropes and gear. But, it is rated a 5.5 (easier side of moderate)…the crux is that you average a 12 hr day that starts at the trailhead at 3am! Grand Teton? Try a 16 hr day.
Plus, I found out something this past weekend. Go vertical and you get away from the crowds. The mountains seem pristine. The people are non-existent once you are on a technical route. It is just you and couple of friends. The views and getting to know the mountain on a more intimate level….
The day started off meeting my friends for 2am. The alarm going off at 1am was killer. But, my coffee was made (of course), the gear thrown in the truck and Mike, Mark , Kevin and I made it to the TH for 3am…along with 100+ of our closest friends.
We are all strong outdoor athletes so we quickly escaped the main herd and made it to the Boulder Field to catch a glorious sunrise.
The sun continued to rise. The alpenglow illuminated the always impressive 1000' Diamond. Well beyond my skill level at this point; this rock face is classic of alpine climbing and is visually stunning…esp in the early morning light.
At the edge of the Boulder Field, we started our scrambling and left the crowds behind. The route formed a natural ridge that did not require gear, but had some 4th class and even 5.0 climbing.
After two pitches with our gear (sorry, no photos. ), we continued the scrambling on the NW ridge below the summit of Longs. I love ridge walks! Esp this one…
Just below the summit, we could see the ant-line below. Our solitude was about to end….
At the summit, there were 100 of closest friends. Interesting sight. I must admit that the summit (where I've been before) was anti-climatic. The best part of the day was BEFORE the summit. Seeing the views without 99 other people bumping into me.
On the other hand, I did get to see a guy a say "GUESS WHERE I AM?!?!?!?!"
We decided to quickly leave the crowds behind again and rejoin our trail off the beaten path. Some scrambling down and a quick rap back to the Boulder Field.
We rejoined the crowds and quickly passed the people buy. The call of cold beers in Mark's cooler was strong!!!
The parking lost was reached. A beer was quaffed. And we reflected back on a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Backpacking will always be my first love. But, I am enjoying and appreciating other outdoor activities that build upon my outdoor knowledge. Climbing forms a very close relationship with the mountain. Knowing where to place your feet. Pulling yourself up just so. Thinking ahead to where and how you want to go.
It is also a way to escape the crowds. Throw in a long hike…and you have the mountain to yourself for a bit.
I love the mountains in CO. I also love enjoying them in different ways.