| ME KICKING BUTT ON MY 20 YEAR OLD SELF
LONGS PEAK -14,255 FEET
ME KICKING BUTT ON MY 20 YEAR OLD SELF
Longs Peak has captivated me since I was young. My sister moved to Colorado from Sioux Falls, SD in 1975 when I was 8. I first saw the mountain in 1976. We often visited Washington State and Mt. Rainier when I was growing up and knew that people climbed it “in preparation for Everest,” but for some reason didn’t think of anyone climbing Longs. It wasn’t until the mid-1980’s when I saw a picture of it in “Beyond the Vertical” that I realized people climbed it and that maybe I should do it someday too! After all, I had “climbed” to the summit of Harney Peak (7,242 feet) in South Dakota at least twice.
Beyond the Vertical.
I’m not sure how the plan actually came to fruition, but on July 30th, 1987, just three days after my 20th Birthday, my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I drove though the night to arrive in Fort Collins early on the 31st. This is EVERYTHING I can remember of my first Longs Peak trip (the trip report)…
… I slept about 3 hours after driving 12 hours…. I hung out in Fort Collins on the 31st…. I ate a whole bunch of pizza right before I went to bed around 10 pm…… we got up WAY early…. I put on no-name high top tennis shoes, cotton socks, cotton underwear, cotton t-shirt, cotton jeans, and a wind breaker….I took a canteen of water and two Snickers or something like that…..drove to the Longs Peak TH and started walking around 3 or 4 in the morning…. I had to go to the bathroom REALLY bad the whole way but couldn't….. Was really happy there was an “outhouse” but couldn't use it cuz people could see me….. before the Keyhole I could take about 2 or 3 steps and have to rest for a minute or two…..I was so tired….. I made the summit!!!... ate a Snickers or something….. I seem to remember a number like 500 people on the mountain that day…..upon reaching Estes Park, I laid in the grass and thought I was going to die….. I vowed to never do something as stupid as THAT again! EVER.
Johnson in long hair and cotton.
While I said I would never climb Longs again, I was really proud of my accomplishment. The farthest I had ever run up to that point was around 4 miles and wasn’t fit cardiovascular wise. I had developed a liking for weight lifting and to that end I was strong but it didn’t translate well into a 15 mile hike at elevation. Nevertheless, a day or two after my climb we drove to Estes and had a t-shirt made as a keepsake to remember the day by. Years later my wife had it, along with numerous concert t-shirts made into a quilt.
TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS:
They say time heals all wounds. I would disagree with that. However, time does dull some memories. 19 years passed and I got it in my head to climb Longs again…. this time as part of a vacation to Colorado with my wife and two kids. We had visited Colorado every year and sometimes twice a year since the early 80’s but the from about 2001 every “vacation” turned out to be an occasion to visit family in South Dakota… especially my dad who was suffering from emphysema. He died on New Year’s Day ’05 and by ’06 felt at liberty to do whatever we wanted. In order to prepare for the climb, my wife and I trained by running, lifting, and hiking around western Virginia. Our “final” training hike was along a 10 mile section of the Appalachian Trail. My wife asked how that hike was compared to Longs Peak. I said something to the effect that it would be similar if we had gone another 5 miles…. Oh, and if we had put a Walmart bag over our heads and sealed them at the neck. A couple of weeks later we were in Colorado and drove up to conquer Longs. As we crested the hill past Glen Haven and just east of Estes, Longs came into view. It had been 6 years since I had seen it and it looked like Everest after living on the East Coast. My wife and I carbed up on a bunch of pizza and beer and spent the night near Estes. We started hiking around 3:30 a.m. And yes, I had to go to the bathroom again. What makes the memory of this trip extra funny… at least to us…especially in hindsight… is the fact that we used these windup flashlights that my brother-in-law let us use. I can only imagine what others on the trail thought as we cranked those things…whir whir whir WHIR….all the way up the trail till it was light. We didn’t make the summit but it reconfirmed in my mind that I would never climb that mountain again. From Keyhole to the trailhead seemed like an eternity.
My wife on Longs.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
We moved to Colorado in 2008. Before we left Virginia I told a friend of mine that he should come out for a visit and climb a 14er. He said, “Great!...what’s a 14er?” He came out that summer and we ended up on Bierstadt and Evans via the Sawtooth. It was one of the hottest days of the summer in Denver that day and I was sicker than sick when we finished. Tony said maybe we should sit in the air conditioned car before we drove home but I thought, “If I lay down, I will die.” My head hurt so badly. Additionally, I almost lost the toenail on my big toe from jamming it in the front of my boot. Ugh… I will never do that again! Yet, after stopping in Georgetown for a Red Bull, Snickers, and Gatorade and washing down a handful of Ibuprofen, aspirin, and Tylenol, I began to feel a little better and within two days was wondering which peak I should do next.
NEVER TOO OLD
With this background in place, Longs Peak is such an amazing mountain and a peak that I have desired to summit for about 2 years now. I decided that I should climb it at least once a year but never followed through. I think one thing that has kept me away is my desire for solitude. Perhaps I was just a little nervous because of the memory of my first summit or the subsequent pain of the second attempt. Either way, I am motivated to visit Longs more and find Alan Arnette’s love for the mountain infectious and John Williams’ goal of summiting the peak by a different route every month of the year motivating. Inspired after hearing Layton Kor in Boulder, I set out to learn how to do technical climbing. I began to wonder if I could ever get to the level to tackle the Diamond. Perhaps a bit late in life to start training and learning to take on such an endeavor but as C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” The dream may be just that now with the tearing of my labrum in my left shoulder three years ago and subsequent surgery last January. But like any goal or dream, a first step must be taken.
My surgeon cleared me to “Climb something like Longs” in July. I climbed a couple of other peaks and it seemed as though my motivation to finish my list trumped the motivation to climb Longs again. So there I was trying to decide what I should climb when I got the last minute invitation to join John (fepic1) for his finisher. Since our failed attempt on Capitol last year we tried to connect for a peak on several occasions but it never worked out. Also, several other friends as well as others I had wanted to meet for some time were also going to be on the trip so I jumped at the opportunity. I contacted Alan to see if he’d be up for going. Our many mutual invitations since June had all been misses and I hoped to share the short ride to the trailhead. I was also slightly concerned that he hadn’t been up to Longs for two weeks and had only summited it 28 times and thought he might like to do it again. We didn’t share a ride due to his speaking engagement on behalf of Alzheimer’s in Denver the night before but he made the trip and gladbached it in the parking lot.
The crew for the trip included: John (fepic1), Jodi (JLOHARA), (Steve (sgladbach), Britt (globreal), Michael (Boggy B), Brian (BKS), Tom, Robert, Kylie (Kghocke), Alan (Alan Arnette), and myself.
After Britt prayed for safety and success for the day, we started up the trail just before 4 a.m. Conversation was pleasant as we walked through the dark. We rested and gathered the group together at the base of the Loft.
John (fepic1) and early light.
We set out to climb and found some ice to make things a little more fun. In this pic...Steve, Robert, Britt, Alan, and Michael taking in the Loft Direct on the far right.
Making our way up the Loft.
Michael and Kylie chose to take the Loft “Direct” route. For the rest of the day he was “Crazy American White Boy”. Kylie was just cool.
Crazy American White Boy and cool chick.
We made the top of the Loft and someone (prolly Britt) said we should tag Southeast Longs.
Britt suggests SE Longs
Surprisingly, we were all in! I am wondering if we set a record that day by having 11 people on the summit!!??
Is 11 on SE Longs a record or something?
After hanging out for a while on this fine sub-summit, we made our way down and towards longs. Personally, I was very excited to see Clark’s Arrow. I had heard about it for so long and it is such a piece of Longs Peak history. Alan knew right where to find it and enjoyed hanging out to be sure we all saw it.
Alan shows Steve Clark's Arrow.
Alan taking some video of 'his' rock. Check Alanarnette.com.
Alan near 'his' rock.
Happily, it didn’t seem like there was a throng of people on the mountain. Maybe because WE were the throng. There was much rejoicing at the summit and a lot of hoopla over Johns accomplishment. Britt and Steve really went all out with the fried chicken and Michael brought the sparkling grape juice. I thought I was going to live it up with a Rock Star, Slim Jim, and Fritos…. I substituted the Slim Jim for a couple pieces of chicken! Man that was beyond good!
John with fried chicken in hand!
Group shot! Fried chicken salute to John. Congratulations dude.
Finishing has its perks I guess!
Me….looking a little different after 25 years.
25 years later.
Before we left the parking lot earlier in the day it was determined group was going to take different routes down and reconvene at my favorite exposed outhouse. Alan, Britt, Robert, Steve, and I would take the North Face down. I was very happy to learn this and was thankful there was an extra harness. The North Face was fun and it was good to touch a rope after so long a hiatus. It seemed to me that the “technical crux” of the day was the ice before the second rappel. All 5 of us had to jocky for position and footing on a small icy perch while anchoring into the bolt. Thankfully we managed and made the second rappel and enjoyed the views at Chasm View.
Steve getting things set
Alan on rappel. His smile sums up the day.
Me on rappel. Photo by Boggy B!
North Face action
Robert on rappel.
Shortly after this picture, I lost my Buff. I can’t tell you how sad I am about that!!
We reconvened yet again at Chasm Junction before we made our way home.
Hanging out at Chasm Junction before the sprint home.
This was such an amazing trip for me. To see the joy on John’s face as he completed his journey of 3 short years. To be involved in the teamwork, comradery and friendship that bonded this group. To the perfect weather, the safety we enjoyed, and the fried chicken. To my talk with John on the way down about things that are beyond the vertical. And to looking back to 1987 at the 20 year old me and seeing that it hasn't all been downhill. Yes, I am wiser now than I was then but there are reminders every day that my body is wearing out and breaking down. My eyes, shoulders, and feet continue to show me that I am getting older like never before. But in this one thing… this mountain climbing dream … and specifically this snapshot of how I did on Longs now compared to how I did 25 years ago…. My 45 year old self kicked butt on my 20 year old self! And for that I am especially blessed and pleased.
Thanks for reading.
Feeling great....didn't know this was actually taken till I got home.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):