Wednesday Hiking Inspiration
August 24, 2011 Leave a comment
This past weekend, I climbed my most exciting Colorado fourteener yet: Longs Peak. Here’s what Gerry Roach says about Longs Peak in his essential guidebook Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs:
“Longs Peak is unquestionably the monarch of the Front Range and northern Colorado. It dominates all within sight of it. Longs is the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park and Boulder County…Its summit attracts thousands of people each year, and it is one of the most popular peaks in the western United States. The reason for its popularity is obvious. Longs enraptures all but the most heartless soul.
Longs has a tremendous east face, and its great sweep has struck emotion into many hearts. Emotions range from awe to terror…Somehow, Longs’ popularity makes people feel safer, but the opposite is the case. Many people believe the greatest climbing hazard today is being below other people. With or without other people, any route on Longs is a serious undertaking.”
With a 4:45 am wake-up call from the boulder field where we camped (6 miles in on the trail), we were lucky to be on the trail as the sun started coming up over the peaks, and we had the trail almost to ourselves the entire way.
We reached the summit at 8:15 am, just the sixth and seventh people to reach the top that day.
Longs is a Class 3 peak, where you graduate to using basic climbing techniques, rather than just walking or hiking along a trail. Longs is certainly a challenging fourteener—you have to respect the mountain and be aware that there could be serious consequences (i.e., huge drop-offs and loose rock) in certain areas—but with a little focus and determination, anyone can do it. I found it to be truly awe-inspiring and the most rewarding peak that I have reached this summer.
For those looking to summit their first fourteener, there are some great peaks to try. The Denver area is surrounded by six Front Range peaks, all within about an hour and a half drive from the city. Rated as a Class 1, Grays Peak or Torreys Peak are good peaks to start with. The two peaks are separated by just a short saddle, so many people summit them both in the same day. Bonus! Mount Bierstadt is another good fourteener to start with. Bierstadt is a Class 2 hike, which means it is still just basic hiking, but there is some scrambling over talus (loose rock) near the peak. All three of these peaks would be great first fourteeners for anyone looking for a new adventure.
Always remember to start early and bring proper layers, plenty of water, and food when hiking. Have fun and good luck!