12:29 p.m.: Stragglers walk the streets of Estes Park, Colorado, but the evening is coming to an end for the night owls. For Colorado Mountain School guide Eric Whewell, the day is about to begin. The clock hits 12:30 a.m. and the buzzer goes off. It’s time to prepare for a 15-hour ascent and descent of the North Face of Longs Peak, the resident 14’er dominating the skyline of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Rising almost 5,000 feet, climbing Longs Peak is unfathomable for most people. But Eric and his clients aren’t most people. Today marks an eagerly awaited challenge.
1:00 a.m.: Eric meets his clients at the Colorado Mountain School Estes Park Lodge to fit mountaineering boots, crampons and packs full of gear, clothing layers, food and water.
1:45 a.m.: The climb begins. Eric leads the way. Before long, trees disappear and the wind-scoured alpine zone starts to feel like another planet. For being so close to town, Longs can seem astronomically removed.
Many of the routes on Longs present classic alpinists’ dilemmas – how light should we go? Too heavy and you move too slow and tire. Too light and you risk being unprepared. Storms race in form the west, so climbers can encounter snow and hail in any month. After enduring a winter ascent of Longs, famed British climber Doug Scott once quipped, “The Himalayas are a great place to train for Longs Peak.” Finding the right strategy involves skill, knowledge and sometimes a bit of luck. It’s part of the fun, and part of the challenge. It’s no wonder so many climbers become obsessed with Longs Peak. It’s also why many opt for a professional mountain guide to help them prepare, summit and descend this behemoth.
9:30 a.m.: The summit. High fives and positive vibes flow. Cheers of joy erupt and a tear or two are shed. They’ve done it. They’ve reached 14,259 feet by the time the night owls emerge from their slumber. Eric also feels the relief and joy, but having climbed Longs many times, he knows that half of the battle is still ahead. He congratulates each climber, and reminds them of the task ahead of them: downclimbing technical terrain and thousands of vertical feet. They relish in the feeling of accomplishment and replenish their energy before setting off.
4:00 p.m.: The group is back at the trailhead, shedding packs and sharing hugs. They debrief and exchange contact info. Everyone is exhausted, but happy to be among new friends.
4:45 p.m.: The team drops off their gear and stops at a local waterhole in time for happy hour. They look a bit haggard, but boast ear-to-ear grins as they cheers their success. After all, you can’t beat a laugh and a cold beverage after a Long(s) Day’s Work.
Whether you’re interested in summiting Longs Peak or preparing for Denali, Colorado Mountain School guides have unmatched mountaineering experience. We look forward to reaching the summit with you, and taking your skills to new heights.