After a pretty lackluster run at the Rat Race 10k on Saturday, I decided to try and get a bit of mojo back for Pikes next weekend by putting in a solid run/scramble up Longs Peak, the most dominant of all peaks along Northern Colorado's Front Range. Due to its proximity to urban centers and Estes Park, this mountain is heavily trafficked, probably the most trafficked in Colorado.
Not surprisingly then the range of abilities on the mountain ranged from serious climbers (although not too many of those in evidence today) to casual hikers who had no idea what they were getting themselves in for when they agreed to take on Longs. I saw some genuine fear in a few people's eyes on some of the sketchier stuff near the peak. This is after all a serious mountain with no sympathy for the trivialities of human existence. Considering the log jams we encountered through a few of the crux areas on the mountain, I was surprised to learn from the rangers once we were done that there had only been five serious accidents this year and just one fatality (heart attack).
Getting back to yesterday's 10k, I was disappointed to put up a fairly pedestrian 37:22. With some pretty strong winds, my splits ranged from a 5:17 tailwind-assisted mile to a 6:15 last mile into a howling headwind! The winner, Cliff Campbell, still managed to run a 33:xx, which, considering the conditions, was pretty impressive.
Feeling pretty deflated with regards to Pikes after yesterday's race and a poor run to Barr Camp last Sunday, I was ready to get out and have some fun running up to Longs' Boulder Field and then hiking/scrambling the last mile or two to the summit. Got a ride to the TH with Ryan, where we met Nick P and got started. The trail up to the Boulder Field is very well maintained, so the run through these first five or six miles was pretty relaxed and uneventful. Got up in 1:19 and then hopped across the boulders heading towards the Keyhole - a notch in the ridge between Longs and Storm peaks. It was blowing pretty hard by the time we got there, but not too bad.
The terrain beyond the Keyhole is definitely more serious than anything leading up to it, and it is this last stretch that I am sure gets a few people into trouble every year. We traversed on ledges around the peak following red and yellow bullseyes towards the Trough - a large gully that ascends towards the summit of Longs - where the traffic was heaviest. By this time we were well above 13,000 feet and many of the people we passed looked to be working very, very hard. Because much of the terrain on the Trough is loose, the most serious danger here is probably falling rock from those above. Near the top there was a slightly more difficult section to negotiate, and there was litterally a line of people waiting to get up or down.
After we finally got up the little notch section at the top of the Trough, it was a short jaunt across the Narrows - an exposed ledge - to the Homestretch. Ryan and I pretty much ran the cracks up this last section for a summit time of 2:01 and 5k of climbing. The weather was pretty good on top - just a bit windy - and we sourced a nice spot on the east side of the summit that was free of people, sheltered from the wind and bathed in sunlight as we waited for Nick to get up.
We were very casual in getting down and actually took 5 minutes longer on the descent than on the climb for a round trip of 4:07. One serious-looking hiker (lots of expensive gear) called us show-offs (!) as we eased past him at the Boulder Field, while a lady with a kinder disposition labeled us her idols as we neared the end of the run. Whatever, just getting a workout in, as Ryan explained to disgruntled hiker-man.
On a sidenote - saw my buddy Eric Lee from the Fort Collins Trail Runners coming down from the Keyhole. He was well on his way to finishing the 'Radical Slam' (solo) having started six hours earlier at 3:30. What's the Radical Slam? Well it's a climb and traverse of all 7 peaks in the Longs Peak Massif region; Meeker, Longs, Pagoda, Storm, Lady Washington, Battle Mt, and Estes Cone. Phew! Funny sometimes where you bump into people.
Wore the Wildcats on this one, and they held up really well on the rock. The grip was great and the shoe, despite its minimalist toebump, was totally solid in protecting the foot on rough terrain: front, sides and bottom.