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"Longs Peak Expedition: Conquering Challenges, Gaining Perspective"

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

The summer weeks are starting to pass at a quicker rate than I could ever imagine. The gym had just had its "soft open" the previous week, and I was feeling elated from the accomplishment of all the hard work that has gone into this process. As soon as I was done working on Monday, I began researching my next big 14'er. I had heard Longs Peak was one that was a must-do for anyone looking for a serious challenge. Early in the week, I started researching the "Keyhole" route, which is considered the standard route for this climb.

This adventure was going to take all of my energy and focus, as it was a 15-mile round trip with upwards of 5000 feet of elevation. Moreover, this route also had some sketchy class 3 parts at the top, called the narrows, the trough, and the homestretch.

As the week passed by, I began to feel a surge of increasing adrenaline for this adventure. I made sure to put together enough snacks and get my water pack ready. Work just seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, Friday afternoon had rolled around. I was off work and had just walked into my place to sit on the couch to contemplate the weekend ahead. I began to assess if I was ready for this journey, and before I could make a decision, my feet just began to move. It was 6 pm, and I needed to pick up a helmet. Almost everyone on Longs Peak wore a helmet for the class 3 parts. I stopped by REI, grabbed a helmet, and set out to the trailhead. The drive was only about 90 minutes into the mountains, and the trail-

head was moderately bumpy. I made it to the top, parked, and began to settle in for the night. My plan was to leave at 2 am, and with that, I fell asleep.

I was jolted awake by the discussion from a big group in the lot and their flashing headlamps. I checked my phone, and it said 12:57. I immediately regained my senses with the realization of where I was at. There was something so introspective about hiking solo. It brought this feeling of loneliness but accompanied by sharpness and clarity. I got out of the car, began putting my gear on, and set out on the trail. The chill in the air was a welcomed feeling for this arduous hike. The trail would be roughly 5 miles to the boulder field. I kept a strong pace and was smart about my water and food consumption. The trail was busy, and there were groups I began to pass. Our headlamps were the only thing illuminating the route as we ascended.

I made friends with some girls on the way up, we began talking and ended up keeping pace with each other. We reached the boulder field right at sunrise, and what an absolute majestic experience. The keyhole was prominent, and the boulders were enormous. The sun illuminated the entire field, waking those who chose to camp there the night before. When we reached the top of the field, reality set in. Here comes the climb. I wasn't cold at all until we reached the keyhole. The winds were whipping, and this is where many were turning around. Not because they had planned to, but because they saw what was to come. I began to traverse the ledges and felt alive with the added exposure. The narrows were next and added an additional degree of balance and thoughtfulness. The winds were whipping, reminding me that this wasn't a walk in the park. The up-climb through the trough was never-ending and absolutely brutal. Pace yourself, I kept telling myself. There were a couple of tough stretches but overall went without a hitch.

The homestretch was the final piece to get to the top, and let me tell you it looks way worse than it is. The only problem was that it had rained the previous day, and so this class 3 climb had turned into a class 4. The handholds were slippery, and the footholds took thought. I was absolutely loving this climb, and it felt so good to have this kind of challenge. As I reached the final 10 feet of this climb, the feeling began to set in.

Getting to the summit was a feeling that I will always remember. This was the first 14,000-foot peak I've summited where there was actually applause when you reach the top haha. Everybody was having a great time at the top and just chit-chatting about the journey. What an amazing view of the entire mountain range. The clouds were sparse and kind enough to give us the entire view. There was a group that had champagne and was kind enough to share some with a whole bunch of us. We cheered each other on and basked in our victory of a day that was truly lived! I want to give the most sincere thank you to the two girls and eventually 3 whom I partnered with. I planned to hike completely alone but was so grateful to share stories and share this experience with.

I began the long journey down the mountain and back to the trail-head, beaming with accomplishment. What an incredible experience and a worthy, challenging hike and a beautiful reminder of how small we are compared to the vastness of the mountains.


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