CDT day 103: a side trip up Long’s Peak

August 15
Mileage: 13 (doesn’t count)

Even though I tossed and turned and slept maybe four hours, I feel great when I wake at 2:55 to Spark’s alarm. The three of us stuff our things away in the dark room, fumbling for snacks and water bottles, trying to guess how cold it’ll be and which layers to bring. This reminds me of Lia, Jess and my apline starts last winter- South Sister, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, Mount hood. I feel happy and excited- I’m going on an adventure with friends! To climb a mountain! It’s thrilling in a different way than thru-hiking- it’s its own special thing. I’ve missed it.

Speaking of layers, I have layers now! I was reunited with my tights and gloves in Steamboat, and I picked up a long-sleeve capeline as well. No more sleeping cold! As a result, however, my pack seems suddenly massive. Oh well.

We’re ready to go by ten after three. I eat a salami sandwich, pop some caffeinated jelly beans, and put on my shoes in the car. There’s no time to brush my teeth. I’m ready!

The trail to Long’s Peak climbs on gently-graded, well-maintained switchbacks. What a revelation this is! I can’t remember the last time I hiked on trail this nice. Not to mention switchbacks! It’s like the freakin PCT. I miss the PCT…

I feel really good this morning, and I feel even better as we climb, our headlamps bobbing like disembodied orbs  in the dark. Seminole woke up with an epic earache/headache, and after a couple of miles he unfortunately has to turn around. Track Meat, Spark and I soldier on. We’ve got to make it to the top!

The sun rises when we’re just below the boulder field. The eeriest, reddest, most liquid-seeming sunrise I’ve seen. The sun practically quivers over the horizon.

“Red sun in the morning, sailor take warning,” says Spark. But nah, the thunderstorms won’t come until the afternoon. We should be good.

I’m slow crossing the boulder field- I’m not a magical balancing ninja like Spark. After the boulder field comes the keyhole, a notch in the jagged ridge through which we climb. It’s windy in the keyhole, the wind battering me. I sit there with Track Meat and Spark, looking out at the next part- a long traverse of the vertical rock wall via a series of narrow ledges/non-ledges/hand and foot holds/rock chutes that will eventually lead one to the summit.

I make it past the first hairy spot wherein one must hold on to the rock wall and if one were to let go one would fall to one’s death before deciding, you know what, this has been an awesome hike and I’m having a great time and why should I ruin that. Because I’m fucking terrified. Track Meat turns around not long after, and we start to make our way slowly down. Balancing Ninja Spark is having the time of his life, racing along the ledges/hold and passing all the other hikers.

The hike down the mountain on good solid ground in the warm sun is peaceful and nice. I feel so good today! Like actually happy! Morale is high. Everything’s gonna be alright!

We chill at the trailhead with Seminole, who is hella bummed about not being able to climb the mountain, until Spark returns, haggard and sunburnt. He chatters about how much sketchier it became after the point where we all turned around, how steep the rock chutes where, how much exposure there was. He complains about how slow the other hikers were on the descent- “Like they thought they were gonna die or something,” and how he had to work his way around them. Hmmm…

We all crash in the car on the three hour drive back to the trail, hungry and sleep deprived. We stop at a grocery store to resupply and Track Meat and Spark buy a huge fried chicken dinner. I get veggies and hummus. We spread out our picnic at the campground near Rabbit Ears Pass, and say goodbye to Seminole. Thank you so much Seminole for the adventure! Much food is consumed, and we set up our tents against the afternoon drizzle. It’s not even five p.m. but I really, really want to go to sleep. This has been a good triple zero- tomorrow we hike!

Photos on instagram