|The RMNP rangers want to make sure newbies know what they're in for
But my co-worker told me that Longs on a weekday is an entirely different, better experience - and I'm delighted to report he was right! We only passed three other parties on our way up. As is normal for a Longs Peak climb, we started on the trail before dawn (which meant a 4AM wake-up, ugh, but the trail is so long and arduous you've got to start early). Headlamps are a must for the first, forested section as you hike up in the dark. But we enjoyed a lovely sunrise after reaching timberline about 3 miles up the trail:
|Sunrise on the Longs Peak trail
|Alpenglow turns the great east face of Longs Peak pink
|Me at the Chasm Lake trail junction (Longs Peak visible behind).
|Ascending toward the Boulderfield. The little notch on the far right of the ridge in the picture is the Keyhole.
|Ascending talus toward the Keyhole. (Climber visible at lefthand side of notch.)
|Once beyond the Keyhole, you traverse the "Ledges" toward a broad couloir known as the Trough. Bulls-eyes painted on the rocks make route-finding easy (or else this route would be quite dangerous for inexperienced mountaineers!).
|As you scramble along, you're rewarded with views like this
|The Trough couloir. You have to slog all the way up to the couloir's top. (And oh my, it is a SLOG. Not difficult, just class 2 scrambling over steep dirt and talus without any dangerous exposure, but it's unrelentingly steep.)
|My co-worker Dustin slogging up the Trough, with another party visible behind.
|At least you get to enjoy views of the interestingly sculpted slabs forming the Trough's side walls.
|Me starting along the Narrows
|Looking back along a ledge (bulls-eye route marker just barely visible at ledge's end).
|The Homestretch. The arrow on the pic marks the notch that gives access to the summit plateau. So close and yet so far!
|Looking down at Dustin and others climbing up the Homestretch
|Me and Dustin victorious on the summit. 13K ft. Mt. Meeker is the peak in the background.
|View of Rocky Mountain National Park from the summit
|Looking east towards the Denver area. Ugh, too much wildfire smoke hazing the air for good views.
|Descending through willows bright with fall colors
|The end of the trail: hallelujah!