Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stumbled Up and Blown Down

I once again attacked my favorite mountain, Long Peak. This time I attacked it in the winter. Since all of my native Colorado climbing partners were busy I was fortunate enough to be joined by G my mountaineering partner from WPI. The plan was to ascend the north face. We brought ropes, a little gear, crampons and two ice axes/ice tools each.

We ate steak the night before in Loveland and drove up to the Long Peak Trailhead for a few hours of terrible sleep. It was great to catch up because G and I spent quite a few mountaineering Saturdays in New Hampshire going up and down the classic 5000 foot peaks. He also did a huge amount of work to get the ice axes manufactured. I would work with him again professionally any day and I would rope up with him any day as well.

before we went to sleep we agreed on a 1AM wake up time. At 1AM we agreed on a 2AM wake up time. At 2AM we started moving around, eating drinking, dressing, and by 3AM we were walking up the trail. We signed in at the register and started uphill. Within ten steps I was huffing and puffing. Going from 1000 feet to 9200 feet in 45 hours is a little quick. We slowed down and settled into a seemingly slow pace. However, we kept moving and soon enough were above treeline, well before the sun was up.

The wind was rather strong. Gusts were initially in the 30-40 mph range, which is not very challenging, but it gets your attention. Plus viewing the world with the light of a headlamp gives you a rather one dimensional view of the world. We kept moving and were continually losing the trail. I have hiked up and down that trail more than a dozen times, but in the snow and wind I felt like a total novice.

I tried to angle up toward the trail junction with Chasm Lake. However we never hit the trail junction on the way up. Under the assumption and feeling that we were moving like snails, and with at least one gust to about 60mph (the forecast said gusts to 80mph) we called it a day and started heading down.

As it happens we were nearly a mile farther up the trail that I thought. We were on the side of Mt. Lady Washington well above the trail junction. On the way down we ran into the trail that curves around to the gap and followed that down to the junction. We took a few minutes of a break there and this about describes the situation:

The Situation!
Okay, I can't torture you like that and leave you hanging so much. It wasn't as bad as Febuary 2006 on Mt. Adams with I. Windchill of -50F is so cold...

The Situation! With Less Drama. (By the way notice the nice boots!)
I took some video as well, which I will post when I have a little more time. I still have to go for a run and drive to Denver today. Anyway, the moral of the story is I have some amazing friends and going from 1000 feet to 12,200 feet or so in 48 hours is definitely possible with enough hydration and conditioning, but it is not recommended. Oh yes, I already knew that you can't walk in wind more than 50mph, but I'll repeat it for the benefit of others. 

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