Archive for category Climbing Trip Reports

Longs Peak Trip Report

Longs Peak was one of the hardest hikes that I’ve done in my life. For more information on Longs Peak, check out these links:

http://www.rockymountainhikingtrails.com/longs-peak-keyhole.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longs_Peak

https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/longspeak.htm

https://rootsrated.com/stories/10-thing-know-hiking-longs-peak

http://www.summitpost.org/longs-peak/150310

Summary: It’s a hike that tops out at 14,000(ish) feet (a Colorado 14er) and over 15 miles long (round trip). It has a 5,000+ foot elevation gain as well, mostly near the end. Due to the conditions, you are supposed to start the hike no later than 3 a.m. in the morning and summit before 2 p.m. at the absolute latest. (This is due to Colorado thunderstorms and just the overall length of the hike). The hike itself is very exposed, meaning that there are massive drop offs at some points and there is also a lot of snow and ice up there, no matter what time of the year you do it. The best time of the year is generally in late August, when the snow has melted. We were planning on doing the Keyhole, which is the easiest and most popular route to Longs Peak.

Preparation:

My girlfriend and I have done one previous 14er in the past, Grey’s Peak. It’s a very novice 14er in general and it’s one of the easier 14ers (though I actually was affected by the altitude). Other than that, we have done some tougher day hikes in the past (Yosemite Half dome, which is somewhat similar to Longs, statistically; at 15ish miles round trip and 4800 feet of elevation gain).

it was getting very late in the season (mid/late September) and we were very busy with a lot of traveling. We still wanted to do Longs Peak and we knew that this could be the last year that we could do it (if we were moving for Physician Assistant school next year). We decided to go for it and to do it if the weather was permitting. To prepare for Longs Peak, I read as much as I could (in regards to trip reports, weather and trail conditions, etc). I knew that physically, we were strong enough to do this and in these big hike attempts, it’s more of a mental issue of pushing yourself vs. being physically unable to complete it. We were in relatively good hiking shape and hiked all summer long (doing 5-11 mile hikes with varying degrees of elevation gain each weekend). As I continually checked the weather, I decided that we were going to go for it and gave myself 2 days to prepare.

I bought myself some micro crampons, basically some strap on mini ice boot bottoms for your tennis shoes. These were really important for the top of the hike. I also prepped all of our gear two nights before the hike because I knew that we had to wake up at 12:00 midnight to wake up, drive to the hike (1 hour 20 minutes away) and then start the hike by 2 a.m. I made us some breakfast burritos and some sandwiches and packed our water, crampons, food, and other gear (such as hiking poles).

Longs Peak Hike:

We woke up at 12 midnight after getting about 3 hours of sleep (going to bed at 7 p.m.). It’s pretty damn hard to go to bed at 7 p.m. if you’re used to going to bed around midnight, and I really struggled there. We drank some energy drinks and then loaded everything in the car and drove to the Longs Peak trailhead. Funnily enough, we blew past a speeding sign and we actually got pulled over on the way there by a cop (who the hell checks Estes Park speeding at 1 a.m. in the morning?). He let us go with a warning and we were on the trail by 2 A.M.

The first part of the hike was not too bad. It was a decent incline over a solid dirt trail and it was fairly easy to go up. We gained maybe 1,500 feet during this part and were making okay time in general. We both felt pretty good.

It was an extremely cool experience and this was one (of many) situations where I had a better camera. Hiking underneath the stars and the massive mountains in the background (still very visible in the night due to the snow peaks) was unique to me. We actually passed a few different people, many of whom were turning back around. They didn’t think they could complete the hike and were making the smart decision to turn around and try again (this was probably around 5 A.M.).

We continued to hike up along a rocky boulder field, where it was extremely hard to find the trail. This was our big mistake of the hike- we traveled for about 1 mile and gained about 500 feet in elevation when we started talking to a nearby hiker. He asked us what trail we were doing and we said “the Keyhole”, which is the most popular trail to get up Longs Peak. He shook his head and told us we were on the wrong trail and that we were going up the wrong way. Pissed off, we backtracked a mile and found the correct split off and were back on the trail.

By this time, the wind was really picking up and there were massive gusts that made it tough in some areas. We stopped to eat our food and huddled around some rocks to block the wind. We were getting a bit tired at this point and my girlfriend was extremely cold (we layered but were cooling down a bit due to the weather).

We continued to climb and we could see the peak in the distance:

And we finally made it to the Keyhole, which is the ‘start’ of the massive climb. Sadly enough, the Keyhole was just the real start of the big elevation gain. If you look closely at the bottom left of the keyhole, you’ll see a tiny hut, where we spent a good 20 minutes eating food, drinking water, and recouping. Many hikers actually turn around at this point and a high % of people do not complete the Longs Peak hike. Even though you have reached the Keyhole and are 6 miles through (1.5 miles to the top) and only another 1000 feet of elevation gain, this last part was far and away the hardest on the route.

We decided we wanted to continue on and started the hike through the backside of the mountain. This part was extremely exposed and there were massive drop offs and ice throughout the path. The trail was marked by some painted signs (the Colorado ‘C’).

I can’t emphasize how difficult this part was compared to the rest of it. We were really tired by this point. One nice thing about this section was that much of this was rock climbing and scrambling up the rocks. As somewhat experienced climbers, it was a bit nice to use your hands to help pull yourself up and also use other climbing techniques such as stemming (http://www.zionadventures.com/ZBlog/canyoneering/stemming-an-essential-canyoneering-technique/)

We got to the point where we were literally stopping every 25 feet. We would say “okay, let’s get to the next trail marker and take a quick break” and just continued to push on. In situations where you’re extremely tired and fatigued, I have found it best to just take it one step at a time and to finish your short term/intermediate goals and not think “Oh God, I have another 2 miles to finish and another 1000 feet of elevation gain”.

We reached the summit around 2 p.m., fairly late in the day.

The hike down was tough and our feet were aching bad near the end. All in all, it took us about 15 hours in total. We likely would have cut this down by at least 1.5 hours had we not gone the wrong direction previously. We drove home, ate a big pizza, and spent about a week recovering from the hike.

We were extremely proud that we were able to do this hike in general. My entire body ached and my knees were especially hurting. But as I said before, these hikes are far more mental than physical (in my experience), and forcing yourself to continue onward is the best thing you can do. Thanks for reading.

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Horseshoe Canyon Ranch October 2014

Hey guys, long time no update. Life has been good all around and I’ve fallen into a normal routine of climbing 3x a week, yoga 2x a week, run 2x a week, and usually a random workout as well. Work/staking has been great (though a tad slow) and we are excited to launch a new program in the coming weeks.

Anyways, here is my HCR climbing trip report.

This trip was a bit different from previous trips in that there were only 3 of us that went. We had an agenda to climb a few specific routes in the North 40, the primary area at HCR. We started with a warm up (5.9) and the climb wasn’t too memorable.

Mine, Mine, Mine:

Our first hard climb of the day was ‘Mine, Mine, Mine’, a 5.11d. It shared the first 3 clips with a 5.11b roof that went to the right (while MMM went to the left).

The start of the route was pretty easy to read. It was crimpy and then moved to the right, where there was a large ledge that slanted (you couldn’t stand on it, unfortunately).

The next part was pretty hard- there were numerous awful holds (really bad crimps or awful slopers) and it was difficult to read. I eventually got the beta after falling a few times- you had to move up to a decent under-cling and then traverse the left.

There was a solid lay-back where you clipped.

The next section was arguably the crux and it really sucks for shorter people. You had a bad pinch (that I couldn’t use much since I was too short) or a really bad sloper to fully pull off of and make a huge move to a good crimp. This move took me a few tries as I tried to use the bad pinch to move up (but was too short). My tall friend blew right past this move and didn’t need to move his feet at all, asshole.

Earlier part:

Crux move:

The rest was a juggy crack and the route was pretty much over after the crux. All in all, a fun, interesting route with a wide variety of moves and holds. This route felt much more beta intensive than most routes at HCR but the overall holds were not awful.

Love Slave:

After this climb, we did an old favorite of ours, Love Slave (5.11c). Love Slave is a super daunting looking climb and is massively overhung. It features solid holds, big heel hooks, and fun moves.

The first clip is the crux for most everyone. It’s a throw to a bad pinch, followed by a great rest (you jam your leg into the rock). I don’t usually have much problem with the pinch (there’s a project in the gym that features a super throw to an awful pinch with the same hand, so I’m thinking that helped me), but more so with the overall endurance factor.

Overall, a really fun climb. I didn’t get it clean this time (only my second try on it) but I feel that I could within 5-10 climbs.

Rest of Day 1:

We moved down the North 40 and we did our first 5.12 at HCR, a route called ‘Fat Hand’. It had a really bouldery start, with some bad crimps and throws to more bad crimps. Unfortunately my friend forgot to take pictures of this climb, so none here. Once you got to the second clip, the rest was fairly overhung and was sequenced by ‘bad hold/good hold/bad hold/good hold’. The route was somewhat forgettable after the hard start and not tremendously interesting.

We finished day 1 with a few easy 10s. We idiotically forgot camp fire stuff and, after eating some mountain houses, went to bed early.

Day 2:

We went over to the East Side, which is a longer approach than the North 40 (still not bad, maybe like 20 minutes). There were a lot of sections that we had not climbed and wanted to check out. We started at Magoo Rock, which featured some of the best 5.10s in the park. We started on a few 5.10s:

All in all, they were good climbs. Unfortunately, we decided to move onward and check out the other sections of the East side- this was a mistake. All in all, most of the areas were unkempt and not well maintained. Lots of shrubs/bushes were overgrown and the trails were hard to find. We came to an interesting section/climb that was a 5.10c and featured some big laybacks off a good flake. I led the first climb and, after gripping a hold near the top, the rock snapped off the wall and I took a whipper. I’m glad my belay partner was clear from the area and wasn’t near the rock that fell.

We finished the day after a few more climbs and then drove back home the same day (getting there pretty late, like 1 or 2 a.m.). This horseshoe trip was very fun, as always. We realized that we didn’t care to go to the East Side for future trips and will just be staying on the primary side. On the topic of rock climbing trips, I’m really thinking about taking a big trip out to Red River Gorge in Kentucky. I’ve never been and the place looks really fun. The downside is that it’s about 12 hours away. I’ll likely decide to do this in the spring if I do end up going.

Thanks for reading.

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Horseshoe Canyon Ranch September 2014

We went to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch with the usual climbing group and standard trip dates (left late Friday/came back on Sunday). HCR has been one of my favorite places to climb at and is like an outdoor gym. The bolts are well maintained and the routes are plentiful. Furthermore, they really play into our strengths (at our gym), with bigger holds and bigger moves (as opposed to smaller, technical climbing like in South Dakota). I was pretty worried about this trip for a few reasons: For one, my left hand had a hole in it a little more than a month before the trip and that wound was still healing. I have a little lost sensation in the tip of the pointer finger as well, so that’s either good or bad for me (yet to be determined). Secondly, I hadn’t seriously climbed in about a month and was still feeling super unhealthy from eating on the cruise/not exercising as much. My climbing endurance was really awful and I was getting burned after a few climbs.

We got in around midnight and thankfully our friend set up our tent for us. We knew it would be pretty busy because it was Labor Day weekend and it was important to get a spot early.

Day 1-

We decided to do the farther approach to the East side of the park to avoid the crowd. Our first area was Roman Wall, where I did an interesting arete climb (5.10a).

If you look closely, you can see the massive overhanging part above me- those routes were pretty damn hard (5.12+).

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We did a hard crimp problem after that, which was a 5.11c. It was 5.10 climbing up until the last two bolts, where it was a tough sequence. All in all, a pretty tough climb but a fun one.

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We finished day 1 on some easier climbs (5.10s and 9s) due to it starting to rain. The area we finished on (Magoo Rock) was pretty neat and I would like to go back there. It didn’t rain too badly and we grilled some brats/hung out around the camp fire.

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Day 2-

We decided to stay closer to the camp and go to the North 40, an area with a high concentration of climbs with varying difficulty. The North 40 is a great area and we stayed there pretty much the entire day. I felt pretty warmed up from the approach and skipped climbing an easier route first.

There is a 5.12a that I tried the very first time I went to HCR two years ago. They have pre-fixed draws at the top (where the crux is), which is why I enjoyed climbing it. The climb itself is easy 5.10 climbing up until the crux, which is easily 5.12. It’s a massive move from an under cling to a bad shallow pocket to a pretty bad sloper. Anyways, I couldn’t get it the first time I did it and I didn’t get it this time, either. Tough problem!

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We continued to climb in that area and there was some good stuff there (varying 5.10s and 9s).

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After some rest, we decided to do ‘Big Top’, one of our favorite climbs we’ve done. It’s a 5.11c with two cruxes; one on the third clip and one on the 5th clip. The first is a sequence where you don’t have many feet and are doing some pull ups (on decent holds) while over hung. The second is a massive move to a decent sloper above a ridge. I did alright on this climb and had to get a few takes (I fell on the big move). I think that in the future, we’re going to try to project this one and really try to get it clean.

Here are some photos of that:

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We continued to do some easier stuff in the meantime and ate some lunch. Feeling tired and sore, we decided we were going to drive back home that night (8 hours) after climbing. We finished on a fun 10 and then left around 5 pm. Fun time, as always!

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Alaska/South Dakota/Colorado

Hey guys, long time no update. August was a tremendously busy month and I went to Alaska for a family cruise, South Dakota on a climbing trip, and Colorado for a week to visit.

Alaska– We did a 7 day cruise with my extended family to Alaska. It was sort of a family reunion of sorts and I enjoyed myself (despite cruises not being my cup of tea). I ate like a degenerate and while there were exercise rooms, I still gained weight and felt unhealthy. I also had the opportunity to meet my business partner in person, which was a fun experience. Here are some photos of that time:

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Spearfish, South Dakota (Climbing)– Spearfish was an interesting time. The rock was pretty slick (limestone) and not as featured as some of the other places I have climbed at. The climbing was characterized by smaller pockets and fewer feet on the wall, which made for harder climbs. The ratings were pretty stiff as well and we definitely got humbled climbing there.

I have mixed thoughts on Spearfish. I think that I would enjoy the climbing more at that location if I were stronger/a better climber. There weren’t a ton of easier climbs (5.10 >), which was the main target for our group. Furthermore, the protection (the bolts in the wall) needed maintenance and often spun. There were some really cool areas that looked like they would be fun to climb; however, they were all rated much higher than I was comfortable leading (5.12+). All in all, I had a fun time at Spearfish but I won’t be going back for a long time.

Here are some more photos:

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Colorado

I visited Colorado (Fort Collins) for a week shortly after Alaska. (I went to Spearfish before Alaska). I had a blast climbing in Poudre Canyon, hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, and eating at varying Fort Collins restaurants. I am still planning on moving there next summer for the time being and am really looking forward to that. I didn’t take any photos for climbing since the area we climbed at was featureless (and not very memorable), but here are some photos from Rocky Mountain National Park (we did a cool hike called The Loch):

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I’ll post my Horseshoe Canyon Ranch TR up soon. Thanks for reading.

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California 2014 Trip Report Part 2

Yosemite National Park

After Maple Canyon, we headed to Yosemite, National Park. I’ve been to Yosemite once before and climbed at Cathedral Peak, in the valley, and also hiked Half Dome. This trip, we really only had Half Dome planned. We were loosely planning on meeting a climbing friend in the Valley to do some easy climbing (he was going to do Half Dome in 1 day the next day, so he wasn’t going to do anything hard).

We got there late at night and stayed at Hodgon Meadow. I reserved a spot earlier and was very lucky to get that (given I idiotically chose one of the worst weekends of the year- Memorial Day). My plan was to pretty much go to a first come-first serve spot the next morning.

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Our plan was to wake up and go to Camp 4, which was located in the Valley. We got there at 6 a.m. and realized we *could* be shit out of luck given how many people were already waiting in line. Flustered, we drove to the campground reservation area and waited in line there, hoping to secure a spot there. Once we registered in the lottery (after waiting for a few hours until they opened), we were told to come back there at 3:00pm to see if we got a spot. We were very happy to find that we won 2 spots in the lottery for Half Dome as well. If you don’t reserve a spot several months ahead of time, you need to go through the daily lottery system (where you’re chosen at random). Half Dome only allows like ~300 of these lottery members daily, so it’s important to keep applying if you’re in the area.

So that essentially tied us down for the day. We didn’t really have enough time to go on a massive hike and we had Half Dome the next day.

We decided to do some really easy hiking and take some photos.

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We went back to the office and were pleased to find that we secured a spot for the night. At the office, we met a guy named Peter who needed a spot for the night. He was alone so we let him share our spot, which was located in the lower pines campground. This spot was great because it was right in the valley. Once we set up camp and ate dinner, we drove up to Glacier Point to check out a meteor shower that was happening at 10:00pm.

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We sadly did not make it to the meteor shower since we decided to drive back around 9:40 or so due to the Half Dome hike the next day.

Half Dome

Half Dome is one of the largest single day hikes in Yosemite and certainly one of the most renowned. Half Dome is a ~14-16 mile (round trip) hike with 4800 feet of elevation gain. The last 500 feet of it is on a pure granite face (Half Dome part) and you need to go up steel cables to get to the very top. It’s a beautiful hike that provides a wide variety of views and landscapes.

I definitely wasn’t in the best hiking shape and haven’t really hiked much over the past year. That being said, I was really just depending on my overall cardio/climbing shape to get me through. Knowing that I did it before also helped (albeit a few years back).

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About 3/4ths of the way up, I got a pretty bad cramp in my right leg. I’d assume it was due to eating pretty mediocre on the previous days (probably not enough food/the right type of food). I had to take some frequent breaks while going up.

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Finally at the cables:

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Snow atop it!

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A rock climber finishing Half Dome:

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The descent of the Half Dome hike was the hardest for me. I was in pitiful shape compared to the first time I hiked it (where I never thought the descent was an issue). We hauled ass while down and just wanted to get the car.

Our plan was initially to go climb with my friend after Half Dome. By the end of the hike, we were really tired and we also had to get to Santa Cruz (only about 2.5 hours away) that night. My friend was cragging in the Valley and I couldn’t really get a hold of him, so we decided to take a rain check on it. Overall, maybe a bad move but it seemed right at the time.

We arrived in Santa Cruz that night and slept for 10 hours.

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