My apologies for not getting many of these photos up earlier. I cannot believe we began our summit attempt of Longs Peak almost a full week ago! It has been an amazing week and I think my mind has been on the summit all week long, soaking in the sunshine, the accomplishment of our veteran team, many who were never given the odds to make it up a mountain, and to quite literally bask in the humbling and supportive comments and actions of so many people on top of the summit. Perhaps by writing and publishing these photos, I have to admit to myself that I am indeed down from the summit.
The conversations this past week with my fellow climbers have had a sort of hollow, distant, almost magical feel to them as we discussed what we were able to do and our trip up the side of a mountain. You could see in people’s eyes the desire to keep climbing, to go one step higher. I’m not sure if he knew he was doing it, but while speaking with our film maker Michael Ramsey earlier this week, his eyes continued to drift west towards Rocky Mountain National Park. Last night while at the Reel Rock Film Tour in Boulder(great show by the way!) I kept looking at the climbs and the films thinking, we’ve got to get our veterans out there! So, while we begin planning for our next trip, and there will be a next trip, here are a few photos to keep you company as you dream about the mountains and doing things you never thought possible. More stories and pictures are on their way!
As many of you know, the climb began at 1:15 am on 9/11. The first part of the climb, through the Goblin Forest, was one of the most spirited hikes I have ever been on. Marine and Army veterans challenged one another with different cadences and people seemed to be skipping up the rocky path. It was cold and you could hear the wind, but in the trees, we could not feel the wind. The path cut a swath through the trees that also allowed us to see a brilliant night sky and ice was forming on the small bridges across the water rushing across the path. It was a beautiful night and spirits were high.
However, when we stopped out of the main forest and into the scrubby timber leading up to the tree line, the full force of the wind and cold hit the team hard and in an instant, the column went silent. Eyes turned downward and head lamps bobbed silently as each step was made. Turning around, we could see the lights of the Front Range glowing in the distance, and behind us, a line of headlamps trotting slowly towards our group. When the above picture was taken, we had begun to see people turn around from their summit attempt, normally completely under dressed and unprepared for the climb and the weather. That they made it this far was a tribute to either their toughness or stupidity.
Despite the cold and the wind, the day was dawning and it was beautiful. Hands kept turning to noses and the amount of sniffling coming out of our group to keep snot bubbles off of our fleeces, windbreakers, shells, and down sweaters, may have sounded a bit like a hog farm, but we were not to be stopped. While we struggled to stay warm, I was constantly amazed by the film and still photography crew, who shot often times without gloves, and stayed while we moved to get the perfect shot. In the above picture, showing us standing and moving following a brief stop, I think they nailed it!
Coming to the edge of the Boulder Field we finally got our first really good view of Longs Peak just as the sun was spreading its cold rays down onto the rock. I think our team was most excited about the large boulders to be used sheltering from the wind rather than the stunning views of the Diamond Face.
Too many of the climbers, especially those who had not been up Longs Peak before, or at least not in a long while, it must have seemed to many that the Boulder field went on forever and ever and ever…
We had been climbing for close to six hours when we decided it was time for lunch, or for breakfast for those of you who may classify your meals on the time of day, rather than the amount of time you’ve been awake!