I had to wait a few weeks until I had a better attitude to write about this one. A few months ago, my husband asked me if I wanted to go to Colorado with some friends of his from work to go hiking. A trip to Colorado, away from hot and humid Kansas over Labor Day? Sounded fantastic! After the plane tickets were booked, I asked more about where exactly we were going and where we were hiking. I was thinking a nice 2-3 hour hike in the woods but apparently that was a little bit off the mark- the plan was actually to hike to the top of Long’s Peak. The link included was the first bit of information I read about the hike-
The Keyhole Route is not a hike. It is a climb that crosses enormous sheer vertical rock faces, often with falling rocks, requiring scrambling, where an unroped fall would likely be fatal. The route has narrow ledges, loose rock, and steep cliffs.
Wait, what?? The things this man gets me into. . .
More fun information that I found out- there are frequent, dangerous thunderstorms on the mountain, so in order to get up to the top and back down, it is recommended that you start the hike by 3:30 am! And that’s because it takes between 10-12 hours to complete the hike. Merciful heavens.
We arrived in Colorado Friday morning and made the drive up to Estes Park. (By the way, it’s recommended that you arrive about a week before attempting the climb to acclimate yourself to the altitude- whoops). We stopped at the trail head to check things out. We met a very nice ranger who informed up that the Peak was covered in snow and ice and the Peak should only be climbed by experienced ice climbers. Nick was disappointed- I was thrilled! Since we could only safely climb to the Keyhole, the section right before the final ascent to the Peak, we didn’t have to start hiking until 6 am. Woo-hoo!
I was feeling pretty good about myself at this point, I had basically been climbing stairs for about four hours straight in extremely thin air but I was still moving along! That is, I felt good about myself until I realized I was huffing and puffing like I was about to have a baby and my husband wasn’t even breathing heavy. Really?!? And then, just to really make me feel bad, some ultra marathoners RUN by us up the mountain. Nick looked after them longingly- sorry dude, stuck with me!
So, about 6 hours of hiking later and one or two five minute breaks, we finally got to the boulder field. At this point I was so exhausted, my brain stopped working. This was probably a good thing or I never would have tried to climb up the boulder field. The fact that I am afraid of heights and have no climbing experience likely would have stopped me!
The arrow is pointing to the Agnes Vaille Hut at the Keyhole. It was built as a memorial after a climber died of exposure at the Keyhole after suffering extreme fatigue while coming down from climbing Long’s Peak in 1925.
And here’s me, in the hut! That is a fake smile. At this point there were a lot of other climbers around and many were smiling and celebrating making it this far. Umm, that wasn’t exactly me. If I remember correctly I said something like this to my husband:
“I hate you so much right now. I am never ever doing this again!” A real special moment!
I hid out in there and tried to get my crap together while Nick took these pictures.
And finally it was time to go back down the mountain. I was hoping I could rest up a bit and take some nice breaks but wouldn’t you know it, those afternoon storms started to roll in and being exposed out on rocks with no cover didn’t sound too appealing in a lightening storm so quickly down the mountain we went! And a long 10 hours later I made it down to the bottom.
It’s possible that this experience is similar to childbirth- you know- it’s horrible and you yell at your husband a lot and you swear you’ll never do it again but before you know it you’re pregnant again. But I doubt it- pretty sure this is never happening again. But I am glad (now) that I did it. I pushed myself as far as I could go and it was an amazing experience. And I managed to limp back to the car before I started bawling!