- 02:00—Leave Fort Collins.
- 03:30—Get all our gear together, sign the registry, and hit the trail. We pass several groups of hikers reconfiguring their gear and several groups of swifter hikers pass us during the first mile or so, but after that we were relatively alone. As we wind our way past tree line you can look back and see a long line of perhaps 20 headlamps coming up the trail.
- 04:45—Arrive at the turn-off for the Chasm Lake Trail. By this time it is light enough to turn the headlamp off.
- 05:30—Watch the sunrise from just below The Boulder Field. From where we were situated, the sun came right over Battle Mountain.
- 06:45—Make it through The Keyhole. The western face and The Trough are still shaded by the summit so an extra shirt is necessary to remain warm. The entire route was free of all snow and ice.
- 07:50—We've made it to the top of The Trough. For me, The Trough was the most difficult part of the climb. The Narrows freaked me out a little. I hadn't prepared myself mentally for the large drop and the very narrow trail. It took a minute for me to calm myself down enough to get across it.
- 08:30—Reach the summit. Weather is beautiful—not a breath of wind and sunshine. Off comes the extra shirt. There are perhaps 30 people already on the summit and more are arriving all the time. For the first time we notice the Big Elk Fire. A large plume of smoke is rising from directly east of Longs Peak and is drifting south. At this time the fire had already claimed the lives of two pilots, burned 4000 acres, and was zero percent contained.
- 09:30—After time to snack, rest, and enjoy the scenery we head back down. It seems that the wind has shifted and the smoke from the fires is heading toward Longs Peak. The traffic coming up the home stretch is pretty heavy now and we have to wait our turn to descend the most popular routes.
- 10:00—As we descend The Trough, ominous clouds begin to form. Interestingly, I had no fear coming down The Narrows. The shear drop and narrow trail didn't bother me at all on the way down.
- 11:15—Arrive back at The Keyhole. The smoke from the Big Elk Fire is definitely drifting towards us. For the first time we can smell smoke. Luckily it wouldn’t get much worse than this.
- 12:00—Have made it down The Boulder Field. I had a momentary lapse of concentration coming down, lost my balance, and have a pretty significant gash on my left arm from catching myself. Luckily this would be the worst injury sustained during the trip. Also, it is beginning to sprinkle and there is booming thunder that sounds like it is coming from the south and from near the summit. We are glad to be done with the category 3 portion of the hike. Rain-slick rocks would have been very treacherous, not to mention the lightning that Longs Peak is notorious for.
- 13:00—Arrive at the junction with the Chasm Lake Trail. The rain has come and gone and the sun is shining brightly. The rain never got bad enough to require rain gear. Initially we had thought about hiking up to Chasm Lake to check it out, but by now fatigue is setting in and we scrap that plan. Instead we rest for 15 minutes. At this point I've run out of water. My 4-liter hydration bladder, extra 1-liter Nalgene bottle, and 24-oz. bottle of Gatorade were not quite enough.
- 14:00—Make it back to the trailhead. I’m pretty tired, but not too bad. However, I’m glad I’m not the one that has to drive us back to Fort Collins.
- 15:30—Arrive back home in Fort Collins and enjoy a long, hot shower and a nap. The next day I would be pretty sore as my body isn’t used to such high-impact activities (I’m primarily a cyclist).
[ 41 More ]