We have all heard the expression, "Once in a Blue Moon", but what does it mean? Well it turns out that a Blue Moon is the second full moon of the cycle within one calander month. And it also turns out that this steller phenomenon occurs approximately every 2 1/2 years. As many of you may have already known, Saturday night was a Blue Moon, and the perfect weather let it shine brightly, making hiking in the dark much more visually rewarding and fun, with incredible views of our earth's largest satillite. I previously knew that a Blue Moon was the second full moon in a month, but had no idea how often it occured until I looked it up. So rather than "Once in a Blue Moon", I will say "Once on a Blue Moon". A more fitting description of the most recent of my regular Sunday summit attempts in Colorado this summer.
Climbing Long's is always a pleasure. The sunrise over the Twin Sisters is perfect, and the view of the diamond impressive enough that I still trip over small rocks because I'm staring up when I should be watching where I'm stepping. And always a healthy dose of people from all over the country, or world for that matter.
My trip this Sunday was with a friend of mine from work, and I have to say "Bravo Katie" for her heroic effort, she never once wanted to give up. Our trip began when we left Boulder at 3:30 am on Sunday morning. We arrived at the Long's Peak trailhead at 4:35, quickly signed the trail log and we were on our way. We set a decent pace out of the car, and were at the Chasm Lake junction in time to see the sunrise. After a short discussion about Katie's comfort level in climbing I decided that today would be the day I would leave the Long's Peak Trail and instead take a lesser used biway described in Gerry Roach's book, 'Colorado's Fourteeners' as The Camel. This variation shortens the distance required to summit considerably, at the expense of a moderate Class 3 scramble. If you have climbed Long's before and felt comfortable climbing and descending the Trough, you will have no problems here either. We quickly took off for Chasm Lake and in no time were headed around the north side of the lake heading back to the base of the Diamond.
The camel shaped rock we were aiming for was not obvious at first, maybe just me, but after you realize its huge you see it right away. We cut up the slope a little early on some fairly steep scree, this is to be avoided. If you stay low until you get all the way to the back you can head up solid rock interspersed with grass and it is much easier. None-the-less we got on route and continued our climb out. It was nice to finally see some folks on the Diamond that I could use for scale. I had been thinking about the Notch Couloir next summer and hadn't gotten a decent perspective yet on the magnitude of the route. Once about half way up the Camel we finally located the climbers screaming ROCK!! from the middle of the Diamond, they were on Broadway almost to the bottom of the couloir and looked much, much smaller than I had imagined a person would. It took about an hour for us to reach the saddle and in no time we were scrambling down the boulders across the Boulderfield towards the Keyhole.
At this point I took a good long look at the Cable Route, and also snapped some pictures. From what I can tell, this route looks to be glorified class 4. It is rated at 5.2-5.3, and I am not saying that it isn't technically, but it looks easy. Regardless of this, the route looks good, and I fully intend to head up there to try it out first hand. It also looks like a good place to teach a beginner how to properly belay and rappel with exposure that gives the gentle slope a big mountain feel.
We scrambled up to the Keyhole and in no time were traversing across the west facing side of the mountain. The Trough still has substantial snow in it, and if you have crampons and your early, may provide the easiet method of ascent. It took us at least an hour and a half to ascend the Trough, and with the number of people on route, the number of small rocks being called out was substantial.
Once at the top we scooted along the Narrows and were on the home stretch. Twenty minutes later and we were sitting on the summit enjoying lunch. The weather was perfect and we leisurely signed the logbook and took pictures. The only downside was the guy who had to smoke a cigarette on top of the mountain. I'm sorry if that is you, but that is just terrible. We had left the trail head at 4:45 and were on the summit at 10:30. After 30 minutes on the top we decided it was best to be heading down. The weather was still perfect with no threat in sight, but I knew it could change quick, and that we had a long way to go to get below the treeline. It took us about an hour and fifteen to get back to the Keyhole, and soon we were plodding down the trail. We decided to stick to the trail for the descent, and I forgot how far it is from the Boulderfield to the Chasm Lake junction. As we descended the temperature got hotter and hotter, and I couldn't wait to get below the treeline for a little relief from the sun.
Finally below the treeline we kept moving at the best pace we could. I will say, my number one piece of advice for climbing this mountain is to wear your most comfortable shoes, whatever they may be. I wear mine, and by the time I got back to the trail head my feet were killing me. This trail on Long's is rock from shortly above the trailhead all the way to the summit, and your feet will let you know about it by the end. We got back to the parking lot at 3:00 pm, four hours after departing the summit. Our timing was just right too, as the sky was getting gray quickly and the clouds were darkening too the west.
Overall a great trip. I recommend the Camel variation and always recommend climbing Long's Peak. See you on the trails.