1.24.2006

Hiking in the Park

Well my knee was still not 100% from twisting it while skiing at Crested Butte. So I decided not to ski this weekend as a similar fall would probably not feel too good. Instead I had been emailing back and forth with my friend Tracy about climbing a peak for weeks but we have never had a good window with weather and other commitments to get back up out there together. Sunday she was headed to Rocky Mtn National Park to head up the Longs Peak trail for a hike with some friends of hers and asked if I wanted to come along. Seeing as exercise is good for my knee recovery, I said "of course" and met up with them at the trailhead Sunday morning. We made good time on the packed down trail through the trees and didn't even put on our snowshoes. As we got close to treeline the packed out trail fizzled out and we made our way up into the upper basin. This is where the views really started to impress as Longs Peak was coming into view in front of us, and we could see the flat plains to our east peeking over Twins Sisters Mtn behind us. We hiked up into the basin and to the saddle where the trail splits for Chasm Lake. From here the views of Longs' imressive East Face, known as The Diamond, came into view as did the east ridge of Mt Meeker. We were all feeling pretty good and decided to keep heading up, right up the peak in front of us. This happened to be Mt Lady Washington, a 13,281' sub-peak of Longs and one of the best places to view the Diamond. There was still a decent amount of vertical to be had up steep snow covered rocks, but the majority of the rocks were exposed enough to not have to sink in the snow to climb. Careful route planning kept us on rocky surfaces 95% of the time, and we soon reached the summit and the stunning up-close view of the Diamond. The Diamond is a serious undertaking for any mountaineer and holds several classic technical ascents. Even the easiest routes on The Diamond are rated at 5.10a, and involve 5 to 8 pitches of climbing. For those not familiar rock climbing, ratings start at 5.0 and go up. The higher ratings, starting at 5.10 also have letters associated with them to further refine the difficulty. I have never done anyting rated higher than 5.8, and even that was only about 40 or 50 feet of climbing. The Diamond routes can easily encompass 1000 feet of total climbing! Needless to say, that was not on our agenda for Sunday, and we were happy to have a quick snack on Mt Lady Washington, admire The Diamond, and head back down. It was a great day to be out, and surprisingly not too windy in that area, which has a reputation for winds. Hopefully next weekend skiing will be back on the menu, and weather permitting another climb is already being planned, hopefully work goes by fast!