|Looking haggard on Kieners during my previous/first/only LPT|
All times are measured from the Bus Stop strip club -- I know right -- on the northern edge of town where Broadway joins HW36 (though most people have to add on some miles given they don't live at a strip club). Given Abby's apartment is about 2.5 miles closer to that intersection than my house, and she made a rash decision (which I'm sure she later regretted) to wake up with me at 3:30AM and make me oatmeal it made the most sense to start from there. I slimmed down my pack to bare essentials which was:
- Salomon X-ALP 20 backpack
- Salomon XA Alpine running shoes
- Bike shorts, insulating tight, windstopper tight
- 2 pairs of Swiftwick socks
- Insulating layer, Salomon Half-Zip, down coat, wind/water-proof jacket
- 3 gels, 7 bars, 1 Hot Shot, 3 bottles of Tailwind (filled individually from creek as needed)
- Balaclava, Salomon hat, buff, sunglasses
- Suunto Ambit
- Kyle's ice axe which is lighter and smaller than mine
- Camp Stalker step-in crampons
- "Holy-Hell-Its-Cold" caliber mittens, generally warm gloves
- 2 luxurious handwarmer packs
- Buncha lights so as to not get hit by cars
Pedaling out of town in the darkness, the roads were nearly vacant, especially outbound from Boulder. I made sure to bundle up right away, knowing full well that staying warm was going to be key if I had any chance of completion. Handwarmers in the gloves from the start I cruised into Lyons, 12 miles into the day and was already behind schedule due to an excessively cozy breakfast for the impending misery as well as, well, biking slowly. I stashed my bike behind a gas station and used their facilities. Walking back outside my feet were a touch cold.
The sky began to flicker with pinks and blues, the pedals kept turning and my feet kept getting colder. The climb up South St. Vrain is never particularly steep, but it is sustained and long. My mind felt drowsy, its normally asleep at that hour and my feet kept getting colder. At a certain point my feet didn't feel cold anymore, the sun had crept lower on the canyon walls with each bend of the road until I was just seeing my shadow along the shoulder of the road. I stopped briefly to grab a cliff bar; putting my feet on the ground, I didn't feel them at all. Well, that's sub-optimal. I had brought two small plastic bags (cheap Goretex, really) for the descent but figure the ascent wouldn't necessitate them. I pedaled on, reaching a moderately windy HW72, but the views into Wild Basin in the winter at sunrise are inspiring enough to forget about any petty incline or uncomfortable toes.
Its longer than I think to the turn-off for the Longs Peak TH, but I expected that to be the case. I decide to jog my bike up the last couple turns to the TH to get some blood moving into my toes, they are numb to just above my ankle. There wasn't much of a transition to be had to hiking mode, so it went quickly -- pausing only to down a gel. I immediately hop over the creek on a packed down shortcut trail and carefully fill two soft flasks already loaded with Tailwind powder. My legs feel surprisingly good after the 4 hours of riding, so I try jogging. Okay, not that good. Further shortcuts weren't yet broken so I opted to keep a quicker cadence on a packed trail, my feet have basically regained total feeling at this point.
|Nice weather at timberline, summit in the background|
|The cables route ascends the far left of the North Face, just before it tranistions into the Diamond.|
|Snowfields on the upper North Face|
|The Keyhole is the peculiar rock feature on the right side of the ridge.|
|Mount Lady Washington from the Boulderfield|
The ride home is downhill, yes, but there are a few deadly little climbs before the real descent begins. I know these climbs are coming, I embrace them and they pass by quickly and efficiently spinning up in my lowest gear. The long winding descent to Lyons is a blast, somehow I don't get passed by any cars so I have the entire right lane to myself -- its quite a bit of real estate for bicycle -- so I can hug the turns tightly and safely. Nine-thousand feet below the summit of Longs Peak, Lyons is much warmer, so I take a brief pit-stop to shed layers before the annoyingly rolling highway back to Boulder. But the sun is setting, the sky is purple, and knowing its in the bag I'm too happy to mind whatever the ride home will hold.
|The route from Boulder|
Fifty miles to the northwest, Longs is unchanged. My snowy tracks have vanished with the wind, I never signed the summit register and the monolith of granite does not care a bit. Recounting the day with Abby however, my excitement is tangible. I wasn't the fastest or the slowest but I moved myself from the doorstep to the summit of a mountain. I saw the sun rise and set, I was warm and cold, nervous and excited, and now only my own memories remain as evidence of the day's adventure.