This summer Sean and I are attempting to summit as many 14,000 ft mountains in CO as possible, and we’re reaching the trailheads by bike! Join us on our Summer of Summits.
Our Summer of Summits began in Denver with our eyes set on Long’s Peak. Long’s Peak is 14,259 ft in elevation and is a Class 3 climb which requires rock scrambling. For those interested in the route, check out the details for Long’s Peak here at 14ers.com. Do not underestimate the challenge of the climb nor the altitude.
We decided to head to Rocky Mountain National Park by way of Loveland, CO, to hike our first Colorado 14er. As a bonus, we have dear friends in Loveland. Our 58 mile ride was a hot one, over 90° with full sun exposure. We followed Google Maps navigation which linked up several bike paths and most roads at least had a bike lane. Our day ended perfectly with pizza, beer, and catching up with friends.
We started our day early in Loveland and headed west towards the mountains on Highway 34. The first 27 miles and 3000 ft of gain took us to Estes Park. The highway was fairly busy with little shoulder, but thankfully our high viz jackets and headlights and taillights did the trick. We safely arrived in Estes Park in the afternoon, had a little picnic outside the grocery store, and got our resupply. Then, we started on our final 11 miles for the day with an additional 1000 miles of climbing. It was a slow go, but we eventually made it to Meeker Campground just 3 miles away from Long’s Peak trailhead. Typically, someone wanting to climb Long’s would stay at the Long’s Peak campground inside the park. But 2020 is no typical year. Meeker is the only one open, first come first serve. We were glad to get a spot and setup camp.
Our day began at 2:00 am. Whether it was nerves or altitude, neither of us slept a wink. We assembled what we would need for the hike, ate some breakfast, and headed 3 miles and up 800 ft to the Long’s Peak trailhead. We arrived and began our hike at 3:20 am. The trail begins through the forest, and then soon we were above treeline. Around 5, we witnessed an incredible sunrise and could finally see the peak we were climbing. At about 6, we came to the end of the hiking portion. The rest would be a climb and scramble.
The first section is the boulder field, about a half mile hopping from boulder to boulder aiming for the “keyhole” to get through to the other side of the mountain. From the keyhole, yellow and red targets mark the route.
After the keyhole, the summit lies 1.5 miles ahead with 1000 ft left to go. The first section past the keyhole is known as the ledges. We followed a group of six carefully skirting the side of the mountain.
The ledges led us to the trough, the longest part of the journey. The trough was full of loose rocks and knees to chest climbs. This section was difficult, especially with the effects of the high altitude. I continuously made a few moves and stopped to catch my breath. I’ll admit to being one of the slower climbers on the route as the altitude really got the best of me.
Once we finished the trough, the narrows were next. We carefully climbed out way on a narrow path around the mountain.
The last section to the top was the homestretch. This was basically a scramble on all fours to the peak. I definitely had some scary moments through this part, but was so thrilled to make it to the top. At about 9:30 we reached the summit, about 3 hours after leaving the keyhole.
We enjoyed a little time at the summit before turning around. For me, coming down was significantly less stressful than going up. We carefully retraced our steps back down the mountain and were relieved to reach the keyhole, scramble through the boulder field, and return to a regular trail.
The six miles down the trail seemed to take forever simply due to being completely physically and mentally drained. At 3:40, we reached the trailhead, grabbed our bikes and took a short nap at a picnic table. After, we rode the 3 miles back to our campsite at Meeker Campground and slept for the next 12 hours straight.
Next, we prepared to head south towards our next 14er, Mount Evans.
If you’re keeping track…
104 Miles by Bike / +6600 ft of elevation gain
14.5 Miles Hiking / +5000 ft elevation gain
1 – 14,000 ft Summit
We are Bekah and Sean, out on an adventure to summit as many CO 14ers as possible this summer and reaching them via bicycle! Follow along here or on Instagram as we complete our Summer of Summits.