Alan, Michael, and I leave Fort Collins at 2 am for an attempt on Long’s Peak. By 3:15 we’re on the trail, moving by the light of headlamps through the incredibly still, dark, cool morning air. It’s still dark when we reach timberline, and the lights of the front range sprawl are a glowing orange sea below us. The sun has risen by the time we make it past the 1000-foot diamond face to the keyhole, a jagged gap in a thin granite ridge. Some light sprinkles of cold rain seem to be dissapating. This time of year a few hundred people a day make the ascent, and now we can see them.
Going up the trough is a slow grunt, the narrows provide a thrilling view, and the home stretch is a challenging scramble at this altitude. This really is a diverse, distinctive mountain to climb. We’re on the summit before 9 am. A small crowd gathers at the high point, but it’s a huge peak, and easy to wander off to enjoy some views in solitude. Around 9:30 we head back down, and as always it seems twice as long as the climb up. We reach the trailhead at 2:30 pm, for a round trip of just over 11 hours.