With Leadville looming less than three weeks away, Alan and I wanted to do something that would further our experience with sleep deprivation, keep us moving all night, not be too long or difficult, and be a lot of fun in the process. Something we have both wanted to do for while is the Radical Slam and we thought this would be the perfect opportunity. With all the rain we have had lately, this would be great as we would be moving throughout the night and not have to worry about the thunderstorms. We decided beforehand not to push too hard, take a leisurely pace with the primary goal being to stay awake and get our body's used to moving throughout the night with no sleep.
Now, for those who are unaware of exactly what the radical slam is, I'll elaborate a bit. It is a brilliant link up of 7 mountains via the Long's Peak Trail. You begin with Mt. Meeker (13,911 feet), go over to Long's Peak (14,259 feet), then to Pagoda Mountain (13,497 feet), then through the Keyhole and over to Storm Peak (13,326 feet), cross the boulder field and head up Mt. Lady Washington (13,281), then over to Battle Mountain (12,044 feet) and then, after a bushwhack down Battle, over to Estes Cone (11,006 feet), and once you get back to the Long's Peak Trail Head to make it official, you must do 50 push ups. It is a bit over 18 miles and around 8,500 feet of gain. This route takes you through some of the parks most breathtaking places and you summit some amazing mountains, all worthy of their own individual outings.
Needless to say, we were excited. We knew we wouldn't break any records or anything, running off of no sleep, and doing all of the difficult route finding in the dark, so our mentality was just to enjoy it. I picked Alan up after I closed here at the lodge and we were hiking by 10:06 pm. We set a decent pace, took a couple of pit stops and a GU break and made great time to the Chasm Lake junction.
Because of all of the rain, Chasm Meadows was a swamp, we slowed to a crawl here trying to pick the best way through trying to save the dry in our shoes. Here is where we met Lily, a horse with a sword on her head that gave us a ride to the base of the couloir leading to the loft. We slogged our way up to the loft where we took another GU break. At this point I was sitting on a rock with my right foot on a fist sized loose rock that I accidentally kicked off its little perch. This little rock hit another little rocks that hit a much much larger rock that must have been barely holding on, because this sent the larger rock, along with about ten other larger rocks over the edge of the loft. The ensuing rock fall lasted about 3 minutes, echoing off the cliffs all around us. It was a crazy experience that started with the smallest of rocks and ended up being a very dangerous rock fall. We both commented on, even though we were above it and no one else was in the area, how much of a frightening experience it was. Anyway...
We then pushed it up to Mt Meeker, the first of our 7 summits. We had a little snack break on the summit and enjoyed the views by light of a near full moon. We then descended back to the loft and began making our way over to the high point of the day, Long's Peak. I had never done this route and Alan had never done it in the dark, so the going was slow as we gingerly picked our way through the rugged terrain. We managed to stay on easy 3rd class terrain and found our way without much difficulty. It took us a little longer then we had hoped, but we were, soon enough, signing into the summit register on Long's...both our 8th summit on this wonderful mountain.
The breeze had picked up a bit and it was in the upper 30's so we didn't stick around too long. We crawled down the homestretch and began the descent to Pagoda. This would be the route finding crux of the day, though, with a little attention, wasn't too bad. Alan had been this way before, though he had previously not been able to find the correct descent route. So with his knowledge of what not to do, we found the descent gully with relative ease. Again, after an easy 3rd class down climb, we were under the magnificent spires of the keyboard of the winds and nearing Pagoda. Again, this stretch took us a while simply from trying to find the descent route in the dark.
We both hit our low points, which weren't that low, on the ascent of Pagoda. We pushed it hard up the slopes toward the summit, but the lack of sleep was starting to show it's ugly face. So we decided to pick up the intensity to see if that would help, and it did! We made great time to Pagoda's summit, signed the register and were heading down as we could see the eastern horizon lighting up.
We then easily found the correct set of spires to descend between. This would take us below the trough and we would have to reclimb a couple hundred feet to regain the ledges section of the Keyhole Route of Long's. This took a while as well, trying to figure out the best line to take over and around the 3 couloirs we had to cross. We finally got to the trough, climbed up to the ledges and we soon in the keyhole and in the glorious warmth of the sun! We scrambled towards Storm Peak to get away from the hordes of people climb Long's and stopped for a good while for a bite to eat and just enjoy the sunshine.
We then made our way up Storm Peak, signed the register, then made our way over to Lady Washington. An uneventful, except of a beaver biting Alan's ankle, hike to Lady Washington found us on her summit enjoying the view of the Diamond. We watched two parties climbing on the face and commented on how crazy that was...oh well, they would probably never consider running 100 miles...to each his own!
We took some time on Lady Washington before making the descent towards our final 2 summits of the day. The hike over to Battle Mountain was straight forward. The next goal, Estes Cone, shot out of the valley below and looked more daunting than anything we had climbed so far! We had some trouble finding the best line down to the valley floor. Once we climbed a rock outcropping and saw a large meadow that ran almost the entire way down, the going was easy. We got to the base of the valley through sparse trees and many signs of old settlements, roads and/or trails that were all overgrown. We finally made it to the trail, actually almost running smack into the junction that leads to the summit of Estes Cone. From there we made the Estes Cone summit in 22 minutes. We were pretty happy with that, but it had caught up to me and I was pretty nauseated on the summit. Once we began our descent, I felt great and we actually ran the last 2.5 miles back to the trail head, running the last half mile in less than 4 minutes. All in all it took us a bit under 14.5 hours.
After returning a little bag we found on meeker containing someone's keys and watch to the rangers at the trail head, we got to work on our 50 pushups. We made quick work of them and were done with the Radical Slam!! We were so happy to have done it! Even a year ago, this would have seemed pretty impossible to us, and we did it with relative ease. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy and my quads were pretty tender the next day, but I felt about the same as I would have after climbing one of those mountains last year. So we were pretty happy.
I went home and slept through the afternoon. In between naps I'd look at the pics on my camera looking forward to our next outing! So much fun!
You can see my photos HERE. I have added the time to each photo so you can get an idea of our splits. This is mainly for those planning on attempting this as I can not find any info online anywhere...
|until next time...|
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