A final factor that played into our nearly last minute change of plans for our summer trip this year was the fact that when I had done the research, there were no campgrounds or RV parks close to the trailhead that would enable us to get the early start we would need to safely summit the Idaho highpoint, Borah Peak. An early start is essential to avoid sudden storms and lightening that frequently crop up around noon. Further, due to a treacherous access road, we would be forced to park our camper a number of miles away and sleep in our car the evening before the hike. Not an appealing thought.
When I had initially encountered this obstacle, I had put the planning process for that part of the trip on the back burner, thinking we would figure that out later. Discovering this problem with the altitude now, it seems we were destined to change our plans. Over my 20 years of planning these trips, I have learned that problems like this often crop up for a reason. With over five years of highpointing under our belts with only one minor injury (a sprained ankle in Arizona), we have learned to make safety a high priority. There is nothing like a serious injury to ruin a summer vacation.
So, there we were late in May, scrambling to re-plan our trip with these considerations in mind. Never having been to Rocky Mountain National Park, and needing to head down through Colorado to reach our northern New Mexico destination, we decided to make Rocky part of our trip. Hence, our three day stay at Glacier Basin Campground described in a previous blog. But we always plan our summer trips to enable us to summit a peak or two. Thus began our quest for a peak in Rocky that would satisfy our need to climb.
The first choice we considered was Long’s Peak. This is one of the 54 peaks in Colorado higher than 14,000 feet above sea level. As we had summited Mount Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado at 14,433 feet last summer in our state highpoint quest, and been bitten by the 14’er bug to complete the rest, this may be considered the obvious choice as it is the only 14’er in Rocky.
Since our trip last year, however, I had done some research on the 53 remaining 14’ers. While it is not the next highest, I did learn that Long’s Peak is considered the “deadliest” 14’er as more climbers have died while attempting to summit its peak than any other. Further, for at least 11 months of most years, Long’s is a technical climb—something we have never attempted and with which we have no experience. Finally, Long’s Peak Trail runs a round trip distance of 15 miles and is predicted to take at least 12 hours. Therefore, Long’s was out. If I was not about to climb Borah due to a lack of acclimation time, I was not about to compromise my vacation or my life just to chalk up a second 14’er. We will have to work up to that one. Hiking and peak bagging is about making smart, safe choices and we just weren’t ready for Longs. To be continued…
For more ideas about what to do in our national parks, read 25 Quick, Easy Weekends at a national park near you.