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Sunrise from Longs Peak

Sunrise from Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Sunrise from Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Longs Peak and I have a long history together. I moved to Boulder in 1975 as a freshman student at the University of Colorado and almost immediately began hearing tales about the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park with its vertical east face, The Diamond. In the years since, I've scrambled up the Keyhole Route, climbed half a dozen routes on the Diamond, cramponed up Lambs Slide and the Notch Couloir in late November and soloed Alexander's Chimney in winter. Once I even bicycled from Boulder to the Longs Peak parking lot, then ran to the Boulderfield and scrambled up the North Face to the summit. When I told my friend Bill Briggs, an avid mountain runner himself, about that last adventure, he asked me how long it had taken. "Eleven hours," I said. "How long did it take you?" "I did it in nine," he replied. "But I stopped for a meal in Allenspark," I added quickly. "So did I," he replied, with a good-natured grin.

With that kind of history, Longs Peak was naturally one of the first Fourteeners I chose for a sunrise-from-the-summit shoot. It was also one of the first Class III peaks I'd ever tried to solo in the dark, by headlamp, with a 4x5 field camera on my back ‒ an intimidating prospect. With that kind of load, there was no way I was going to make it to the summit by sunrise starting from the road, so I got a permit and backpacked in to the Boulderfield at 12,500 feet. In a fit of excessive zeal, I shot sunset from the top of Storm King Peak that evening, got to bed at 9:45 pm and was hiking again by 2 am. To my surprise, I summited in just over two and half hours with no major route-finding mistakes. I was so early I had an hour to wait until there was enough light to see where to set up my camera. This image looking northwest towards McHenrys Peak and Mt. Powell is my favorite. When the sunrise light faded, I descended to the Boulderfield, packed up my camp and staggered back down the trail carrying my 75-pound load of large-format camera and camping gear. I reached the road feeling completely wrung out. Within a few weeks after the trip, the nagging "pulled muscle" in my hip that had been plaguing me since my Castle Peak shoot in the spring turned into shooting pains down my right leg caused by a herniated disc in my lumbar spine. All photography plans went on the shelf, and I began my first six-month battle with debilitating sciatica.

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