Monday, July 28, 2008

Annals of Obsession

Colorado climber, cyclist, runner, and all-around endurance nut Bill Wright is more than halfway through an attempt to climb Longs Peak once a month for a year—and by a different route each month. Several mountaineers have climbed the monarch of Rocky Mountain National Park every month of the year, including streakers like ranger Jim Detterline, who once went 30 months without missing an ascent of the peak, and who just this month completed his 300th climb. According to Wright, Bill Briggs attempted the different-route-every-month feat twice, but came up just short. Apparently, no one has done it yet.

It won't be easy. In the summer finding a climbable route is simple—Longs has more than 100 named routes on its flanks—but every Longs climb is tiring: The shortest routes require more than 12 miles of hiking and 4,500 feet of elevation gain. And the choices narrow dramatically in winter. Strategically, Wright is leaving some relatively low-hanging fruit toward the end, planning ascents of the Keyhole Route (with his wife and son) in September and the Cables Route (north face) in December. His tick list so far includes classics like the the Trough (January), Notch Couloir (April), and the Casual Route (5.10) on the Diamond in June, as well as lesser-known lines like the Northwest Gully (March) and the western ridge between Longs and Pagoda (July). The latter was part of the rarely done Glacier Gorge Traverse, climbing over 10 peaks in just under 14 hours. One could quibble with Wright's "different route every month," since many Longs routes converge, often hundreds of feet below the summit—especially those reaching the top via the Loft and Clark's Arrow traverse. But this is an impressive effort, nonetheless, and with a bit of luck Wright may pull it off. Read his trip reports here.

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