The 28 yr old had no idea he was speaking to Nicolas Cofman, cliff negotiator extraordinaire. We'd also picked up another couple in their late 20s who had no idea where they were. And over the next few hours Nick would help each of them off the cliff and to the summit of Longs Peak, 14,292 ft.
"If it normally takes people 12 hours to do Longs, what is it about our route that is going to take at least 12 hours?" I'd asked that morning as we set off from our trailhead, which had suspiciously few people at it. Like none.
Turns out it was because our route went via the summit of Mt Meeker, 13,911 ft. (above pic) - whose trailhead begins 1000 ft lower than the Longs Peak one. Of course.
Descending from the top of Meeker into a saddle between the two mountains called The Loft, we could see some people who were not making much progress up the side of Longs.
"So you know how I didn't mention climbing Meeker to get to Longs? Well, there's a second thing. The Notch. You won't like the notch."
The Notch is where we ran into BJ, Brittany and Russell, the young people who could see no way down.
There are no photos of this section because we needed all hands and feet on the rock as we shimmied our way down a three sided chimney to the first ledge of the cliff.
"Well that wasn't bad!"
"We haven't done the hard part yet." And then he disappeared into a hole that led to a cave.
We passed him all our backpacks and then, one by one, squeezed through the opening into the small rock room, and then it got kind of crazy.
Nick first down the chute, then the backpacks, then Acacia and Cayenne, who then moved all the packs out of the way, while the rest of us adults used Nick's shoulders and knees to balance on as we down-climbed through a tunnel which spit us out onto a sloping, loose rock shelf. Russell slipped, but Nick caught him.
Only as I sat on the shelf, watching the last legs emerge from the tunnel did I remember Nick was doing all this with one eye. He's so capable, I forget. I can't tell you how proud I was. Am.
Once we all made it out of the tunnel, we shuffled along the cliff on 6" ledges which switch-backed to a spot where we could walk, and we were once again heading up Longs.
(Once we were on the other side of the rock couloir, I asked Nick to take a photo of the tunnel, but the sun was in his eye and the photo was taken a bit too far to the left. Tunnel is just outside the right side of this photo, but you get the picture. On the left side, in the middle, is Russell, so you can get an idea of scale.)
"That was epic! Oh man, no one's going to believe me!"
"You kidding? None of my friends want to hike with me anyway. They'll never come when I tell them about this! ha!"
BJ and Russell were pretty excited.
We all high-fived at the summit and took photos and laughed a lot, especially when they said, "We need a photo of the Savior Family!" (Well, really, only Savior Dad, but who's counting.)
This was Cayenne's 44th 14er.
And Acacia's 40th.
On the way down Nick asked BJ if we could hitch a ride in his car back to the trailhead where we started, which happened to be 10 miles past the Longs Pk start. After our 13-hour day, a ride sounded pretty good.
"Sure! You got me up the mountain. Least I can do is get you off it!"
So... hitchhiking was part of the plan?
"Yeah. That would be the third thing I didn't want to tell you."