Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,259 feet
Date Posted:  01/27/2013
Date Climbed:   01/26/2013
Author:  Kevin Baker
Additional Members:   wooderson, Papillon
 Sneaking In a Jan Grid Slot on Longs   

Longs Peak (14255')
January 26, 2012
Via Keyhole Route
12 miles RT, 5150' gain

Participants: Sarah Behnke, Kevin Pustulka, & Kevin Baker

We have become spoiled in yet another "fake" winter in Colorado where the toils to attain high hanging fruit in the alpine are not near as daunting. This weekend was more winter like in some regards as plans A and B in the Sangres went south with the forecast. Kevin and Sarah invited me along for Longs and I didn't have an elusive Jan grid slot for Longs yet, so I bit. The forecast deteriorates a bit calling for a 50 percent chance of snow, 1 to 3 inches, and moderate winds. Very rarely does it snow with only moderate winds on Longs. It's not a place to be in a nasty storm, so we use Lady Washington or Storm as nice consolation prizes in the event of a whiteout.

We set out at a not so alpine start of 6:15am and plod up the familiar Longs Peak trail. It is well tracked and we take a few winter variations to cut some distance. We hit treeline fairly quick and there are a few folks heading up with various destinations. It's a far cry from the conga line of summer though!

Meeker and Longs near Chasm View

We take advantage of the wide open frozen expanses of wind scoured tundra to make a direct beeline for the trail as it contours below Lady Washington. The skies are looking good and the wind is very light. Hopes are soaring that we may be able to sneak this in before the storm comes. The rocks turn icy around the Boulder Field though and we're worried what the scrambling is going to be like beyond the Keyhole. We see a group on the Cables route and find out later it is George Barnes, who is in pursuit of a grid project on just the Cables route! They are the only other group we know of to reach the summit today.

Oh no, we're off trail! Shhh, don't tell the tree huggers.

The north face looking mighty barren

The boulder hop to the Keyhole is not near as annoying as I recalled, and we make good time up to it.

Nearing the famous Keyhole

I peak over the Keyhole and it looks like there's a lot more frost on the rocks on that side. It must of been the prevailing northwest winds earlier in the morning coating the rocks. We take a break at the luxurious Agnes Vaille shelter and fuel up for the long road to the summit. This seems like such a fake winter ascent with no snowshoes, a shelter high on the mountain, and little wind. We'll take what we can get though! We all just brought microspikes thinking there wouldn't be enough snow on the crucial areas to warrant crampons, and it's a good move. The microspikes provide a good bite and the frost isn't really much of an inhibitor of traction. We take our time going around the rebar boulder getting used to the conditions and it feels much more intimidating than summer.

Starting across the Ledges. Pic by Kevin P.

There are a couple short downsloping patches of snow on the Ledges that we have to cut steps across as there aren't any tracks, but the snow is pretty loose and shallow.

Crossing a section of snow on the Ledges. Pic by Kevin P.

The Trough is up next and we're amazing at the lack of snow. When I did the Trough route in winter a few years back, it was almost continuous, bulletproof snow. Today it feels like early fall conditions.

Looking up the Trough

The climb around the chockstone is spicier with the frost to deal with, but luckily it isn't exposed there.

Sarah climbing the chockstone

Kevin P sneaks by the frosty chockstone

We're expecting better conditions on the Narrows and Homestretch since they are south facing, and we are correct. The final sections are familiar and fun. We top out around 1pm and it looks like we've beat out the weather! It's actually quite pleasant on the summit, but we don't hang around long as we still have a long way down.

Sarah and I crossing the Narrows. Pic by Kevin P.

The final notch to the Homestretch.

The Homestretch

Looking down the Homestretch. Pic by Kevin P.

Sarah nearing the top.

As usual on Longs, the journey back to the Keyhole goes much faster. I'll never grow tired of the Keyhole route as it has so many intricacies even though it's the easiest route on Longs. It will be fun exploring the many alpine routes on Longs in the coming years. There's a brief snow shower of 5 minutes or so in the Trough, but the real weather doesn't show up until we're driving home.

Heading back across the Narrows.

Another Narrows section

A few minutes of light snow in the Trough.

Back at the shelter. Pic by Kevin P.

The short sections of snow on the Ledges are much easier on the way back with steps in place going uphill. We're soon back at the shelter refueling for the rest of the journey down the trail. I feel pretty good on the descent, maybe because that hybrid Paleo diet is starting to benefit me after 3 weeks! We retrace our cross country path back to the Jim's Grove shortcut and we're back around 6pm, happy to sneak in a winter ascent on Longs! The Paleo diet is off on hiking days, and I have 6 pieces of Little Caesar's pizza at home to celebrate after we find out the Southern Sun is too crowded for dinner. Good time with the Pappersons!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
01/28/2013 04:04
Great job. Hard to believe it's January...

Mountain Ninja
Awesome job!
01/28/2013 05:23
Even though it's a ”fake winter,” you guys sure did it right. Way to beat the weather, and thanks for the fun read! Some parts still look pretty sketchy, but it's not too much for you hardened mountaineers. Good work!

Rad Rime
01/28/2013 13:12
I thought Longs was pretty in the summer...but the rime makes it look amazing, like a different planet! Nice report waterboy!

01/28/2013 14:41
The rime back there is gorgeous. Nice effort.

You're gridding Longs?
01/28/2013 15:01
Nice report, Kevin. You're gridding Longs? Cool! How many slots do you need? A standard grid, or a super grid (12 routes)? Good luck!

01/28/2013 15:05
well deserved!

Kevin Baker
12 routes
01/28/2013 15:06
I do want to do 12 routes, Tom. I have 5 ascents, 4 slots, and
4 routes so far! Long way to go, but it sure will be a
cool project with the variety of routes Longs has to offer.

Good luck!
01/28/2013 15:23
I've done all the winter months & much of spring/summer, but a super grid is a different deal. As for the winter routes, you've done the Keyhole, but check out the NW Couloir, one of my favorites on Longs. Avalanche safe, moderate & protectable crux (4th-5.0?). Watch the top, though. Very cool route, as is the Loft/Clark's Arrow in winter, just watch the top of Keplinger's, you'll want crampons there. I need an April slot and was thinking the Trough, with snow by then, hopefully. Join me?

Mr. Bluebird Strikes Again
01/28/2013 15:47
Reading this report was like having a knife twisted in my stomach, Kevin! Haha. Nice work, beautiful photos, and good luck on your grid project.

Summit Lounger
You get around
01/28/2013 16:30
Congrats on sneaking in an ascent before the weather came in. The rime ice in the trough was spectacular. Keep up the strong work.

01/28/2013 16:33
Congrats, and best wishes on the grid project, Kevin.

Hiking in Black and White
01/28/2013 17:07
That is what it seemed like. The rime made for a wild Keyhole experience. It is pretty cool having Longs to yourself as well. Time seemed to stand still in the A.V. shelter. Cheddar cheese pringles are very underrated (somebody will rip me for writing that). I hope those people had a decent night camping in the boulderfield. The thought of camping there any time feels like a spear in the side though.

But I need to drop the Johnny Cash look in the alpine. Photos would have been much better with some lime green, tangerine or banana peel yellow clothing to go with the rime. Luckily, Mr. Bluebird brought some red.

It was another great day, Kevin. I look forward to the next one.

01/28/2013 17:48
I like the rime-covered shots.

Tom - Is that the same as the knight's couloir? Requires squeezing under a boulder and through a chimney? Or do you just climb around it in winter?

01/28/2013 19:06
I think Kevin mentioned something about buying you dinner (a paleo burger?) as payment for turning that crummy forecast around... and I think he might be on to something. I bet a lot of folks would be willing to shell out a little cash for the weather windows your presence seems to generate. You could do well...

Weather aside, very glad you joined us for this one. Too bad the dinner plans didn't pan out... we'll be sure to swing something next time!

Kevin Baker
I don't know what it is
01/28/2013 19:12
I don't know why I get so lucky with the weather, but maybe I should start charging a meal ticket for the good weather successes! Good idea, Sarah! I always tell people that my mom always prays extra hard for me on weekends because she knows I'm up to something scary. Works like a charm I guess! It helps that we're in one of the worst droughts in recent years too. Hard to believe the lack of snow up high.

Kevin Baker
01/28/2013 19:14
Tom, I've done the Trough from Black Lake, but I would be up for another route in April. I'm assuming you've done Keplingers? I've gone down it in summer but not up.

Beautiful frosty photos ..
01/28/2013 20:15
What a unique perspective. Always love seeing The WOODIONS. 8) Thanks for posting. Happy trails!

Looks like fun
01/30/2013 20:31
Minus all the verglas. Cool grid plan!

Kent McLemore
Some great photos there...
01/31/2013 05:03
The shots across the Narrows in particular. Thanks.

02/10/2013 14:51
Tree Huggers and walking on tundra. connection? I don't get it.

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