Longs Peak - 14,259 feet
Longs Peak - 14,259 feet
|More Painful Every Time|
More Painful Every Time
I'm going to get straight to the point on this one: Longs gets harder and harder every time. Sure, if I just repeated the Keyhole route over and over again it might get to the point that it wasn't too bad anymore, but where's the fun in that? This mountain just has so many awesome routes on it! Don't get me wrong, I still plan on repeating the Loft/Keyhole combo when I bring up my less-experienced friends, but there's a lifetime of variation up there just waiting for me to do, and I plan on doing it.
Leaving Boulder at 2:00 in the morning wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be. Despite having to go all the way through Estes due to the Highway 7 closure, we still made the drive in less than an hour. Upon opening the car door the force of the gusts outside immediately shut it in my face. Uh oh. We were planning on being on the East Face, so hopefully sheltered from the wind. There was only one other party in the parking lot, headed up to Dreamweaver. We headed out at 3:30 at a pretty remarkable pace considering we were carrying technical rock and snow equipment! At treeline we were greeted by gusts as high as 50mph, making it pretty hard to stand upright. The sunrise was unbeatable, as always, so we stopped for a water/picture break at Chasm Junction.
Our next step was crossing the snowfield on the trail. Neither Bryce nor I felt safe simply using the steps already cut into the ice (they were sloped downhill!), so we each pulled our ice axes out. A few careful steps later and we were crossing over the top of Columbine Falls. A quick romp up to Chasm Lake finally gave us a good view of the route ahead.
Making our way around the north side of Chasm Lake took a bit longer than expected, but not overly so. It was simple Class 2, but filled in with soft snow that we didn't particularly feel like trusting. One way or another we made it to Mills Glacier, taking a good long snack and sunscreen break before transitioning to crampons for our ascent of Lamb's Slide.
Lamb's Slide was packed in pretty good. There was more-or-less a bootpack already put into the bulletproof snow, but I decided after a while to just front-point up one of the runnels instead of switchbacking back-and-forth. We took our break on Mill's Glacier at 7:30, and were already to Broadway by 8:30. I could see how the transition to Broadway could be an ice climb later in the summer: as of now there was already a layer of slick ice under the melting snow that we were booting up.
All-in-all Broadway didn't prove too much of a challenge. We encountered two cruxes: the first came fairly quickly, which we confused for the step-around boulder that everyone always talks about but wasn't very difficult; the second was the actual 5.1 move everyone talks about. The exposure on the latter was gnarly! But the rumors are true, there are terrific jugs on either side of the boulder that make the move very easy. Even in crampons and holding an ice axe, Bryce and I both felt comfortable enough with the move to skip roping up.
The route was very straightforward so far, and really felt within both of our abilities. And to top it off, it was absolutely rad! The position, the conditions, the views, everything was just so COOL! I know I probably said so every five minutes, Bryce must have gotten sick of it.
After the final boulder, it was muddy Class 2 ledges to the bottom of Notch Couloir. I could pretty easily tell where the first dihedral of Kiener's was located in relation to the couloir, the route descriptions I had read in the last few days really paid off! We traversed over to the base of the rock and took a second to organize our gear. After another application of sunscreen and a sip of water, I took the lead up the easy-to-protect crack. It was 9:30, and we were thrilled to be where we were.
Despite having a decently-heavy pack and being in mountain boots, the initial dihedral went pretty smoothly. I placed a healthy amount of nuts before going out of sight from Bryce. I saw anchor material up and to the left, and followed the chimney to get there. Arriving at the tat, I was maybe thirty feet up. I decided to continue on, clipping the anchor as pro and continuing left up the chimney. I topped it out, looked around, and saw no possible way to make the moves 5.4 or less! Seeing some pitons on the opposite side of the chimney I figured I must have passed something obvious at the tat, so I downclimbed. I attacked the bulge just above the tat, deciding to weight my last piece of pro after discovering that there was no way this went at 5.4 either. I decided to just push through. I made a lieback move onto the slab, then covering easy ground to a big ledge. I found a horn to sling and made an anchor, ready to belay Bryce up.
Bryce followed up, making me feel really good about myself when he complemented my heady lead! We followed a piton just above us, on a slabby pitch that we hoped would be the last one roped-up. We swung leads, Bryce tackling the slab head-on. There were tons of cam placements available, but we had only brought a set of nuts and two small tricams! Bryce being a solid 5.13 climber, he didn't have too much trouble with the moves. He topped out not too long after starting, and I got ready to climb. I had been sitting in a free-hanging belay for about an hour at this point, so I was pretty psyched to move! We finished the technical pitches at 11:30, meaning it took us two hours to do two pitches.
Upon coming off belay, we decided we had just done two pitches of 5.7 climbing, not at all what we had planned! Luckily we were both competent climbers, or else the tricky moves in mountain boots may have been a serious problem. We weren't necessarily upset at wandering off-route, since the pitches were pretty fun after all!
Looking up, we could visually follow a line of snow almost all the way to the Red Pyramid, the end of our intended route. A few steps into the snow was all it took for us to completely scrap that plan: I sunk all the way to my hips in several spots, even causing some small wet slides that slid all the way over the Diamond. We decided that we liked the sound of some solid rock, which meant we'd be keeping to the left. Every now and again we thought we'd seen a spot where we could cross over to the right, but it would always end up being more dangerous than it was worth. We kept angling up and left, paralleling Notch Couloir in the hopes of finding a safe bridge of rock to take us back on-route. By the time we were approaching the Notch itself, we lost all hope of making it back to Kiener's. Reading up on the beta for Notch Couloir, we decided we could continue scrambling to the Notch and find the rap station, which would eventually lead us to the Loft Route and the Homestretch.
We made it to the Notch and located the rap station after a few minutes of searching. It was a quick, awkward downclimb behind a chockstone. Upon arriving, it was obvious we didn't want to trust the remaining tat, even for the short rappel that we had in store. I took out an old sling, and Bryce an old wiregate, and we added our contribution to the anchor. You're welcome, fellow Longs Peak climbers.
We rapped down into Keplinger's Couloir, far enough so that we were in dry terrain. After pulling the rope, we noticed that the remainder of the route towards the Homestretch was filled in with snow. I really didn't want to pull out my crampons again, so attempted to cross the snow with just an axe in hand. I soon discovered a layer of bulletproof ice, meaning I would, in fact, have to take out my crampons. Darn.
It was a quick booter to meet up with the Homestretch. Before we knew it, we were standing on top of Longs! Knowing that it was now pretty late in the day anyways, we decided to take a good long rest on the football-field-of-a-summit. We ate a snack, took terrible photos of ourselves, and laid down for a minute. I've got to take more summit naps...
When we finally decided to pack up, we were expecting the walk down to the Cables rap to be a cakewalk. Turns out nothing on this mountain is easy. We followed the top right corner of the Diamond, seeing footprints in the snow every now and then to remind us of the way to go. The rap station is way further left than I thought! It took a while to get there, which I honestly didn't expect at first. Eventually we did arrive at the rap station, despite much difficulty in finding the eyebolts.
We got down in two raps, although we likely could've shortened it to one if we had felt like downclimbing a bit. After a long day, we were finally out of the technical terrain. Helmets and harnesses came off, and we took a second to appreciate Chasm View before beginning our long slog across the Boulderfield and back to the car.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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