Up to CampMountains: Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker
Route: Started at the Long’s Peak TH, camped below Chasm Lake, (1) climbed Lambs Slide – Broadway – Notch Couloir – Descending Traverse – Keiners Variation – Summit – Northface Cables Rappel – Boulder Field – Chasm Lake (2) Iron Gates Route to Meeker, glissaded down the Loft
Crew – Joe and Prakash – Keiners, John joined us on Meeker
Keiners started out as a distant dream when we started rock climbing at the BRC last year. A week before our slated plan for it I exacerbated an existing shoulder injury and was contemplating withdrawal. After Joe failed to find a replacement partner, I decided to give it my best with an improvised sling for my left arm/shoulder while he offered to carry the rope and climbing gear up to camp by himself. The idea was to bail on Sunday’s plan for Dreamweaver if my injury did not co-operate. We bought the camping permit at Estes Park and drove to the Longs Peak TH Friday evening. We began hiking (and gimping respectively) up the trail a little after 8PM. As expected, the extra 18 lbs that Joe was carrying served to speed him up (laws of tradtional (trad?) physics collapse here). After what seemed like an eternity we reached Chasm Lake set up camp and went to bed at a relatively early hour of 10:30PM. Our plan was to begin climbing at daybreak.
Lambs SlideWe ate a hasty breakfast and left camp at as Chief Shining Light awoke from his slumber. As we began hiking up to Chasm Lake we saw a group of three skiers headed up as well and raced to get ahead. Joe was carrying his 55m rope and an alpine rack comprising a full set of nuts, a few select cams, tricams, draws, rap sling/ring, rescue pulley/prussic kit, biners and cordelette. We both took vertical point crampons (although these were more for Dreamweaver than Keiners), and alpine axes. We had both brilliantly forgotten gaiters and decided to go retro by pulling socks over our pant legs. I carried an extra ice tool for reasons alluded to in previous trip reports. We began hiking up to Chasm Lake and carefully skirted it along the left (the right may be easier).
We were soon at the base of the monolith and heard another group of climbers near the top of the couloir. We cramponed up and began climbing Lambs Slide. The snow was not too bad early in the morning but loose rock and ice came screaming down from time to time. We followed a great booter headed up the middle with dead critters and everything.
The views were stunning throughout the morning. Here’s Chasm Lake below us.
BroadwayWe topped out at the beginning of Broadway at around 7AM where we encountered the other group of three. We passed them and decided to protect the ledge system since I was limited to using one arm. I was unfortunately unable to get too many pictures beginning here since it’s not considered good form, in these climbing circles, to lollygag while belaying your partner. We kept crampons on. Although Broadway is reasonably broad, it traverses over this…
We caught a fantastic inversion early on…
Joe set up anchors for the first couple pitches across Broadway. This was the first one
And I came around the bend in less than perfect snow…
The second pitch traversed the crux. You go around a bend and duck beneath a protruding boulder. As occasionally seems to be the case with these cruxes, conditions specific to us rendered it anti-cruxtactic. A quick duck put the crux behind us. The rope made it easy too. The presence of more snow below the boulder could potentially block easy passage and force a climber to reach out into space. This could result in a dozen feet or so of highly exposed traversing.
Notch CouloirAfter the first two pitches we simulclimbed our way to the base of Notch Couloir. For the last few hundred feet approaching the base Joe had a horrendous time finding good protection. At the base of the notch we altered our plan slightly. We would circumvent the dihedrals that mark the beginning of Keiners and instead ascend Notch Couloir for a while, exit it just below the notch and traverse over to Keiners higher up. Joe headed up and set up anchor about 150 feet up the couloir where after a long time there was good pro.
Now, while the earlier part of the couloir is a moderately angled snow slope, it’s “run-out” is the Diamond. Coupled with nasty loose, wet snow that kept sloughing off over the diamond below us with every footstep, we were both glad to have it protected the whole way. At 9AM we began heading up the couloir.
The slope angle of the couloir is fairly mellow. We felt the crux of the portion we climbed was a 10-15 foot rock step that was approximately halfway up the couloir. Ice cold snow melt was flowing down it and patches of water ice covered it. Rotten snow and ice obscured the good holds and there was not enough ice or snow for the front points to bite well. For the first time in the day I couldn’t make the move without removing my sling, and so off it went. Despite the fact, I had to haul myself up primarily with my right hand, aiding off of the placement that followed the wall. Needless to say, cleaning this piece of protection later caused expletives to flow freely. The cussin’ crack in Boulder canyon is great prep for this section, for the vocabulary at the very least if not for the technique. Just past this section we saw the other group passing the bottom of the notch and headed towards the base of the dihedrals.
Joe mentioned that good protection was more easily available through the upper sections of the couloir. The couloir began to turn narrow as we approached the top. The walls were wet and loose, and protection resumed being a pain in the royal buttock. A large cornice guarded the exit and this was a highly sketchnitsczwizzled (to use a technical term) part of the day.
The inversion we witnessed in the morning was catching up with us and a solid fog began advancing up the mountain just at the right time. The sky was still blue above us but cold air was blowing up our pant legs. I hastened to traverse past the cornice. All available protection was used efficiently and all the pieces, while placed solidly, popped off easily and supported the activities of the cleaning crew.
Pre-notch Exit and Descending TraversesWe topped out at the exit at 11AM. Interesting weather was approaching from below while above us it was still blue… at least momentarily…
We quickly racked away all the pieces I had cleaned up and grabbed a bite to eat and drink. After investigating the sections that followed, we decided to stash the rope and free-climb what looked to be 4th Class rock.
We were unsure of the class of climbing if we continued up to the Notch. Our plan was to traverse right and find the upper sections of Keiners. However, the route finding was tricky and we needed to down-climb some steep loose dirt and tundra down to a narrow ledge system crowning the diamond. The ledge would put us back on Keiners, hopefully without much more added difficulty. While climbing down to the ledge we sent some material hurtling over the diamond and decided to call it quits and rappel what was left. Joe found one and only one solid slot for a nut. The nut was placed and the rappel station was set up. He went first while I watched the placement. It was solid and unmoving barring some tundra and pebbles that were sliding off a small adjacent rock shelf from the vibrations caused by Joe’s rappel. Joe landed and got off rappel. I followed suit…
The terrain we’re seen rappelling is a little steeper than what we were down-climbing previously. The rappel saved us a lot of grief. One small nut saved two large stricken nuts.
Keiners VariationOnce on the ledge the difficulties eased out significantly although the exposure was still there. One thing you should try not to remember while on this route is that the Diamond is always below you. It was noon. We still had about 300’-400’ to go, but the terrain looked easier.
We encountered patches of extremely rotten snow from time to time and without crampons it was frequently easier to stick to rock.
We finally approached the base of the pre-final pitch. There was a 5.4 option to the far right but a more interesting 5.6 alternative closer to the center.
Joe tried going up and to the left, but withdrew and decided to go to the right. There was one exposed reach and grab that constituted the 5.6 move.
Loose rock was still a problem as it had been all day and a chunk of rock a little larger than my fist screamed past my helmet, missing it by about 3-5 feet. Here’s a view of the move from the anchor point above. The sections that followed it felt like 5.0 through 5.4.
SUMMIT!!Comrades, this is one mind-blowing mountaineering route. Hours of non-stop entertainment are guaranteed. This was unequivocally the finest mix of alpine mountaineering I have experienced till date. There was a nice easy couloir, exposed ledge traversing, another narrow moderate couloir with mixed rock/ice difficulties, cornice evasion (in summer), descending traverses and rappels, 4th – low 5th free solo climbing topped off with a protected technical pitch. This was followed by a Class 3 scramble up to a fine Summit where you can always count on finding someone to shoot the $h!t with. Most of this is performed above Colorado’s most magnificent cliff… the Longs Peak East Face. What the heck… dedicated mug shots are mandatory on this one… There was definite character building on this trip.
We ate some food on the summit and spent a while there. We ran into a Swiss dad and his two kids on the summit who were planning to use the same descent route as us… the N. Face Cables route.
DescentGetting to the top of the bolts from where you rappel currently entails a lot of traversing across suspect snow slopes above the Diamond. The weather continued to be very moody, cold and windy… very non-summer-like.
The dad stayed roped to his kids who seemed to be having a blast. We soon reached the bolts where there was some traffic. Here, our new friends offered us the use of their rope and we tied our 55m to their 50m and manufactured a direct rappel all the way to the bottom. We took it one at a time. From the bottom of the rappel we plunge stepped down a snow slope to the top of the Boulder field. The end was in sight.
The boulder field was pretty crowded as usual. We hiked down quickly back to camp. Celebratory mountain house meals were in order. Shortly afterward John joined us for the attempt on Meeker the following day. We decided to call it quits on Dreamweaver because of the injury and also because we thought the snow conditions might be as bad as they were on Keiners.
The Iron gates route up Meeker was an exceptional scramble and I may post some pictures later if there’s any interest in the matter. Suffice it to say, for now, that we kept ourselves entertained during the descent… Ja, we did… and we still have our teeth (and fingers) intact… barely.
Joe's report can be seen here... http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=4535#bottom