Being late in the fall and having been on Longs several times, we decided to have a go at the North Face on 9/23, even with a dusting of snow and the glitter of a little ice evident from Estes Park.
My brother Joe was in town from Phoenix with his family and wanted a little adventure on Long's as part of his vacation. I had done the North Face previously and was at least familiar with the route.
We left the trailhead at 3:30AM on Monday. It was a brilliantly clear night, illuminated by a mostly full moon. Never really needed a headlamp except for the occasional excursion into the pack for GU or water.
We arrived at Granite Pass just in time to see the orange line of the sunrise out over the eastern horizon. Several minutes later watching the Diamond (east face) illuminate in a blaze of orange as the sun rose. The privies of the boulderfield and the Keyhole visible in the distance.
After a short break at the boulderfield (and re-supplying with water) we ventured off up the northern slopes towards Chasm View overlook and the beginning of the old cables route. We arrived about 8:30-9:00AM and took a break. The view of the Diamond and the void below never dissappoints!
We scrambled up to the base of the route and surveyed the ice on the route. Although the route is rated 5.4, it looked a bit more intimidating with ice on the slabs and choking the cracks. We geared up to give it a go!
Although the technical section of the North Face can be done in one long pitch, I decided to break it into two. I couldn't see the entire route from below and wanted a chance to have a look before going further. After arriving at the second bolt and bringing Joe up, I decided to keep going, even though the second half looked worse! The entire chimney seemed to have a layer of verglas, but there were enough bare sections to get a secure foot placement. I ended up protecting with a couple nuts and a cam intermittingly, just in case. The final little headwall before the last bolt was mostly ice covered, but again, just enough solid holds to make it work. With the technical part over, we slogged up the rest of the North Face which contained occasional snow/ice we viewed from below.
We summited right at 12:00PM! We spent a short period of time (had it to ourselves, which is rare) and took off down the Homestretch (final ascent on the Keyhole route) headed for Loft (Clarks Arrow route). Since Joe had never been on Long's before, I thought this would make a good Tour De Longs! This definitely added to the scramble time, but we got to see a lot that day. Had a great rest back at Peacock Falls and then headed back to the car. We arrived back at around 5:15PM.
The weather never threatened and the most we had to deal with was some colder, early morning temps and the occasional wind accompanying the sunrise.