Mike Bean catching some turns in the lower half of the Trough. -March, 2009**This page originally belonged to Chris Pruchnic (Haliku). However, due to his accident and the dreadful consequences, the Elves have graciously allowed me to take it over to update. I've decided to leave a good portion of Chris' material on this page. Chris' name will remain. I hope you're at peace buddy.
There are classics like the Keyhole, Cables Route and for the technical climber, the Casual Route & Alexanders Chimney are excellent. Others, like the Notch Couloir, Trough and Keplingers Couloir are rooted in history and make for great snow climbs. The Trough is especially such a route.
The Trough is located on the west side of the mountain. Because of this, it typically doesn't see direct sunshine until later in the morning. The Trough provides an almost unbroken, continuous line to within a few hundred feet of the summit. As snow climbs go, this is one of the longest climbs in Colorado (alongside The Cristo Couloir on Quandary Peak & the Bell Cord on South Maroon Peak) and undoubtedly, the best on Longs Peak (especially when you factor in safety).
And having Glacier Gorge, Pagoda Peak, Shelf & Black Lakes and Chiefs Head Peak as your backdrop, this also ranks as one of the more aesthetic climbs in Rocky Mountain National Park.
In terms of winter ascents, the Trough is the primary ascent route. Other avenues to the summit have seen successful ascents (Cables Route, Keplingers, Notch & Kieners) but the Trough remains the safest option in winter to achieve the summit. Unfortunately, due to that same western exposure/strong winds and frequent bad weather, getting a direct, continuous ski line from the top (~13,820') can be a hard sell as the top usually gets wind blasted and scoured. But, it does happen!
At the 1.9 mile trail junction follow the signs for Mills Lake. Pay attention to the trail signs as its easy to head up the trail to The Loch in the dark. The path is an easy Class 1 that soon leads to the edge of Mills Lake. This is a beautiful spot for a quick break!
Cross Mills and Jewel Lakes continuing up the drainage to Black Lake which is about 2 - 2.5 hours from the parking lot. Past Mills Lake if a trench isn't already in place, the wallowing through the trees can be overwhelming.
Follow Black Lake's left shore for 100 yards where it opens into a drainage where you want to go leading you into a higher valley. Walk up the valley until it levels out.
You need to go to the left side of the valley. The Trough is on the left directly across from the shoulder of The Spearhead. It should take less than an hour from Black Lake to the base of the Trough at approximately 11,600 feet. Some ice can be encountered at Black Lake.
A series of trail markers, red and yellow circles (bulls-eyes), are painted on the rocks from the top of the trough until the summit. A ledge, called the Narrows, is the next leg. This is the worst exposure of the route. It leads to the homestrech, typically a small snowfield, which tops out onto the summit.
I'd also recommend a warmth layer, softshell and maybe something lighter for the actual climb portion. Even though this is a moderate climb, the environment is solidly alpine. Conditions change.
- A very long day on Longs
- Longs Peak via the Trough
- Winter via the Trough- 2nd Attempt
- Mountain Project