There are those climbs that take a toll on you mentally and physically. They demand every bit of knowledge you know to complete the task safely. They leave you with a long exhausting climb. You go through a lot just to complete it. So why do we climb? What's the reason of doing this? What's it worth that you can climb a challenging route? It's worth everything for me.
There is something about doing a challenging climb. When you fail over and over and then you complete it, it's the most rewarding experience. There is nothing that matches that gratitude. The Notch Couloir has always had me in awe. It's been a goal for me ever since I started climbing. There is no other route in the world quite like this one which is why I like it - it's different.
My first attempt on the Notch was this last March as a winter attempt. I got to the crux on Broadway (A small ledge running acrross Long Peaks East Face) and had to turn back because of the time. There was not a broken trail and the snow was not avalanche prone but it was typical winter snow. It was very exhausting. I gave it a good try and let's face it, just about every winter attempt on the Notch is not succesful usually.
Winter on the broadway traverse
Success In Sight
Just a few weeks ago I went and climbed the Martha Couloir. A beautiful ice and mixed route on Mount Lady Washington. I stared at the Notch and had it set in my mind to do it when it was in condition. At the time, there were avalanches coming down it with the snow storm recently. I knew It would not be in condition until late June.
Fast forward a couple weeks and with all the hot weather it was melting fast. So fast, that it won't be in shape for much longer. I knew the time was now. I sent many messages to my climbing partners and many of them wanted to go but could not make it. With this happening, I set off for a solo.
I packed and set off for Longs Peak on Friday night. I got to the trailhead at 9 o'clock and got out to take in the beauty of my surroundings. Yes, this is all worth it I thought to myself. I had packed my "transportable" bed in the back seat. I don't think car camping is aloud at the trailhead but it was just for a couple hours. I saw someone near me getting out of there car. I started talking to him and it ended up that he was going for a solo of Dreamweaver. I told him about my plans to solo the Notch and it really interested him. So much so that he ended up joining me for it.
The Epic Day
I went to bed and set my phone alarm to 1 o'clock in the morning. As soon as I closed my eyes it seemed like I heard it. I sat up and felt like I had not slept at all. But I was very excited to start the day. We started up the trail. To me, hiking under treeline for more then an hour is not that interesting or fun. When we broke treeline I was quite happy along with the site of the city lights. The wind greeted us with gusts up to 50-60 mph. Throwing us to the ground a couple times. I had looked at the weather report and I knew it would get better later, at least I hoped.
We got to Chasm lake at about 5 A.M. and I just stared in awe of the Diamond. The true Colorado goal for me soon. I can never get tired of looking at that face. We met a group of 11 or so going up to Clarks Arrow. I was hoping they weren't heading for the Notch because that would be to busy! When we got to Lambs slide we were greated with a beautiful sunrise.
Sunrise on Longs Peak
The wind died down and we were ready to get on the route. On the other hand, I was not excited about the sun. The thought of slushy snow is never good. I was also nervous that there was not a good freeze on the snow as I was postholing a tiny bit on the way up. To be honest, I doubted I would succeed on the Notch that day because of conditions.
I started up Lambs slide and the unexpected happened, my partner's feet were to cold. He told me his feet were to cold to go on. I respected him because you can't take that stuff lightly. Frostbite is not a fun thing. He told me to go on without him.
I was now going for a solo. I broke trail all the way up Lambs slide. I entered the start of Broadway and knew this was the crux of the route. There is really no exposure in Colorado like the Broadway ledges. It's very exposed.
It was 6 o'clock and I was ready to get accross is as soon as possible. The snow on Lambslide didn't get a freeze overnight but once I got on Broadway it had got one overnight, probably from the wind. I found conditions to be okay. I got to the first crux of the traverse. A very steep downclimb with exposure that gets your adrenaline going. I then continued on by the end of the traverse I was looking forward to getting in the Notch. The crux of the traverse is around 60-65 degrees. The snow was softening up to much for my comfort. I soon met two others coming on the route.
We ended up roping up for the Notch and I joined them on the route. We simul-climbed and about halfway up there was another party starting up the Notch. I was climbing and all of sudden I heard a deep rumbling sound. I thought to myself,"Uh oh, what's that?" Whoosh! To my right there was a ton of snow falling and I spotted a huge rock coming down. Must of been a size of a microwave or bigger. I was in the crux constriction and could not see to my right. All I knew is that there was someone below me on the right side of the couloir. Everyone yelled,"rock! Then there was dead silence and everyone was fine. Now I wanted to get to the top.
We ended up getting to the top at 10 and were greeted again with very strong winds. We decided to head down instead of the summit. I was also tired and was dreaming of big fat hamburgers and sleeping in my bed. We headed down the Loft route and soon made our 2,000 ft. glissade in 5 minutes! What a day. I continued down by myself and 4 miles later I was extremely glad to reach my car! I was very tired and it had been a long day. I drank an energy shot and drank a lot of caffiene to stay awake for the drive home. A climb is never over until you first get off and second when you get home!
The route is a classic. I had so much fun on it and I felt so accomplished climbing it after a failure. It's all worth it. I slept 15 hours that night and awoke with memories that will never fade. Another amazing day on Longs.