Walter Kiener, Agnes W Vaille - Winter 1925.
Kiener and Miss Vaille were a determined pair and had 3 previous unsuccessful attempts at locating what Kiener knew was the easiest route up the East Face of Longs. They continued their plan despite opposition from friends, family and fellow members of the Colorado Mountain Club. They departed Timberline Cabin at 9am on Sunday, January 11 and arrived at the summit Monday morning at 4am.
The pair descended the North Face (no cables there until more than a decade later) to eventually reach the boulder field where Miss Vaille found herself utterly exhausted. Kiener left her to go fetch help, but upon his return he found her lifeless. Adding to this, one of the rescuers became lost and also perished. The climb cost Kiener his friend, all of his toes and fingertips to frostbite, and his work as a butcher due to the loss of his finger tips.
Kiener eventually earned a PhD in botany and returned to climbing some 5 years or so after his and Vaille's historic ascent.
From Longs Peak ranger station off of highway 7 follow the Longs Peak trail to Chasm Lake (just a hike, about 3.7miles), traverse around Chasm lake on the right, or, even better, if it's frozen you can walk across it. After moving around the lake ascend up the talus and boulder field onto Mills Glacier. From here Lambs Slide comes into view on your left and this is where axes and crampons become necessary and where the climb begins.
Lamb’s Slide –
From Mills Glacier the Lamb Slide gully heads up towards Mt Meeker. Climber’s left if facing the Diamond. Climb the Lambs Slide about 800' until you notice the rock on climber’s right breaking up. It is here where you exit the couloir to climber’s right into mixed terrain that eventually deposits you onto the Broadway ledges.
You can’t see the Broadway ledges from below, but this access point is the first most logical exit out of Lamb’s Slide. If you climb too high in Lamb’s Slide then this exit point will become obvious.
Climbing Lamb’s slide can vary greatly depending on season and current conditions. In general, fall, early spring and winter offer fine climbing with hard pack snow and good step kicking. In winter heavy snows may turn step kicking into trail breaking. Avalanches are always a concern, but I have yet to see any of notice in the Lamb’s Slide during a normal year. The Lamb’s slide affords some excellent skiing when the conditions are good. By July the winter snows have usually melted leaving behind dirtied permanent ice riddled with rock fall. This is the most serious condition one will find Lamb’s Slide in and would require parties at this time of the year to utilize ice gear and extra caution due to the frequency of rock fall.
Broadway Ledges –
From Lamb’s Slide, traverse Broadway about 1,000’ to the base of the Notch Couloir. From fall to midsummer these ledges are usually snow covered. Broadway is essentially a narrow ledge system that affords access to the east face. When dry one can walk these ledges using care as the 800’ of exposure down to Mills Glacier is constantly just over your right shoulder. However, this is what makes Broadway so fun. The grade is easy scrambling with huge exposure and an awesome position on the mountain.
In winter the ledges are completely covered over and the traverse is exhilarating. The crux is the same whether dry or snow covered and lies directly above the Hornsby Direct dihedral. It is a bulging bit of rock that requires the climber to step around. There is a good spot before here to rope up if you are not already and there is ample natural protection. This is a two move crux. You confront the bulge, bear hug it and find the key hold on the other side, move your feet and you are across. If one is not roped they can perform the same moves or do a bit of a crab crawl beneath the bulge with your arse hanging 800’ above Mills Glacier.
Beyond the bulge the ledges are wide and the walking enjoyable until just a bit of scrambling carries you to the entrance of the Notch.
Traversing Broadway can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on conditions and the speed of the party. Kiener’s is a long route so time saved on Broadway is well advised because there is a lot of terrain to cover beyond these ledges.
1st Rock Band –
From Broadway at the entrance of the Notch one needs to find the initial rock pitch for Kiener’s. You can continue along Broadway beneath the Notch Couloir and on over to the Diamond if you’d like. It’s quite fun. For Kiener’s however, one needs to continue into the Notch and continue on an upwards and across vector to the opposing wall which is where Kiener’s begins.
From the base of the Notch ascend into the wash out area and work climber’s right and up to where good blocky granite comes into contact with the northern side of the Notch washout. There is a bit of a shallow corner (usually wet) that leads into a chockstone. Another feature is a large flat spot 15 to 20’ beneath this corner. Look for what looks like a good place to sit and drink some water. From this resting spot you can climb up (west) into the corner (if it’s not wet), or you climb directly above you (north) out of the resting area and surmount the wall into a gulley (fun), or climb around the wall (north) and end up in the same gulley. The three of these options converge and continue in unison up and into a low angle Bombay chimney system above the chockstone.
Another plan may be required here if the snow in the Notch is too deep and too wet. You can continue along Broadway until you've gone past the Notch to a point where you are below at a broken rock face that leads into some fins. Climb straight up here and you will converge with the other lines. This climbing is not difficult and it is on good rock if you are on route. Do not go too far north towards the Diamond. If anything, once you've found a good starting spot climb the rock back towards the Notch and you'll be back on route.
The crux here is surmounting the chockstone. The protection is excellent and there are ample foot and hand holds. The key is moving feet up, getting good hands and hauling your butt up and over the thing.
Bombay Chimney –
Continue up this chimney. You will run out of rope either in the chimney or at the apex of it. I suspect the pitons in the chimney have been used for belays. At the top of the chimney there are what appears two options; climber’s left or climber’s right. Go climber’s right. This will exit you onto grassy ledges beneath a large rock band.
2nd Rock Band –
After exiting climber’s right from the chimney, traverse north about ¼ rope length to a point where you encounter rock slabs with several corner systems leading upward.
I’m not sure of the correct line here because there seems to be several options. However, there does seem to be an obvious line that is a broken crack system more or less in the middle of the rock band. By broken crack system, I mean big enough to get your boots into and there are several chockstone features. On either side of this system are steep slabs.
This is about ½ rope length and the climbing is super fun on solid granite with good pro using stoppers and cams. This system tops out and places you at the base of the upper slopes which can consist of rock, snow, scree, ice or any combination thereof.
Upper Slopes to Kiener’s Exit –
If conditions are good you’ll find hard pack snow here and maybe even a previous party’s steps. If that is the case you’ll cruise the remainder of the route! If the conditions are warm, bummer! The snow up here can turn to mash potatoes if it’s late in the day and warm. This means post holing and groveling. If this is the case go straight up to the rocks to climber’s left of the snow field and pick your way up. I don’t advise going climber’s right because although the view of the Diamond is great, the terrain is more slabby and steeper. Follow the snow slopes up about 600’ to a point where you are nearly looking up at the summit. There is a great headwall here with a big corner system in it. You don’t have to climb this! To find the Kiener’s exit look towards the summit and locate a huge dark dihedral. As you ascend, aim for that big corner and as you near it look for large blocky rocks on your right that lead to the exit. You must locate a system of big blocks and ledges on climber’s right that carries you to the absolute apex of the Diamond itself. Here you step around and mantle yourself over a small bulge and you are on the North Face. It is a quick 10 -20 minute scramble from here to the summit.
Descend the North face. You must have a general idea where the cables route is. If you do then you will be able to locate the rappel bolts. There is definitely a broken climber’s trail from the summit down to the cables route and that will work, but if it is approaching dusk and you don’t know this descent it may be better to descend the keyhole hiking route. Although that is very long and complex in it’s own right!
Depending on time of year, but I would never attempt Kieners without : ice axe, crampons, light rock rack, long rope, runners, slings, storm clothing, food, water, headlamp etc......and if you are not familiar with the area make sure you've got good route info for the ascent especially know exactly where to go to find the exit ledges off the face and onto the north face. I've encountered bewildered parties here before. Storms move in fast and furious up there....It is a great climb that can be a lot of fun in any season! Count on 6 to 20 hours from the ranger station trail head.