| Lady Washington West Ridge -->Keyhole-->Storm Peak South Ridge-->Chasm Lake
Solo Mish 2 ~ steppin it up.
Estimated Mileage (13.0-13.5 miles)
Plans are frustrating because well they never seem to work out. Due to the nature of high volume there was no way I was going to climb Longs Peak on labor day but as far as accessibility in a Honda Civic goes this area ranks high in convenience. So after reading some trip reports and route descriptions on 13ers.com I thought that Mount Lady Washington and Storm Peak could be fun to do alone and perhaps help improve my route finding skills without being too far off the beaten path. I wish I could give GPS on this loop because it was very very fun but I am a map and compass kinda gal so may my words guide you.
After a Sunday 7 hour marathon of math problems I started getting my life together for my Monday adventure. At about 6:00 p.m. I discovered that the bladder to my osprey bag was having threading issues and after a 40 minute battle of water spurting everywhere and an unsuccessful attempt to fix it I rushed to REI to have it replaced making it within 5 minutes of closing. Whew. When I got home I put myself into a self-induced coma (not the Michael Jackson kind, I used a combination of GABA calm, melatonin, and sleepy time tea) and turned in around 8:30 p.m.
My apartment-->Longs Peak TH-->Chasm Lake/Boulder Field Split:
My alarm went off at 2:15 a.m. and I immediately started blending all of the fruits and vegetables in my refrigerator for that au-natural boost. My neighbors who share a wall with me must love me I was pulling out of my apartment complex (in Lakewood) by 3:00 a.m. sharp. I decided to take I-25 N to 66 W through Lyons and connect with 7 from the south. My sucky iphone gps told me to go through Golden and Boulder so I chose the opposite AND I was so excited to drive on 25 when it wasn't a congested mess of passive aggression. I arrived at the Longs Peak TH parking lot around 4:30 a.m. and it was PACKED. I got the last spot. It wasn't difficult to find the trailhead but there were some difficulties. My head lamp was on its last leg of battery and was too dim for me to see 1 foot in front of me. No problem I have batteries in my car....big problem I left them on my kitchen table when I cleaned out my car. So I tried to use my phone to illuminate the path and I made it about 20 feet before I realized there was no way I could proceed without the power of lithium ions. Luckily I heard a rather large group conversing next to the bathroom. Between the six of them one battery was found, my life line. I went into the well lit bathroom and it took me 10 minutes to figure out how to open my head lamp but wouldn't you know that one battery lit up my life and I was back on the trail at exactly 5:00 a.m. (Thanks guys!!) My fear of night dark leaked into early morning dark and each step I took was with promise of night soon melting into dawn. The moon was a lit up sliver with the rest of its sphere flirting behind. The trail to the Chasm Lake/ Boulder Field split (turn right for boulder field) is wide, easy to follow, well marked, and has a lot of steps, yes steps. That is some serious trail building. From the split I watched a beautiful sunrise (yay smog!) with nine other people and continued on.
First light, the only cure for fear of darkness.
The sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace....
where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees. Without the sun without a doubt there would be no you and me.
This is a very enjoyable route, I highly recommend it.
First goal: Mount Lady Washington (from Chasm Lake split)
As you are hiking the East Long Peak trail and pop out of the Goblin Forest Mount Lady Washington is blocking your view of Longs Peak, she's right in front of you. The route description states: turn right onto boulder field trail, go a quarter of a mile, and then turn left and begin ascending up Lady's West slopes? ridge? talus? boulder? big boulders? bigger boulders? I don't know what to call it but it certainly was not mellow. Here is where I made my only slight blunder of the day. It wasn't until later that I realized where I had watched the sun come up was the Chasm Lake split so when I made the right onto the boulder field trail I powered far past the quarter of a mile turn off to ascend Mount Lady. I realized this at about three quarters of a mile and stopped to study the terrain. I could gain her nose just fine from where I was so I decided not to back track. As well, there is no turn off, no cairns, and no trail. If there is I never saw any of the fore mentioned. It started as steep alpine tundra and soon gave way to boulders which keep getting bigger and bigger. I came to a few walls that were avoidable to the right or left but I opted to climb up them. I took any and every opportunity to scramble/climb all day. Some of the rocks were loose and I would not have wanted to descend this. The route description also states that once the top of the ridge is attained you turn left and the summit will appear. Once I gained the ridge if I had turned left I would have tumbled and rolled down to Chasm Lake, I had to turn right to attain the true summit which is very obvious. In my opinion this endeavor begins at a difficulty of 2+ and becomes a 3. However, there is very little exposure minus the walls that I opted to climb. It took me 45 minutes from the main boulder field trail to summit Ms. Washington and 2 hours and 30 minutes total from the Longs Peak TH with a 30 minute sunrise break. It was around 7:30 a.m.
A look at where I left the trail (about 3/4 of a mile past Chasm Lake split)
Not as mellow as it looks.
Then there is some of this (summit cannot be seen but I aimed for noticeable high point)
A tediously balanced boulder.
One of the walls I chose to climb (is avoidable to right or left)
And then some more of this....
But then you get to see this!
Peace and Quiet (except for the voices carrying out of the boulder field)
Second goal: Mount Lady Washington --> Keyhole --> South Ridge of Storm Peak
I was able to study Storm Peak from a little alcove on Lady while I refueled. All of the information I had collected dropped me down into the boulderfield and then basically sent me up the east talus field of Storm. From where I was sitting this looked hellacious and I was rather sour to the idea. However, there was a much more appetizing south ridge running between the Keyhole and Storm's summit that was luring me in. I was feeling terrific, the weather was good, and I wanted to see what all of the Keyhole hoopla was about. From the summit of Lady I dropped down into the saddle it makes with a pile of rocks and descended west (right) into the boulder field using two tents and those radical solar powered toilets that don't really keep people from crapping all over the mountain as my guide. All I am going to say about this descent is thank god my ankles are still intact. I made it down to the boulder field and ran into three teenage girls from earlier who had dubbed me the pink ninja for my speed and willingness to hike alone and on things without a trail. I had no issue getting to the keyhole from the campsites in the middle of the boulder field. It was quick and crowded. Once inside the keyhole I looked to my left and was happy with my decision to avoid labor day Longs. I turned to my right and was immediately greeted by a gigantic pile of crap + wads of toilet paper, then another pile of crap, and another, and then the smell hit me . I think there needs to be a solar powered toilet at the start of Storm Peak's south ridge. Control yourself people, you are not an infant who has no control over their bowels. If you cannot find a place to make a small hole, do your business, and then carry out YOUR shit paper perhaps you should be wearing a diaper.
Descent off of Mount Lady, taken from summit.
Take from the descent of MLW
Black arrow ~ Keyhole
Green arrow ~ Solar powered toilets
Yellow arrow ~ South Ridge to Storm Peak
Pink Triangle ~ Storm Peak
A look back at me lady.
I'm in a hut!
Keyhole --> Storm Peak via South Ridge
Gagging onwards......... the first and immediate difficulty must be passed to the left. After this I stayed true to ridge line with only one other place I had to descend a bit to the right after a failed attempt to stay on ridge proper. I committed to staying on the ridge but it is not necessary to do so to make the summit of Storm. In fact one does not need even need to go to the keyhole. If you love loose steep rocks you really can attain this ridge from anywhere in the boulder field although in laymen terms it would suck. Staying on this ridge line is fun class 3 with endless options for class 4 and you could even make it class 5 in some spots if you were digging it. I counted 4 spots with a healthy dose of exposure and most of the time a fall would have resulted in at least serious injury. I will let the pictures show the route I chose. Go go gadget route finding skills. I needed this.
Mandatory stay left of first difficulty.
Climb it ( :
Blocks for days.
I went to the immediate left of this difficulty, did not have to drop down very much.
Working my way around this fin.
A look back, it is impossible to see the whole ridge.
The summit of Storm Peak allows for some amazing views and I was alone on both 13ers which was special for such a busy place. I could not get the summit register open, need to do more bi-cep curls. The sun was shining, it was hot, and there was no wind so I stayed on that summit for a nice long hour watching the ants below go marching one by one hoorah hoorah. At this point it was about 9:30 a.m. and I was having a serious internal debate on whether or not I should go for Longs. I was feeling spectacular and I knew I could back traverse that ridge quickly if I avoided all the difficulties and dropped down below. In the end I promised myself that I would leave Longs for another day. I remember being on Angels Landing in Zion National Park and almost having an anxiety attack because of how many people there were bottlenecking a very exposed ridge. As well the three teenage girls I met were funny and full of spirit but most of the groups I had passed were sweating, grunting, complaining, looking for short cuts, and seemed really fatigued. Some were in jeans, some skirts, some nike tennis shoes, no one had helmets, and most only carried a skimpy runners camelback. I don't judge, to each their own, but I didn't want to share narrow ledges with the masses on this particular day. My chosen 13ers provided solitude, views, scrambling, and route finding; everything I hoped my labor day would amount to.
Longs Peak as seen from Storm Peak.
Mountains for days.
Storm Peak --> Chasm Lake
I descended Storm Peaks east side, the side I had avoided coming up by attaining the Keyhole and than traversing the South Ridge. Descending the east side was the most difficult part of my day and I am SO GLAD I opted out of ascending it. Oh it is so steep and sooooooo loose. Big BIG BIG rocks moving, growling, angry. There are a few short class 3+ down climbs that I am sure could be avoided but I just wanted off of that side of Storm. I dinged up my shin, blood included and some how twisted my wrist. But it comes with the territory. Linking back up with the main trail that heads out of the boulder field was no issue at all. As soon as I found it I was greeted by a man who asked if he had met me on South Arapahoe peak last weekend, I said no, we chatted, he was going to climb the cable route up Longs, I was envious. Take me with you, on your back, please. Or I suppose I could learn to become a better rock climber. I then ran into two fellow engineers and we passed away the miles back to the Chasm Lake junction by chatting about how much we despise and love physics all at the same time.
A look back at the South Ridge after regaining the trail. A challenging descent.
I was still feeling really good and not completely satisfied (didn't want the day to be over quite yet) so I decided I would go see what Chasm Lake was all about. As I was hiking towards the short scramble to the lake the majestic Columbine falls came into view. I thought I was alone so I screamed (with a lot of emphasis and passion), "Oh my god and now there is this beautiful waterfall, HOW CAN IT GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS!!!" I was not alone. There was a young man about my age maybe 20 paces behind me who started cracking up. Double rainbow guy and I (if you don't know what this is please please please youtube it) should probably get married. The scramble up to Chasm Lake came complete with grapple and running water, everything you need to slip and slide your way up and down. The lake is phenomenal with amazing views of the Diamond, the Ships Prow, and Mount Meeker. I pulled out my binoculars and ogled at the brave souls climbing the Diamond. I climbed a large rock and spent an hour eating, observing, and identifying my surroundings with the help of my map. The loft route up Longs seems much more attainable to me now and is something I would like to do...Any takers???
Columbine Waterfall, what does it mean?
Chasm Lake, the water is pristine.
Once I was back at the Chasm Lake/Boulder field junction I control jogged my way back down to the trail head. It took me 57 minutes (3.5 miles). This last 3.5 miles is a great trail run just watch out for roots. I arrived back at my car by 1:30 p.m.
When searching for information I did not find any reports on these mountains being climbed like this (only variations mostly in the winter) and this was a really fun day. The Longs Peak area is so beautiful (minus the excessive human trash and feces), close, has a paved road to TH, and there are endless options of technically challenging mountains to climb. I would like to do Meeker, Pagoda, Chief's Head, and McHenrys and climb them several different ways.
Lastly, in my opinion this approach is very mellow. From all the hype I thought the TH to Keyhole was going to be some sort of death march through endless miles of Sahara desert. Going both up and down I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable and the degree of ascent minimal. I don't know what lies beyond the Keyhole to the left but I will most definitely be using this trail to train myself in the future.
Hope everyone had a lovely weekend in the mountains!!!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):