| Longs Peak - Keiners
Route: Keiners (5.2-5.5) Rock/Snow
Round Trip Mileage (Longs Peak TH to Summit & back): 12.2 miles
Date: June 6-8, 2007
Party Members: Mike Stewart, Meridith Lazeroff, Dave Cobb, Rick Cervantes, Mark Milburn
I have always wanted to ascend Long's Peak in a way that was in no way the "ordinary" route. I knew this peak would be magnificent and I wanted to climb it in a way that was no less than grandeur, so when the chance to climb this route presented itself, I climbed all over it! I had never seen Longs Peak or the immediate surrounding area up close, so I knew I was in for a big treat. I was not to be disappointed!
We left the Longs Peak trailhead mid-day on June 6th. Our first destination was Chasm Lake where we were going to bivouac for the evening. We squared everything away at the Rangers' office at the trailhead (permits were requested a few months prior) and we were soon on our way. A few hours later, our objective came into view. I was breathless! We were going to climb that??!!!
We boulder hopped carefully around the north side of Chasm Lake (11,800 feet),
looking for a good place to bivy for the evening. We came upon a series of caves on the north-eastern side of the lake that we decided would suit our purpose fine.
After pumping some water & eating dinner, I went up the trail a bit with Mike to stand in awe of this incredible looking mountain. We talked a bit about what to come, and I was seriously psyched out for this one. After spotting & talking about our future on Longs,
we then settled in for the evening. I slept very restlessly, tossing, turning, and hoping that our wake-up time of 4am would arrive shortly. I finally dozed off for a bit, only to be awakened by one of my trekking poles falling on top of my bivy sack where my head was. Needless to say, this scared the scree outta me as I thought it was one of those man-eating, bloodthirsty marmot savages coming in for the merciless kill! Great was my relief as I realized it was only my wayward trekking pole. Sleeping near me was Dave who was also mumbling about mice running amok around his climbing gear. I resumed my fitful tossing a.k.a. bivying and tried to sleep once more.
Shortly thereafter, I awoke to some zipping noises and knew that our time had arrived! We all prepped our packs quickly and donned our harnesses and made our way up the boulders and scree to the base of the couloir known as Lambslide (given its name by the death of Reverend Elkanah Lamb, distance is .25 mi from Chasm Lake) which ascends the south side of the east face of Longs Peak.
View of Chasm Lake & sunrise while heading up to base of Lambslide
At this point, we fastened our crampons on, applied copius amounts of sunscreen and made our way up the couloir.
The conditions were optimal for snow climbing; not too hard but soft enough to get good purchase with our crampons. It was the dawn of a glorious day!
The beginning of Lambslide is a bit mellow, but it quickly becomes quite steep.
Here is a full view of Lambslide taken from Chasm View:
We ascended Lambslide to approximately 13,000 feet, looking for the intersecting pathways where the ledge(s) known as Broadway begin. A good point of reference for finding the turn-off to Broadway is a large rock formation that looks like a large chair. When you are directly below this "chair", you need to be making your way west and onto the slope leading up to Broadway.
The beginning of this scramble to the ledges was easy and straight-forward.
It was, quite simply (& literally), breathtaking:
Soon, the exposure steepened and shortly thereafter we reached the crux of Broadway.
Looking a bit above the chockstone at the crux of Broadway
Gerry Roach describes this as a large chock (boulder) where you must perform a move (5.0-5.2) either around or under it. We decided to rope up at this point because the exposure at this chock is extreme. Meridith led this part, choosing to crawl beneath the boulder.
Mike followed after her, down climbing a bit to traverse the boulder.
I followed Mike's example on this move;
and Rick & Dave were close behind.
Up until this point we made great time, but once the ropes came out, it slowed to a crawl because from this point through the chimneys, it was one at a time progress.
From Broadway on, the exposure is severe and sustained. You would not want to trip on your bootlaces or meander around! I don't recall being so adrenalized for such a sustained period of time, except for perhaps the Thunder & Lightning Pyramid trip a few weeks back.
Looking south towards Lambslide on Broadway
We continued northward along Broadway until we came upon the beginning of the Notch couloir. The snow had melted out about 10-15 from the edge of the Diamond, making our traverse along the bottom of the couloir easy and stress free.
I had heard how sketchy crossing this area can be if the conditions are icy. Roach calls this "an exciting area", he speaks the truth! We once again strapped on our crampons and roped up for the short ascent of about 20-25 feet up the Notch couloir to a large ledge on the climber's right.
This ledge is large enough for your party to sit, relax, eat a snack, and prep for the technical chimneys of Keiners ahead. Or in this case…above! We called this place "Lunch Ledge", although I believe the real Lunch Ledge is Stettner's Ledges (5.7+) route.
A view of the ledge and the beginning of Notch Couloir from about halfway up the first pitch
Once geared up, we then proceeded to climb up Keiners Chimneys. These were two fairly short pitches of rock. I would not put the difficulty past 5.4. There are great handholds and good places to place pro. If you find yourself faced with something harder, look around. There are likely easier ascent routes.
Beginning of the first pitch
There were a few options to ascend from this ledge. Our route took us around a chockstone and up into a bombay chimney. It took us two pitches to reach this chimney because we had three people on one rope. The bombay chimney is basically a rock gully that ends abruptly with two, steep walls to the west and to the south. There is a piton stuck into the walls of this chimney as well. It would appear from the bottom of this gully that this way is significantly harder climbing, if not a dead end.
Picture of Mike in front of the Bombay Chimney. The un-seen exit is to the right at the end of the Chimney
Continue up this gully to the rock face ahead of you, there is an exit chimney to the north that is not visible from the beginning of the gully. This is the exit to this section.
Looking down the bombay chimney:
Looking up at Meridith belaying me through the exit of the bombay chimney.
After a short stretch of fairly easy scrambling northward, we came upon the second main pitch. The views and exposure was exhilerating!
Looking down to the base of the Diamond
Now it was time for the second pitch. I felt this pitch had a bit harder crux move than the first pitch. But again, nothing harder than 5.4-5.5.
Meridith leading up the second pitch
Me after completing second main pitch
After this pitch, we climbed up to the beginning of whats called "The Devil's Staircase". This is a long and rocky ascent of fairly exposed class IV climbing.
There is loose rock in this area which you want to be very careful not to dislodge. Not only for your party's sake, but for any climbers that are heading up the Diamond proper.
I was constantly amazed of the tenacity of the flora in this rugged terrain!
On the staircase, you will want to head in a north-westerly direction, basically contouring up the top of the Diamond.
Our route up the staircase:
Once near the top of the staircase, there is one last difficult and exposed section that you will have to negotiate. This is called "The Diamond Step".
Our party roped up for this part. The climbing is not especially difficult, but VERY exposed!
Once past this part, it is a short scramble up talus & scree to the summit!
We were all excited to have reached this summit, it was definitely well earned after such a fabulous mountaineering route! I had never been to the summit of Long's before, so I was especially thrilled!
After a few photos, the party was ready to head down. There were storm clouds gathering and we still had a good distance yet to go.
We then headed towards the top of the old Cables route. This was in a northeast direction, again traversing the northern side of the Diamond, but in a downward direction.
We were looking for the first rappel spot which was a rock outcropping with a sling around it. The going was a bit tedious as there was lingering snow and ice atop mostly loose scree & talus.
We made it to this rock outcropping, reinforced it and rappelled down (using two 60m ropes tied together) to the first bolt left over from the old cables that used to be hung in this area.
We found the first bolt, ran the rope through it and repeated all the way down to the chasm overlook. Here are a few more pics of our rappel down the Cable Route:
A look at one of the old bolts we used:
We had a few issues with the ropes becoming tangled after we would throw them down for the next rappel. The first person on rappel would have to stop mid-rappel to untangle these ropes. A tedious and slow process, but after some time we would get them untangled and continue our descent. We finally made it down to the Chasm overlook.
There is an interesting hole in the ground here where you can see all the way down to the floor of the basin beneath the Diamond.
There were also some climbers on the face climbing the Casual route (I believe this is a 5.7-5.8 route). It was pretty amazing watching them. You can see them in this photo below:
We initially debated descending the Camel route back to Chasm Lake. Roach calls this a class II scramble (ascent, not descent). It is a lot of scree and loose crap that lays atop hard pan. It is angled on a semi-steep slope that leads to a gully which then descends into the basin beneath the Diamond. We had heard some horror stories about this descent route. To slip on this scree could be potentially disastarous because if you slid here on the scree, you could potentially slide right off the cliff.
We decided as a group to take the boulder field around until it meets the junction of the standard Longs Peak trail and the Chasm Lake trail. An ascent up and over Mt Lady Washington was out of the question due to the fact that it was now thundering and lightening. We started out boulder hopping for quite away until we came upon the long, meandering trail through the rest of the boulder field. Eventually, we came to the junction where it was beginning to rain lightly, but the thunder and lightning were building in intensity. It was at this point that the group made the decision to bivy another night, as it was already 8pm. We made our way back up the trail to Chasm Lake, and this is where nature unleashed her full fury upon us. The wind was screaming, the rain was pounding, and the thunder & lightning were frighteningly close. There was no where to hide at this point, as it was all above tree line. We made it to the ranger station just below Chasm Lake and decided to wait the rest of the storm out. Our nerves were frazzled by the close proximity of the thunder & lightning. We were tired & worn out, both mentally and physically. Finally the thunder & lightning abated, but the rain did not. We headed off again to the slight sanctuary our bivy caves offered. It seemed to take forever. The rocks and boulders were wet with running water and we were soaked through. It was very tricky going, requiring us to maintain high alertness as we again were boulder hoping and negotiating tricky, wet terrain. We made it back to our bivy site at about 10 pm, making for a long but rewarding 16 hour epic! The next day, we backpacked out to our cars and headed into Boulder for some delicious Indian food. A perfect ending to an incredible weekend!
Here is some video I shot from Chasm View: