| Longs Peak: Keiners Notch Couloir Hybrid
Keiners / Notch Couloir Hybrid
Descent of North Face
First off, I must thank Maverick for doing this route with me despite being a major gimp. Nursing a spasm prone shoulder, he forged ahead and completed this route in good style. Nice work dude.
Kieners was one of my goals for the summer and it came earlier than expected. This and a late melt off also meant the route would be much more sporting than in dry conditions. It turned out to be a succulent plumb we both now drool over while trying to keep our keyboards dry at work.
Making the approach to Chasm Lake the night prior would have us in prime position for both Longs and Meeker. We wanted Dreamweaver on Sunday too but ridiculous warm temps, my leather mountaineering boots not quite cutting it with rigid crampons and a gimpy left shoulder meant it wasn't in the cards.
Chasing the alpenglow on Longs east face…
…we made our way along the west banks of Chasm Lake,
an interesting and non-trivial part of the route in these conditions.
The upper part of Kieners presented itself from the bottom of Lambslide.
Which Maverick attacked like a rabid dog.
The sun joined our party.
The booter up the couloir was piss-poor, clearly put down by a duck-walking stumbler. I shouldn't complain I guess since I used it anyway, but holy crap man, if your out of breath and balance stop and rest for gods sake. A bushy-tailed Woodratt seemed as unimpressed as I was.
The couloir is pretty moderate. Prakash getting 'his' morning coffee.
The Diamond stands strong from here:
The entrance off of Lambslide and onto Broadway was really loose. The party ahead of us sent a few presents down upon us, which lucky missed warm flesh. I can't blame them, it is really loose!
The spikes stayed on out of suspicion of future snow and ice. Sure enough, it came quickly.
One of the other team members gazes up at upper Kieners:
The photo above is very misleading as the terrain in the background, upper Kieners, is still a ways along Broadway and up the dihedrals from this position.
The other crew kindly let us pass. We broke out the rope for what in dry conditions would be a straightforward down climb on a 5 foot wide ledge.
With a manky snowdrift still holding on…
…protection here is a smart choice. A fixed piton and a #2 Camalot were perfect for the start.
I used a medium sized nut and sling on the traverse, then a #1 Camalot and a Metolius PC #4 on the other side.
We also realized we were in for a treat weather wise as a strong inversion built over the foothills below. Prakash cleans the traverse…
We simu-climbed the rest of Broadway which was not really necessary aside from what most guidebooks and route reports refer to as the summer conditions crux. Approaching the crux:
I used a fixed pin backed up with a slung cordellete on one side and a #2 Metolius PC on the other.
The exposure here is exhilarating! Two skiers are visible on lower Lambslide.
Pro beyond this section is good for 100 feet but then pretty bad due to rotten rock. It is overkill anyway.
Upon reaching the Notch Couloir, which is very obvious, I had a decision to make. With Maverick's shoulder, I decided utilizing snow as much as possible as an alternative to the 5.4 dihedrals was the way to go. So… up the Notch we went.
Pro was once again pretty bad until 150 feet up where I set a belay to restock the gear.
The snow was really bad and therefore I would not suggest climbing this route over the dihedrals to anyone during similar conditions. If you do climb it, protect it. Several times the snow under my footing sloughed out to bare ice. An axe belay would be as likely as an Ironman mid air rescue over the run-out cliffs (sweet movie by the way!). Quality pro was of sufficient supply to keep at least three solid pieces between us for the remainder of couloir which presents a very interesting climb in itself.
We opted to climb a rock step a few hundred feet up which can be avoided with a short snow traverse. Maverick had a tough time with the shoulder on this one as the feet were pretty bad but he grunted through it after I set a bomber anchor 50 meters up.
The top and bottom of a very narrow section, which precedes a dogleg, took bomber nuts.
Exciting climbing through here!
The dogleg on this day comprised of a manky snow traverse followed by a mixed rock step.
and it gave a sweet view of Maverick climbing below:
I once again set a belay above the next rock step at a fixed pin with a backup #4 Melotius PC. Maverick cleaned the route flawlessly as the moisture rolled by.
From here we put the rope away for some class 4 scrambling on a up and down traverse back to the class 4 section of Kieners proper.
The rock at first was solid and fairly clean near the couloir but unfortunately became completely soaked, muddy and dangerously loose just as we narrowed in on the top of the dihedrals. A 25 meter rappel was in order to avoid a long superman over the lower east face cliffs.
Once back on the true Kieners route, the difficulty eased as we made our way up a traversing and ascending ledge along the upper lookers left side of the Diamond.
Snow and ice pushed us out to the edge of the precipice and into a few low class 5 moves. The whispy clouds were like cake on top of ice cream, or is it the other way around?
The fog filled abyss:
Route finding through here could be difficult.
Take a look at this section closely from Chasm Lake and plan your attack. It looks far more complicated once you're in it. At one point we made some delectable moves up blocks along the edge of the abyss.
Then entered a short blocky couloir:
At the end of the ascending ledge and at the very top of the diamond you reach a wide ledge, which can be used to traverse up and right onto the North Face and into class 3 terrain. That choice requires class 4 and maybe a low 5 move. We were looking to get experience with some more demanding rock climbing at altitude in mountain boots. Maverick was up for it so instead we opted for a 5.6 chimney and a more direct finish to the summit. This pitch was pretty short requgvv tvvg. iring mostly nuts. It is the crack system on the right above Maverick in this pic:
I started out right of the crack and made my way back into it. The 5.6 moves were during the short traverse to get into the chimney from the face.
A short scramble had us on top. After some ramen noodles, which Maverick has recently decided to mooch frequently off of me, we started the descent of the North Face. I was really interested in this route as I hope to ski it soon and wondered about the steepness and exposure. The upper sections are pretty mellow over very large talus.
The angle steepens just as you approach the slabby area above the Diamond.
The snow here was really bad, as should be expected in late June.
A fall on this crap would send you flying down to Mills Glacier and Chasm Lake.
Once above the cables route though, the fall line takes you down to the Boulder Field. The weather continued to deliver a blockbuster performance during our wait for the anchor. All of these folks used the Keyhole for an ascent route, we are pretty sure Kieners was not completed by the party behind us. They likely aborted on the dihedral section.
The rappel overcomes steep slabs:
This pic should give a good idea of the angle through this section.
Water poured down the face as Maverick completed the final technicality of the day.
Thank you Longs Peak!
For reasons stated earlier, we bailed on Dreamweaver for Meeker Iron Gates route on Sunday with Hippitahoppita, i.e. the man with the giant chafing package. Ah, there is a downside to everything I guess. The Iron Gates didn't disappoint and we got in some quality self arrest practice on the way down. It's always good to get out with Hippita.
For Mavericks Report, see here: