| A very long day on Longs - The Trough
For a few years now, this route has been on my hit list. Yes, I've climbed the mountain a few times before, but always in summer or fall, and never with skis. When I saw a group was forming a few days prior, I checked the weather and jumped on it. In the days leading up, the forecast called for a high in the high-20s around 13,000' and a 10% chance of snow. On Friday, it was calling for 29F and no snow or wind...perfect.
Friday night, I ate, and ate, and kept on eating until I was stuffed and it was time for bed, around 8:30. At 2:30 the next morning, I'm awakened by my alarm. Sigh...time to get up. Fortunately I had packed the car the night before, so all I had to do was get dressed, eat, and go. I was on the road just after 3am, and pulled into the Glacier Gorge parking lot right around 5. At 5:10, the hudge group (of 6) was off!
An hour and a half later, it started to get light. It was nice to kill the headlamps, and to be able to enjoy our beautiful surroundings.
The sun was making its presence known, though I knew it would be a while until we got any direct sunshine.
We took occasional short breaks, which were helpful in keeping energy up for the long approach.
When I don‘t get out like this for a while, I can forget why it‘s so amazing. I remembered yesterday morning why I love it so much.
We made good time on the approach. Here‘s the group past Black Lake, which only took about 2 and a half hours to get to.
RMNP is an amazing place.
We finally got sight of our objective. Longs poking out on top, the trough just below it, and Keyboard of the Winds to the right.
It got pretty bare as we neared the end of the approach. As warm as it was yesterday, it‘s even more bare now.
I believe that‘s McHenry‘s on the left and Arrowhead on the right. I could be entirely wrong though. What really matters is how gorgeous it was. Not a cloud in the deep blue sky. The air was crystal clear and crisp.
This is where the group split briefly. Wesley went left of here and had a super-easy time. Stephanie and Sean went to the right and had to backtrack a ways. Kiefer and I went straight through here, and it was a disaster. I was drytooling with my whippet to get through here. Wesley got some photos from up above, which I‘m looking forward to seeing.
Immediately after that section, we hit the Trough and the real climb began. There was good styrofoam snow most of the way up, though at the top it became extremely rocky. The average pitch of the Trough is 30 degrees, so a pretty mellow climb in good conditions, and a good length at 2,200‘ or so.
At 10:52, the sun finally crested the ridge. The late sunrise was very welcome, as it was pretty chilly in the shade.
We took a break above the chockstone to delayer, eat, drink, and take crampons off. The narrows are almost completely dry right now. So was the homestretch, which made climbing it in ski boots miserable.
About 1:15, Wesley and I were on the summit.
Of course, Kiefer and Sean had been there a while, enjoying the absolutely perfect weather. 30F or so, no wind, and not a cloud in the sky.
Meeker, looking similarly bare.
The way back down the homestretch was even worse than climbing it. The narrows weren‘t hard but being tired, I moved pretty slowly to make sure I didn‘t lose my footing. Once we got back to the snow, everything was right with the world.
And now some shots of Wesley enjoying the funky snow. It was extremely variable, rapidly changing between creamy pow, sastrugi, icy hardpack, and breakable crust.
At the bottom of the trough, we took our skis off and hoofed it for a mile or so. Just above Black Lake, we said our goodbyes (for probably the 3rd time) and pushed off. Eager to get home, I didn‘t take any pictures from this point forward. Going past the lakes was slow and concerning, as I heard occasional popping and cracking under my skis.
When we finally got to the trees, we rocketed back to the parking lot. All the obstacles that proved inconsequential on the ascent had to be avoided, which kept things interesting. At 5:55pm, we hit the parking lot, for 12:45 car to car. Everyone (except the guy who didn‘t seem to plan on actually summitting anyway) made it, which is amazing for a group this size.
I‘m incredibly glad I was able to get this route done. It was a blast climbing in such great company, during such perfect weather. That said, I don‘t imagine I‘ll ever be back up that way.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):