| Longs Peak Notch Couloir
"We gotta go climb the Notch." I think I've heard that line at least a few dozen times from my friend Marc over the last year. He had made a couple attempts in the past that were thwarted due to weather and so this climb was set high on his spring to-do list. I hadn't really committed to giving it a go with him this year until the Notch Couloir came into view through the clouds as Marc, Ben (benners), and I hiked towards the North Face for our Longs ski descent last month. It was an incredibly aesthetic mountaineering route on one of my favorite 14ers.
The Notch Couloir starts at Broadway and finishes at the prominent notch a few hundred vertical from Long's summit.
Marc and I met Chris at his house in Boulder where we decided what combination of gear made the most sense.
Chris' Eurovan complete with curtains and a pop-top roof made a half night's sleep quite feasible.
We signed in at the trailhead at 3:15am and noticed that a party of 4 left for the Notch at 1:40am. We hustled for the first few miles and made it to the Chasm Junction by 4:50am. As we took our first break we caught our initial glimpse of the Notch. Also about this time we got passed by another party that was quickly headed for the Notch.
Intent on regaining our position in line for Broadway we took off and Marc set a blistering pace around still mostly frozen Chasm Lake.
Lambslide was uneventful and provided easy access to Broadway. As we reached Broadway the second half of the 4 person group that had left the trailhead before us was roped and starting their climb. We would soon learn that not only was the second half of their 4 person group out in front, but there were actually two more teams in front of them. Anxious to get going we loaded Marc up with gear and prepared to simul-climb Broadway at 7:15am.
Marc taking off.
We had heard that Broadway, the easiest access to the Notch Couloir, was actually the crux of the entire climb. We soon learned why. First, a steep and narrow downclimb.
From Marc's perspective looking back at me.
At the bottom of this short chute we paused to give the next team time to progress. The two teams in front of us had taken the lower more time consuming traverse across broadway so we waited a bit until an opportune time to pass. Marc, apparently getting bored perched on steep snow above Long's vertical lower east face, hollered that he needed to be put on belay to retrieve a trivial piece of fallen gear. I set up an ice axe / carabineer belay on a munter hitch and down Marc climbed. Turned out it had fallen over the edge. Marc climbed back up and we continued on the high road.
In my opinion this was the crux of the day. Very steep snow that wasn't super supportive due to the clouds preventing a long freeze and some serious exposure beneath your feet.
Chris making his way across the crux. I merely clipped past the rock pro that Marc had placed, while Chris followed at the end of the rope and cleaned the route. In this fashion was crossed Broadway in one sweep.
We regrouped at the bottom of the Notch and Chris loaded Marc back up with the 10 or so pounds of cams, nuts, draws, etc. that he had collected. We again got into a bit of a traffic jam at the base of the Notch but one of the groups headed for Kieners and the other party kindly agreed to us climbing the right side of the Notch while they climbed the left. We started upward progress around 9am. Chris making his way to the climbers right side of the couloir.
The Notch Couloir isn't particularly steep. It's the getting there and the exposure at the start that makes the route intense. We therefore felt comfortable continuing to simul-climb with Marc placing gear at conservative distances.
About ready to clip past a cam Marc had set. Plenty of opportunity for protection on the rock affirmed our decision not to carry snow pickets.
Chris enjoying the climb.
The Notch Couloir narrows about 1/3 of the way up and then curves right a little after half-way to the top. Me (barely visible at the bottom) coming through the narrow portion about to make the right-hand turn.
We had carried enough gear to simul-climb the entire notch without having to stop and reload. Chris heavily weighted down and ready to reach the top.
The top of the Notch Couloir is a pretty awesome place to be. Marc and Chris glad to have completed this classic climb.
Evidence that I was there too.
At this point it was mandatory break time. The Notch was a crowded place to be on this Saturday morning. We were looking at one climbing party starting the final pitch or two, and then 2 more teams in line behind them. The time was now 11:15am. To follow these groups to the summit would mean a little scrambling, a pitch of 5.4, and then some class 4 to finish things off. The other option was to downclimb to Keplingers and climb the homestretch, which was none of us were particularly interested in. After an hour of patiently waiting some questionable weather rolled in and we decided to bail. Having already summited Longs twice this year made the decision much easier. We had read a rappel was required. Not today!
A few quick steps and a little glissading and we were on Keplingers.
We found the Loft route without trouble and quickly gained the couple hundred necessary vertical.
Chris glissading the Loft with Marc following.
Me starting the hike out with the Notch Couloir beginning to recess into the clouds.
The rain started to come down pretty good as we stepped into the parking lot 12 hours after we left. Our objective was the Notch and all three of us were excited to have made the climb. We didn't get to enjoy the 5.4 finish to the summit, but that just means we have a reason to climb the route again. Another amazing day on Longs Peak with good friends. Thanks for carrying the rope.
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