| Upping my game - Navajo‘s north face, Longs via Kieners
"The higher you climb, the more you see.
The more you see, the less you know.
The less you know, the more you yearn.
The more you yearn, the higher you climb." – Dan Fogelberg
It's been a very frustrating year for me, as far as climbing is concerned. There were so many big trips that I had planned, but for one reason or another none of them happened. That left me feeling pretty empty. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the class 2 "peak-bagging slogs" where you put in X miles and X amount of elevation gain. But I wasn't being challenged, and I missed the adrenaline rush. So when Kiefer asked me if I'd be interested in joining him and a few others for Kiener's route on Longs Peak, I jumped at the opportunity.
Given that most of my summer had been class 2 hikes, some class 3, and the occasional class 4 if I looked hard enough, I felt like I needed a refresher course before tackling an exposed class 5 route. Kiefer told me he'd never been to the Indian Peaks despite living along the Front Range for many years. I told him that was unacceptable and we were going to fix that right away. I settled on doing the class 4 route up Navajo Peak, but at the last minute Kiefer discovered there was also a low class 5 route up the north face. We both decided this was our route for the day.
Saturday, 8-Aug-09 – Navajo's "North-ish" Face
Kiefer and I arrived at the Long Lake Trailhead at the butt-crack of mid-morning. Just before 10 am we were off towards Lake Isabelle and ultimately Navajo Peak.
Stephanie along trail to Navajo Peak. Picture by Kiefer.
Lake Isabelle. Picture by Kiefer.
Past Lake Isabelle we unknowingly started heading towards the Queen's Way snowfield on Apache Peak, thinking it was Navajo. Thank goodness we brought Roach's book along and discovered our mistake early enough. That would have sucked if we ended up doing another class 2 instead of our targeted class 5 route, no offense to Apache Peak or anyone who took that route and enjoyed it. Anyway, we angled our way up to the snowfield at the base of Navajo's north side. It may have been only 500 feet or so of elevation gain, so we made it up in no time.
Navajo Peak, the snowfield, and Dicker's Peck. Picture by Kiefer.
Once on top of the saddle we changed into climbing mode. Neither of us really knew where we were going, or if we were on the route Roach describes, but the climbing was a blast nonetheless.
From here we climbed our way up the north face using several ledges, then traversed slightly west along a ramp.
Looking down on Kiefer from a ledge.
Stephanie and a little bit of exposure.
Kiefer found a nice crack with solid handholds, and this was probably my favorite part of the climb.
Kiefer in the crack.
Once past the crack we continued up using a series of ledges, wider cracks, and steps.
Nearing the summit. Send it Kiefer!
We didn't stay on the summit very long, the clouds were coming in fast and they didn't look nice. We decided the best way down was to take the Airplane Gulley. This flat-out sucked. And looking back on it, we're not really sure what we went down was the correct gulley, it cliffed out slightly in several sections and we never saw any of the aircraft remains. But we made it down and began a pretty uneventful hike back down to the trailhead, arriving close to 6 pm. From there we met up with Heather in Nederland for dinner, then drove back up to the Long's Peak trailhead. By 10:30 we were settled down and ready to go for Sunday. By the way, Long's Peak trailhead is busier than a Wal-Mart parking lot the day before Christmas, there were cars coming and going pretty much all through the night.
Sunday, 9-Aug-09 – Long's via Kiener's route
"Often the most rewarding journeys begin with uneasy and faltering steps." – unknown
My alarm goes off at 1:45 am and Kiefer gets up to see if Anton or any of the others joining us were here. Anton was parked two cars over and said it was just going to be the three of us. Our potential group of eight people was down to three. It was unfortunate that the others had to cancel for whatever reason, but in the end having that large of a group on Kiener's would have been pretty difficult, if not dangerous.
It was a near conga-line up to the Chasm Lake junction. Most people were heading up the Keyhole route, and a handful were making their way up towards Chasm Lake. There was an upslope weather system that came in right then, and it made for some eery but cool looking clouds.
We made our way around Chasm Lake and up a small boulderfield to the base of Lambs Slide.
Dawn breaking from above Chasm Lake.
We sat down for a snack and put on our crampons. Anton and myself were minding our own business when Kiefer yells out, "Oh no!" I immediately thought he left his crampons back at the car, or forgot his harness. But no, his leftover spaghetti from the night before spilled all over his pack! It was the funniest thing watching him pull out a huge handful of spaghetti from the bottom of his pack. Too bad I didn't have my camera ready!
I needed a good laugh though. By this time I wasn't feeling very well at all. My stomach wasn't doing too great, I was congested, and I felt very fatigued. I struggled all the way up Lambs Slide, falling further and further behind the other two. I was getting a bit dizzy at times, and mentally I was going downhill. Several times I thought about turning around and calling it a day, but I wanted to see how I felt once the sun was up. Thank goodness the views were there to distract me.
Anton and Kiefer leading the way up Lambs Slide.
Heaven on earth.
Anton and Kiefer waited for me at the top of Lambs Slide. With the sun warming my body, I slowly started to feel better. From here Anton led us towards the entrance of Broadway. Anton, by the way, is an amazing climber! He's done this route before, which was a tremendous help, he's a very smart and safe climber, he makes every move look easy, and he's one fast dude.
Anton prior to Broadway.
Clouds in the east.
Anton in the wider section of Broadway. Picture and labels by Kiefer.
Looking back on Kiefer and Stephanie. Picture by Anton.
Kiefer negotiating the rock block.
Stephanie entering Broadway. Picture by Anton
We had a 30 m rope with us but never ended up using it. We all felt very comfortable with the exposure and the ledge was dry so footing was secure. Broadway went by fairly quick, and soon we were at the base of the Notch Couloir.
Stephanie just before the Notch Couloir. Picture by Kiefer.
Kiefer led us up the couloir about 30 feet, staying between the rock and the snow. As with most of the route, a slip here would quickly send you down the Diamond, but I tried to keep that thought from distracting me.
Negotiating the snow and rock. Picture by Kiefer.
One of the many cruxes. Picture by Kiefer.
From there we entered a section Anton called Bombay. We still hadn't roped up at any point, something I was pleasantly shocked about. There was never a section that Anton or Kiefer really struggled with, and thanks to their coaching I was able to make the difficult moves as well.
Anton in Bombay. Picture by Kiefer.
After Bombay we came to a series of very exposed class 4 blocks or steps.
Our route. Picture and labels by Kiefer.
Anton and Kiefer leading.
Chasm Lake below.
Looking down on Kiefer.
We continued climbing a series of chimneys and blocks, and eventually the exposure and difficulty eased up.
Anton and our remaining route.
Looking down on our route. Picture by Anton.
The final crux was the Diamond Step. Anton didn't remember this section, but it was the only logical route up. None of us got pictures of the actual "step" but Kiefer was kind enough to capture my less-than-graceful move that I used to pull myself up. I can't say it was a very difficult move, but it was definitely awkward!
Stephanie on top of the Diamond Step. Picture by Kiefer.
After the Diamond Step, there was nothing but some class 3 moves separating us from the summit. We soon reached the summit and were greeted by dozens of other climbers and a relentlessly strong wind.
Our summit shot. With pie! (Ignore the date)
Here we met with 14ers.com members skier25 and Shay. After sharing our pie with them, the five of us began our descent down the Loft route. We figured traversing the Narrows and the Trough would be tough with the crowds, plus the Loft route is somewhat shorter. There was minimal snow and ice, and we were able to stick to the rock the whole way down.
Anton, Kiefer, Skier25, and Shay.
Looking back up at Longs from below Chasm Lake.
We made it back down to the trailhead just after 3 pm, making it about a 13 hour day. This was by far the most enjoyable route I've been on since I began hiking and climbing out here a couple years ago. Other than feeling sick at the beginning, the rest of the day was perfect. I can't thank Anton and Kiefer enough for taking me on one of Colorado's best climbing routes.