| Longs - Knight‘s Couloir a/k/a NW Couloir
While looking for trip reports on the Longs Peak cable route I found a trip report posted on July 29, 2009 by Alby426 which was titled "Longs a different way!!!". It looked interesting and Elly and I decided to give the route a try on Friday, August 28th. The weather forecast was good and we got our usual alpine start, getting on the trail at 10:00 a.m. By noon we were out of the trees and enjoying our first views of the diamond for the day.
By the time we got to the Chasm Lake intersection we had already met several of the parties that had summited earlier in the morning, but had not yet encountered the bulk of the masses that had signed the register the night before. We left the standard route up to the Keyhole and wandered up the trail to the lake.
The area around Chasm Lake is quite majestic. Most everyone reading these reports has been there, but here are a couple more photos leading up to the lake.
The Camel Slot looks like a shortcut on a map, but don't be fooled. Getting around Chasm Lake can be time consuming. Finding the slot is not difficult, but the Camel is not in view for a long time. After hiking around the lake you come to some grassy slopes and eventually what appears to be a permanent snowfield. The Camel Slot slopes almost directly away from the Diamond face. It is a long way up and there are some big loose rocks to watch out for on the climb.
Here is looking back down after just getting started on the ascent.
It was fun to listen to the climbing parties on the Diamond. There were at least four parties on the wall this afternoon.
Higher up in the slot it appears that the Camel would be near, but after getting around this corner, you will discover that you are only about half way up.
I thought after making this ascent to the Camel that we would lose a fair amount of elevation crossing to the Keyhole, but that turned out not to be the case. The traverse to the Keyhole was on very easy ground and we gave up less than 100' to get there.
We were at the Keyhole by 2:30 p.m. and could see many hikers making their descent across the Boulderfield. We encountered only a handful of hikers on the traverse towards the Trough. The NW Couloir is better than 2/3 of the way to the trough, but is unmistakable once you get there. Just keep looking for the obvious break in the cliff and watch for the rock that looks like a chessman. This route should be called something like "Knight's Gambit" given the look of this rock formation.
As you start up you are directly beneath some impressive towers.
There are many possible variations leading up the gully. Here are some views of the scrambling below the crux.
The two route descriptions I read talked about passing through a hole. I didn't find a hole. I did clip the old piton, which appeared in fine shape, and then moved on up the face to the right. Below the piton it was wet, but the holds were good. There were a few moves to be made above the piton with the hardest being just before you top out on easier ground. I considered it a lower 5th class move but it might have just seemed that way with the piton 20' below my feet offering little or no protection. But once committed to the move it was quite secure. Here is a look up at the crux and then back down at Elly after she had finished.
Once past the crux there are really no difficulties to be encountered on the Keyhole Ridge. There is fantastic scrambling with insanely beautiful views in every direction and spectacular exposure looking down at the Trough.
Here is one more look down the NW Couloir.
The Keyhole Ridge, from where the NW Couloir intersects, is like a jungle gym or climbers playground. You can't help but be giddy as you scamper to the summit.
We had the summit all to ourselves on a perfect evening. The intermittent snow didn't bother us at all and on top the wind died down and the sun came out and we soaked it in for 20 minutes before beginning our descent.
We started down at 6:00 p.m. on the standard route.
We didn't see another hiker until we reached the Boulderfield. Looking back from the camp area in the Boulderfield at the Keyhole Ridge from the Keyhole to the Summit. The NW Couloir tops out from the opposite side of the ridge at the small notch at the center of the photo just above the large snowfield.
We got back down to treeline just as it was getting dark and enjoyed a perfect evening hike back to the trailhead under the light of the stars and ½ moon.
This was an excellent route and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to spice up an adventure on Longs Peak, but who does not want to tackle the harder 5th class routes. If you are pressed for time, skip the Camel and come on the standard route to the Keyhole. But if you have the time, the views around Chasm are unbeatable and the roundabout tour of the mountain will give you a great sense of accomplishment by the end of the day.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):