Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Post Date:  03/15/2011
Date Climbed:   03/12/2011
Posted By:  JohnWilliams

 Longs Peak via The Trough  

Route: Trough
Date: March 12, 2011
Time: 4:30am-7:00pm
Players: Jonathan (JohnnyEndurance), Scott, John (Johnba)

John heading towards the Trough

Scott had been aching to regain Longs Peak glory after being turned back because of conditions this past summer. We made a quick decision to go for our Ol’ Reliable, the Trough. After failing to summit in February I was forced to abandon my "Longs Peak Project", next year will have to do. We always enjoy company so we employed the assistance of Jonathan, site member JohnnyEndurance. We set a 4am meet up time and called it good.

John followed by Jonathan

At the Trailhead we gathered our selves and strapped up our snowshoes. After doing this trail in winter upwards of 5 times, I had come to know what conditions were like. I assumed the shoes would go on somewhere after Mills Lake. Fortunately for us, the trail was a good hard pack all the way to Black Lake. After a brief, unintended detour up the Lock Vale Trail we reached Black Lake and stashed our snowshoes around 7am.

near Black Lake

We entered the upper cirque via the ramp under high winds and spindrift. On previous trips up the Trough we had gained the route by skirting the west flank of Longs before entering the couloir. Two years ago, Scott and I descended the route by traveling just north of the couloir, down past the ice covered cliff bands that compose the direct start of the Trough. Wanting to mix it up a bit, (pun intended) we geared up below the direct start and headed up. By now the winds had calmed slightly, giving us relative calm while we attempted the most technical of the day’s challenges. It took us a bit, but we made it through the ice start with high heart rates. We then began the arduous snow climb, all 2000 feet of it.

John working towards the Trough

Gearing up

Gearing up

Jonathan, living up to his pseudonym, Scott and I took turns kicking steps into the inconsistent powder up to the link between the Ledges and Trough, where we took a short break. It was about 11am and we began to discuss the incoming weather and possible turn around times. To the Northwest we observed a growing squall which seemed to have a direct westward path to it. Nothing about the storm looked too imposing so we just added it to the list of ‘cool sh*t’ we were experiencing.

Scott and Jonathan



As we reached the Choke stone at the top of the Trough, the clouds had engulfed the sky, leaving us with colder temps and an ominous gloom. Scott led the way gaining the Chock stone, followed by me, then Jonathan. It was high noon.

John and Jonathan. note the squall

after gaining the Choke stone

What better place to hang out and rest for the summit push. The Narrows always provide the excitement for a route that lacks much exposure. Scott and I dropped our packs while Jonathan carried his up to the summit. I grabbed my down parka and camera and headed across the traverse. With a new found energy bank, I flew up the Homestretch like never before. Conditions on the Homestretch were similar to my January ascent, snow and alpine ice in all the cracks leading to the summit. Great conditions for crampon steps! I summated at 1:15pm for my 11th time.

John on the narrows

Scott and Jonathan on the narrows


from the top

Scott and Jonathan gained the summit at 1:30pm. Scott’s 5th summit and Jonathan’s first. After living in Colorado for just a few months, Jonathan had earned a summit worthy of accolades. Longs in winter is no joke. Nine hours to summit and a 4000+ foot elevation gain is quite the way to ascent Longs, especially for the first time. Jonathan placed a great deal of trust in Scott and I, we were happy to have climbed with him.



We loitered around the summit for 15 minutes or so, just long enough for some victory photos and a snack.


halfway down the Homestretch

Under increasing snow, we started down around 2:00pm. Descending the Homestretch is the most dangerous part of the climb. Many times you find yourself with minimal purchase on snow covered ice or rock with nothing but an axe making a third point of contact. A fall here would end poorly, no way could you self arrest on the steep rock and minimal snow. We all took our time reaching the Narrows, where we flew across the traverse.

working back


When we reached our packs, the snow had become very heavy, visibility was near 200 yards. The formerly exposed rock was now dusted with a coat of white, complicating the down climb from the Choke stone. Jonathan found a good route down and Scott and I followed.

Ipod Pink Floyd, Echoes

We had overcome the “technical” section for the day. Left was 2000 feet of plunge stepping and glissading. The snow remained heavy for much of the descent through the Trough. We reached the cliff band at the bottom and geared down, hiking down to the flat of the glacier cirque.


Bottom of the trough


into the mystic

On the descent we witnessed a fast moving cloud of fog roll up the valley from Mills Lake. For a time we could see above but not below the fog, spectacular views of Arrowhead protruding from the grip of fog. On the Ramp down to Black Lake visibility dropped to near nothing. I had a hard time seeing my feet for several hundred yards. At 5:00pm we were at our snowshoes, we packed up and left the expanse of the alpine and entered the trees. We reached the TH at around 7:00pm, well into dark, tired and relieved. As zombies we parted ways, vowing “NEVER AGAIN”! Let’s see how long that last…


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

03/26/2011 02:42
Great photos and good narrative.


Very nice.
03/17/2011 03:57
I must confess to a bit of jealousy. We had planned a NF attempt the next day - and got that foot of new snow during the night, prompting the decision to bail.

Excellent job getting a tough peak in winter, and fine TR.




Thanks all!!!!
05/09/2011 17:48
Jonathan, what a pleasure it was climbing with you. lets do it again soon!
Lucky-Zombies is no stretch! haha


03/15/2011 23:25
Great job, and the ending made me laugh out loud. Zombies muttering ”NEVER AGAIN” -- Why does every trip to Longs seem to end that way (until the next time...)


Great job!
03/15/2011 21:33
Great report, John! Loved the winter shots you got of the route, especially with the fog in #25. But think I'll stick to the summer summits
Thanks for posting!


Great TR
03/15/2011 20:09
Thanks for posting bro, what a day out there, both brutal and fantastic!


Nice work!
03/15/2011 19:16
Wow, what a great report. I'm planning on checking Long's off my list this summer. Seeing the photos is getting me pumped! Great job to you all!


Excellent TR
03/15/2011 19:21
Would like to get up there soon.

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