| Longs Peak via The Trough
Date: March 12, 2011
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
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.
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):