Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Date Posted:  06/27/2014
Modified:  02/16/2015
Date Climbed:   06/27/2014
Author:  Dave B
Additional Members:   JohnP FTC
 Kiener's   


Kiener's Route



The east face of Longs Peak and Chasm Lake cirque is one of the most magnificent alpine amphitheaters in all of Colorado and also has one of the highest densities of quality alpine and mountaineering routes of any mountain in the lower 48. On the easier end of the climbing-difficulty-spectrum for east face routes is Kiener's. Never sustained in difficulty of climbing, but achieving a spectacular position with palpable exposure, Kiener's is a true mountaineer's route.

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Kiener's Route on the east face of Longs Peak

John and I had been talking about an attempt at Kiener's for quite some time and had high hopes of getting an ascent in late winter or early spring when the route would be in 'full-value' conditions. Unfortunately, an elbow injury from gym-climbing in early-March forced me into an eight week hiatus from pulling down on things. By mid-May when my elbow was better we started watching the weather and our schedules. Between then and late June, John and I racked up at least six failed attempts at coordinating this trip, with three of them being called off the day before (these are the worst since you're not spared the anxiety that is abundant the several days leading up to climbs like these). Finally, with spring conditions waning and summer approaching our schedules aligned.

The weather forecast called for 40% chance of t-storms after noon. We were planning on soloing Broadway and upper Kiener's but had a 70m rope and small rock rack to pitch out the 100m off of Broadway through the chimneys. Counting backwards we decided to be at the trail head at 3am in hopes of being off the summit by noon.

The hike in was, as per usual, long. John won the genius award for the day when he suggested we hike in in trail runners with our boots on our packs. This would prove to be an excellent decision - although I think John might have gotten sick of me saying "I'm so glad we're hiking in trail runners and not our farking mountaineering boots," every ten minutes.

We reached Chasm Junction just as the sky was starting to lighten and were to Chasm Lake by 5:15. Unfortunately, the lake was well into its thaw forcing us to boulder-hop the north shore under Martha ("I'm so glad we're wearing trail runners for this, dude!")

We reached the base of Mills Glacier around 6am and took a quick break to put on crampons and gaze in awe at the magnificence of the east face as another party made their way towards the top of Lambs Slide. Since I first read about Kiener's and the Notch several years ago, both routes have captivated me. Both routes have also scared the absolute shit out of me - mostly because of the Broadway traverse. Nevertheless, standing at the base of Lambs Slide, looking ~2,000 feet up to the summit, I was surprisingly calm - excited even.

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John looks up Lambs Slide

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Climbing up Lambs Slide


The climb up Lamb Slide went quickly and before I knew it we were at the entrance to Broadway. We found a flat ledge, removed our crampons and put on our harnesses. To the north, we could see the snow field on upper Kiener's, it was much closer than I had expected. John, having been on Broadway before, took the lead and in a matter of minutes we were at the short down climb. I think we had approached it higher than is typically done though. John made some awkward moves below a flake before finding solid footing again. Looking back, he suggested that maybe I try to go above the flake instead. At the flake pinnacle I was faced with an odd position. Reversing the moves would be more awkward than the climb up, but ahead of me was a narrow constriction that I couldn't fit through with my backpack on. After a minute of internal dialogue I figured forward was the best way. I took off my backpack and tried to lower it down to a sizable ledge just below. Unfortunately, I couldn't get my backpack to reach, I would have to drop it and hope that it didn't roll off the ledge - that was an unacceptable risk. I grabbed my ice axe and hooked the haul loop of my pack, certain the extra 2ish feet would get it down there, but nope. At the moment I decided to put my pack back on and reverse the moves, a buckle caught on a constriction in a nearby rock and I watched in abject horror as my pack came off the ice axe and fell the final two feet, hit the ledge, rolled once and came to rest mere inches from the edge and 1,000 feet of air down to Mills Glacier. This is likely the most stupid god damned thing I have ever done in the mountains but I'm glad luck was on my side that day.

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John begins the traverse onto Broadway

With my pack no longer an issue of improbable geometry, I down climbed the flake, picked up my pack, gave it a solid kiss, shouldered it and moved on. Only a hundred yards further and we encountered the famed step-around above the Hornsby Direct. John was still ahead and pulled the move with only the slightest of trepidation. I approached the move with some misplaced confidence; multiple descriptions of this route mention "jugs" on either side of the boulder that kept the step around move low fifth class. Now, not by any stretch of the imagination am I a good climber, but I've climbed enough to know a jug when I get my hands on one. The holds on the boulder were by no means jugs, Instead small finger-tip only holds made the move a bit more puckery than I had expected and the gloves I was wearing didn't improve the feelings of insecurity. I grabbed the hold on the left, reached around and grabbed the hold on the right, took a deep breath, released a pathetic whimper and made the move. Relief!

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John making the step-around move

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Me making the step-around move


After the step-around, we quickly reached the Notch couloir and saw the team ahead of us belaying at the base of the second pitch in the chimneys. We meandered a bit past the Notch and took a look at the direct start. It was wet, exposed and steeper than we expected. We decided to boot the short ways up the Notch to the normal start. We soloed the short traverse to the start of the first chimney and found a solid flake to sling for the first belay anchor.

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Climbing to the base of the first pitch

I offered to take the first lead so John climbed to just below the flake and I up and to the left. As we were racking up and flaking the rope we heard that shout from above that is one of the worst things to hear when you are in a narrow chimney with expansive exposure below you:

"ROCK!"

John ducked behind the flake and found relatively good cover, I felt a bit more exposed as I only had a small ledge above that wasn't much protection. The sound of a toaster sized rock flying past you in close proximity as it reaches for terminal velocity is unique, one I have only experienced once before and one I will never forget.

haaaaaaWOOOOOOOMpfffff

Holy shit... after the main rock came down a small shower of pebbles followed, hitting my helmet with an almost sickening staccato. I looked at John and he looked at me. Nothing needed to be said. We stayed put for a second and then heard another "ROCK" shout from above, luckily this time nothing came our way.

We waited a bit longer to make sure it was over, and then continued to rack up. The first pitch was pretty easy but the first move was an awkward chimney move with down sloping and slabby feet. My boots were wet and muddy from the lower part of the pitch. In an awkward sequence of movements that might qualify as some form of interpretive dance I grunted my way through the chimney. At a good rest, I got a solid cam in and heard John chuckling below. Apparently, I had made the moves look just as goofy as they had felt. The rest of the pitch was easy but very wet. Steep wet gravel and grass with very soft snow led to the top of the chimney, a rightward traverse and a large and comfortable ledge. I slung a flake and tied in. Looking back to the south, I could see another party a bit off route on Broadway, roped up to regain the proper ledge. I put John on belay and brought him up as a skier dropped in and made nice looking jump turns down Lambs Slide, this is the kind of thing that makes Kiener's a classic route, the position is phenomenal!

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Another team down on Broadway with Lambs Slide behind

John led the next pitch, easy scrambling punctuated by a fifth class move here-and-there. He ran the rope to its end, built an anchor and brought me up. From the belay station we could see the rest of the route. Several hundred feet of snow and rock led to the red pyramid and then to the summit. To the east we saw large thunderstorms parked over Fort Collins and Longmont. Above and to the west the sky looked relatively blue, but we knew thunderstorms were in the forecast and that we were blind to them approaching. At that moment I was glad we weren't the party all the way down on Broadway that late in the day.

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John halfway through the second pitch

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John bringing me up to the anchor atop the second pitch

We coiled the rope and stowed the gear. The snow on upper Kiener's was incredibly soft, after a few steps sinking to our thighs we decided to scramble the rock to climber's right. This part of the climb was less scary than I expected. You know the exposure is there and any tumble or fall and you're going over the Diamond, but you're just far enough back to not see it. We slogged up the 3rd and 4th class terrain until we were at the base of the red pyramid with the diamond step all that was left between us and the final couple hundred feet of 2nd class below the summit. We made a couple mantle moves, moved to the right hung the ol' arse over the diamond and gained the final slope. Ten minutes later we were on the summit.

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Near the mantle moves for the Diamond Step


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John clear of the exposed move around the Diamond Step

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Texts from the summit

To the west we could see several storms; we decided our tenure on the summit would be a short one. John sent his wife a text and we started down the north face to the Cables raps. The snow was exceptionally soft on the descent. Soft enough to plunge step but cohesive enough to ball and not make you want to trust plunge stepping. After 30 or so minutes of down climbing we reached the top eye-bolt and did the two raps. We lingered for a second at Chasm View and applauded the balls of the Diamond climbers who make the exposed moves to get to the Chasm View raps. Once out of the snow, we sat down, replaced our boots with trail runners, ate some food and relaxed. It was really nice to have that route done and I was really glad we were wearing trail runners for the descent (again, John gets Genius award).

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John makes the first of the Cables raps

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The "Big D" from Chasm View: it is absurd how little justice is done to this wall by a photograph

The three hours that followed encountered sporadic fits of graupel and rain intermixed with sun shine. We got back to the car at 5:15 for a 14:15 car-to-car time. We both had an ice cold beer.

Overall, Kiener's is a spectacular route, the position dictates that. However, both John and I were a little disappointed with the quality of the technical climbing. A grand total of maybe five fifth class moves and a lot of gravel, mud and wet grass. Nevertheless, this route should be on everyone's tick list, if only because of the position and the history of the route.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
dillonsarnelli

trailrunners...
07/08/2014 20:54
...nice to put those on after a long winter isn't it Dave! Great shots in here man. Excellent report too and looks like a fine day out there! After a few too many super-warm beers in May and June, we too enjoyed a few ”ice-cold” post-climb beers this weekend down south. Sure does make a difference! Nice work!


Tatra

nice job!
07/08/2014 22:26
Nicely done and awesome pictures! We climbed it last Sunday (July 6th) and the conditions were almost perfect. Definitely a peak time to get this route!


FireOnTheMountain

thanks dave!
07/09/2014 03:36
jugs on the buldge i do not recall either, maybe they crop up the 2nd time ha

Would like to ”run” the route, lambslide didnt seem too steep to me, you think microspikes will do under currect conditions? Crazy Anton carries tent poles as ice axes lol

Super stoked you back at it and all healed up! Also glad the Brave Little Toaster didn't become intimate with either of you guys, lonely little basterd...


Dave B

Yodel
07/09/2014 14:09
Dillon - thanks man, one of these days we're gonna have to crack an ice cold beer together, after a good day in the park, wearing trail runners. We should work on that.

Tatra - nice, I think we were two weeks too late or a week too early, there was a lot of water in the chimneys - still, such an amazing route.

Abe - you'd be fine with microspikes - I felt the same that Lambs wasn't very steep and there's also a pretty decent boot pack in place to make it a nice stair case. You'll have to let me know if those jugs magically appear this time!


SurfNTurf

Sweet
07/09/2014 14:26
Looks like a great time to be getting out on Kiener's. Kudos to you and John on what looks like a fun climb.


Theodore

Jealous!
07/09/2014 15:02
Definitely on my want list. Heading that way next week for my first Longs attempt, can't wait to see the mountain up close.


unclegar

Very Nice!
07/09/2014 20:42
Fantastic pictures that show the route well. I would have loved to have gone with you guys on this one.


rickinco123

I'm confused
07/09/2014 21:45
Isn't this the Sam Frappier route? Who's Kiener? 14 hours seems like a very good round trip time. Congratulations.


Dave B

Yodel-eh-hee-hooo
07/10/2014 03:20
Thanks, Jeff. Looks like you guys had a sweet trip on Adams. Good to see more obscure glacier routes. Looking forward to the Kautz report

Theodore - good luck!

Gary - I could just maybe be convinced into doing this one again, just later in summer when it's drier

Rick - oh we Frappier'd all over that mountain, 14 hours was actually doable in part to your descent beta TR for the Cables, thanks for that!


SchralpTheGnar

nice work
07/10/2014 03:45
awesome route, we did this route back in late august one year and the lambs slide was bullet proof ice, even broke one of my buddies crampons it was so hard, wicked stuff. Looks like you had better snow conditions, what a great position that achieves on that rock, but you're right the climbing is way mellow. I always thought that the route would be relatively fast and easy to solo in good conditions, but now I always take the gear cause I have it I might as well use it.

nice to see cool tr's like this, keep them coming.

oh and yeah, that falling rock sound, man we were on stettners ledges and by the time the rocks from broadway got down there it sounded like a helicoptier, wopwopwopWOPWOOOOPwopwop, I remember belaying my friend under and overhang and thinking, this is no good, he's not in a very safe place. We made it out ok, but I don't think I'd ever recommend that route because of that.


jmanner

Great report!
07/10/2014 15:13
Definitely one of the better Kiener write upa!

I was intrigued by this statement: ”However, both John and I were a little disappointed with the quality of the technical climbing. A grand total of maybe five fifth class moves and a lot of gravel, mud and wet grass.”


rickinco123

Few 5th class moves
07/10/2014 17:20
The low difficulty of the climbing moves may be a credit to Dave's route finding skills.

Someday when I tick this one off, I hope I can do it as well. Dave, how did you descend after the N Face rap?


Dave B

Heli-rock-pter
07/10/2014 19:31
Schralp - I think lambs slide was a delight in good snow conditions, bullet proof ice would almost make that the crux of the whole route. Your description of the sound of rock fall sounds more similar to my first experience on Dreamweaver. Sometimes, helmets feel totally useless...

jmanner - There was a thread on MP a week or so back asking about the difference between alpine climbing and mountaineering. There was a brilliant response from someone that said, in essence, that mountaineering becomes alpine climbing when the technical difficulty of the climbing is the crux instead of the act of navigating the alpine environment. I went into this route expecting alpine climbing but found out instead that it is a mountaineering route. The climbing was never hard or sustained, instead the crux of the route is the sum of it's constituent parts. Long story short, don't expect pitch after pitch of stellar climbing. I'm glad you liked the report though.

Rick - Our route finding was far from good, we kind of guessed most of the way, the climbing just isn't sustained. For the descent we just followed the trail back to Chasm Junction, the Camel was melted out at the top and looked like a miserable scree nightmare and getting to the first of the Chasm View raps looked shit-your-pants scary.


JohnP FTC

Finally,
07/11/2014 16:22
The amount of energy we put into scheduling this sob was rediculous. Are you sure that wasn't the crux? That's an interesting take on alpinism vs. mountaineering, I never thought about it like that. Nice write up. Thanks for another spectacular day on another classic route.

Until next time,

Cheers


Brian C

I was...
07/12/2014 02:03
...disappointed by Kiener's. I also expected more when I did it. Go do Keyhole Ridge! It's awesome.



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