Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Lady Washington, Mt  -  13,281 feet
Date Posted:  03/28/2008
Modified:  06/25/2012
Date Climbed:   03/27/2008
Author:  benners
 Successful Failure: Lady Washington Summit  

Peak: Mount Lady Washington, Front Range
Date Climbed: March 27th, 2008
Group: Ryan (scollard) and Ben (benners)
Route: Lady Washington's East Face
RT Distance/Elevation Gain: ~12.5 Miles, 4,400 Feet
Time: 14 Hours

I usually don't post TR's for failed attempts but this was still one heck of a day for my friend Ryan and I (and I havn't written a report in a while ). A week prior (March 20) Ryan and I had attempted Longs but had to turn back at treeline due to a nasty cold I was hiking with. We did get to practice digging some snow caves however!

Snow cave we dug at treeline on March 20

Anyway on this day we set off from the ranger station at 5:45am and gained treeline quickly. Despite our attempts to weather watch and plan accordingly, we feared early on that we may have picked a bad day. We were particularly skeptical about the cloud cover as well as the wind (although we tried to keep in mind that Longs is notoriously windy). Already snow had begun to fall and the higher we ventured, the harder the wind blew. We figured we would at least make it to the Keyhole no matter how bad the conditions, and we would then evaluate things and decide whether or not it would be prudent to continue.

Sunrise from treeline, this is the most sun we saw all day

As we continued on the snow and wind increased substantially. Every attempt we made to rest led to immediate chilling of our core temerature, we just tried to take it slow and steady. We forced our way up through Mills Moraine and Granite Pass, our pace was slowed even more by 2 to 3 feet of snow covering the trail.

Granite Pass at 10:30am

Ryan and I continued on and reached the Boulder Field around 11:00am, the winds had died off but we figured it may have only been a result of entering the three-sided protection of the "valley" the boulder field sits in. Visability had dropped to maybe 10 or 20 feet, we persisted on past the Boulder Field to the bottom of the slope at the base of the Keyhole. Here the snow was very deep, 4 feet in some places, due to the relentless wind loading of gusts scouring snow off of the north side of the mountain and blasting it through the Keyhole.

Ryan making his way through the Boulder Field

The Keyhole emerging from the gloom

We reached the Keyhole at noon to find the hut 3/4 full of snow (this was disappointing). Even more disappointing was the unbelievably strong winds being driven through the Keyhole; huge blasts of snow and ice were being forced through at an alarming rate, it sort of reminded me of a jet engine. Ryan and I poked our heads over the lip of the Keyhole and caught a glimse of the north side of the mountain; it looked like hell on Earth. There wasn't really any debate between us, we were going to have to admit defeat on this one, it would have just been too dangerous to try to negotiate the ledges with winds that high and visability that poor.

The Keyhole during a March blizzard, our turnaround point

Snow filled hut

Although we were upset about having to turn back due to weather after having gone so far, we decided that no matter how poor the conditions we could and should be able to summit Mt. Lady Washington, this was the last of Longs' surrounding thirteeners I had yet to summit. After a brief food break we just headed for the summit from the Boulder Field, I'm not even sure whether there's a defined route on this mountain or not. The winds picked up the higher we climbed and by the time we reached the top, they were as strong as we had experienced all day. The visability dropped to almost nothing again and we quickly descended back to the Boulder Field seeking some relief.

Our summit shot, I know its not pretty

Looking across at Lady Washington's sub-summit

Upon reaching the Boulderfield (around 2:30pm) we were greeted by the ever-worsening storm; winds were getting very extreme and the snow was falling heavily. We found up to 3 feet of newly wind loaded snow on the traverse from Granite Pass to Chasm Junction, our tracks in had been completely erased and buried under more snow. Because of this we had to break through fresh snow in both directions and our pace was painfully slow. Rounding the east side of Lady Washington took almost 2 hours, we reached treeline at 6:30pm and arrived at the car at 8pm for a RT of 14 hours.

Granite Pass at 3pm

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Danced with the Lady!
02/05/2011 00:22
Great save on what was obviously a day too dangerous to pursue Long's. I don't know you two; are you the ice encrusted one with only the hint of a smile or the one who looks like he better have TP in his pack?


03/28/2008 21:53
I turned back at the stone hut twice this year, mother nature can really bend you over in that area around this time of year. You look completely miserable, haha. F**king frustrating.


Nice effort!
03/29/2008 04:02
I was set to attempt Quandary on 03/27 but made the decision to pass as conditions started to get ugly. Not a good day to attempt my first winter condition climb. Thanks for confirming my decision.


Very Wise.
03/29/2008 16:54
Good report and some great pics, even the summit shot exposing your misery! It‘s nice to see reports that demonstrate good judgement in those kind of conditions. That mountain will be there another day, but one error on that day could end your hiking forever. Glad you made it back safely. Better luck next time!


Testing your winter gear
03/29/2008 23:58
Wow, that video says it all. Thought I was in the Himalayas.
Somebody should put a door and a window on that hut!
And you did obtain some memories that will always be with you!! Frozen into your minds by the looks of it.


Thanks all . . .
11/30/2010 17:28
sgladbach - I am the one who looks in need of some sort of relief . . . that was a painful summit!

lordhelmut - Haha "bent over" is a good way of putting it. I think we're gonna go back for another round in a week or so, hopefully with a better forecast. The weather on Longs is prolly the most intense out of all of the places I've ever been.

coresetter59 - No problem! Ryan and I made it to the top of Quandary a few weeks ago in very similar weather, we seem to have an affinity for picking the worst days of the week to hike.

huffy13 - Thanks! Turning around is tough but definately part of the sport if you want to live long enough to accomplosh your goals. Definately a tough decision, we're gonna go back for round 3 very soon.

mtnview - For sure! Ryan actually ended up with frostbite on his face in two places, we won't forget this one for a while.


04/10/2008 21:46

We attempted Longs last Thanksgiving. It‘s a tough mountain.

My climbing partner has tried it twice now. And another guy that came with us has attempted 4 times.

Good luck on your next attempt! I hope to make it someday myself.

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