From: Larry Chapman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Longs Peak via Kiener's Route
Ken has been after me over the last few years to do a climb of Kiener's Route on Memorial Day weekend. This year I finally agreed to accompany him.
Ken and I started our jaunt (Tim was to meet us the next morning) from the Longs Peak ranger station at 3:00 pm on a cloudy and drizzly Friday afternoon. We had discussed the weather and even though the weather folk were predicting clearing on Saturday we were prepared to just spend the night at our camp and then head back. We were carrying a fair amount of weight (can't they learn to make climbing gear out of carbon fiber?) and we were in no hurry so it took us 4 hours to get to our camp at the far end of Chasm Lake just below Mill's Glacier.
Saturday morning was awesome. The sky above us was crystal clear yet the entire front range was socked in with rain and fog. It stayed that way all day with the clouds just lapping at us 2000' below. I burned a lot of film! Tim arrived at 5:45 am and we started climbing at 6:30.
We ascended Mill's Glacier and quickly turned onto Lamb's Slide which is a snow gully that runs from right to left along the base of the East Face of Longs. This section required ice axe and crampons but due to the firm snow conditions we didn't use a rope. "Self arrest" with our axes would have been very easy.
There is a ledge that runs right across the middle of the East Face of Long's called "Broadway". When Lamb's Slide intersected Broadway (13,000') we started our traverse across the East Face. It took us an hour to reach the intersection. On Broadway the snow was pretty soft and a fall without a rope means certain death so we all roped up and did a running belay. A running belay means that everyone climbs roped together and the leader puts in protection and the last person on the rope takes it out. You can continue like this until the leader runs out of "pro". We moved well (except for a breadbox sized rock I pulled loose on the first lead) and reached the point where you climb off and above Broadway which is just past the Notch Couloir.
Now the fun starts . . .
In the summer there are a few technical moves here (5.0-5.4) then the climbing returns to "hiking with some hands needed". Well, given the snow and ice and water all over everything the next few hundred feet took us hours. At one point with Tim as the leader he came to a section he couldn't climb. So, Ken gave it a try and he couldn't get up it either. I'm no rock climber but we only had me as the last option. On a "normal" rock climb when you get "stuck" like this you can just use the rope to rappell down. On an "alpine" climb like this one, and at the point we had already climbed to, retreating was really not an option. It was getting late and I was getting cranky so I gave the section my best shot. After three sliding falls on the 2nd move (only minor scrapes) I was able to successfully climb all the way to easier ground.
At this point Tim and Ken are getting tired and we're all getting worried about the time. I suggested that we opt for speed and have Ken climb with a Jumar (a device that lets you climb up using the rope to pull yourself) and I would help Tim by pulling on the rope hard as he climbed. We all got above this tough section but it took TWO HOURS.
The route now climbs from left to right just above The Diamond. It was all snow covered but we opted for speed and climbed un-roped.
About 100' from the top you encounter a series of cliffs. Both Ken and Tim knew about an easy way to avoid them and just walk to the top. Unfortunately, fatigue and all the snow hid the route from us for about 30 minutes. Finally Tim found the way and we now knew we had an easy jaunt to the summit.
Tim and I summitted at 6:30 pm while Ken decided to head straight to the North Face (the old Cable Route) where we would rappell to the Boulder Field.
The rappell went fine and we all met in the Boulder Field at 8:00 pm. Since Tim hadn't camped he header straight down the trail and home. Ken and I had decided to drop down the ridge directly to Chasm Lake to get our gear. As we got to point where you descend Ken decided that it was too dark and he was too tired to take this "unknown" route. Rather than leave him we agreed to take the long way around back to the standard turnoff to the lake. As we walked and I began to understand how tired he was we made another change in plans. I volunteered to go to the camp site and hike out with both of our gear (Ken had only left a bivy sack and sleeping bag).
We reached the turnoff and parted company. It is now 10:00 pm and I'm in for a long slog. As I get near the lake I give my headlamp a try and it only works for 5 minutes (I still have a flashlight). It's dark. I'm getting really tired. I'm out of food. I'm having a very hard time finding our campsite. Is this starting to sound bad? Finally I give-up, put on all the cloths I have with me, wrap-up in one of those "emergency blankets", and try to sleep at 11:00 rather than continue to search aimlessly for our camp.
The night is cold (my water was frozen in the morning) but with a few stints of shivering that I killed with some jumping jacks only my feet were uncomfortable. I awoke at 5:15 am having slept probably 5 hours.
I quickly found the camp given the sunlight and was back to my truck by 9:00 am. I quick call to my rather worried wife and it was off to Taco Bell!
This trip was a lot like doing the Ironman was for me. I'm glad I did it. I can't really say it was "fun". The memories and lessons will last a lifetime.
Oh yea, now maybe all my climbing buddies won't laugh at me so much about all the "extra" gear I tend to bring. Without the Jumar and the extra ice axe (which I used on a short section of vertical ice and Tim used when gravity stole his axe) we might still be at 13,000' somewhere wondering why we ever did this . . .