| Longs Peak, North Face, Winter
Longs Peak, North Face, Winter
Route: North Face (“Cable Route”)
Approach: East Longs Peak TH
Length: 14 miles RT
Vertical: 5100 feet
Ascent Party: Greg, Natalie, John, Sara, Jim
Our waning moon greets sunrise on Longs Peak.
Stalking a winter 14er?
Seems it's been two years finding a windless winter day on Longs. The winter 14er thing is more about patience than anything resembling courage.
March 2, 2011. Matt and Micah want to go for a winter ascent of Longs. None of us has ever stepped foot on the mountain. You can't treat a lady
like that. Add in the forecast for typically high winds, and our collective slap in the face is well deserved.
Winter, 2011: our turn-around point.
Experience sounds like a noble thing, but in truth, it is merely the blessings we receive to survive our mistakes.
Ah, summer... four months later and much more civil conditions.
Summer, 2011: Ryan crests the top of the Cables Route.
Summer above the Cables.
2011: sweet summer summit.
Winter 2012: Weather comes right on time to celebrate Solstice, and with it, high avalanche danger statewide. Patience...
By late December, things settle; the Front Range avy forecast looks best statewide. An early guess gives a window on January 4. I'm certain models
drop high winds on my nice window before the date comes. Surprisingly, conditions hold. Sara and I plan to stay with 14erworlder ex-pats in Boulder.
Not too surprisingly, Greg posts the same trip, same route, same day. After all, it's the first day this winter that conditions look reasonably safe, and
the Front Range has all but missed the last big storm. Greg and Natalie are a great crew; we're looking forward to some fun! We'll want to fix ropes
on the technical section, given the enlarging group. Sara and I bring a light rack and a 60m twin rope just in case. The twin will serve nicely as a tag-
line to Greg's single rope, speeding the rappel.
First light on Longs, January 4, 2013.
Snowshoes are rarely needed for Longs Peak. This is because the East Longs Peak Trailhead is very popular, even in winter. The trail is often well packed.
Microspikes can be helpful.
Sara and I meet John in the parking lot at 5:30 am. We also meet a new friend, Chris, a young fellow who has done one 14er so far. Not one winter
14er, but one 14er total. His plan is to solo the Keyhole Route. Chris joins us on the approach.
Morning sun graces Longs Diamond.
Marching across Mills' Moraine.
Above treeline, we meet Mike and Amanda. They have a pair of 60m twins. Chris also wants to join us on the Cables Route, though he has no harness.
We're now looking at eight folks, including Greg and Natalie, getting up the 150-foot one-pitch route.
The swing shift swells to six.
Diamond to the left, Cables route and North Face are at right.
Close-up of the Diamond and the North Face.
Greg and Natalie, seen at lower right, climb the apron below the Cables Route.
Moonset over Keyhole Ridge.
Greg gets started on the technical section; Natalie belays.
Greg tops out on the technical section.
Our group starts to suffer some attrition. Amanda has not been feeling well for the past hour across the Boulderfield; she and Mike decide to turn back.
Greg and Natalie were not able to fix a line so Mike offers their twins, but I'm ok with the route on our single-strand twin. Chris goes back to his
plan to solo the Keyhole. John decides to join Chris, hoping to meet us at the summit. He's got a long day on Pikes Peak tomorrow, via the Barr trail.
John is an animal!
Sara ties into a rap anchor below and to the right of the start. The anchor is new since I've been up here last, and consists of a solidly placed stopper
and a sling around a medium sized outcrop. It looks pretty solid for rap, but not the best for a belay anchor, so I carefully head through the snow to
the base of the climb and get in a couple of cams. This anchors both of us.
There's nothing like the security of a solid 1" diameter chunk of steel. I girth the first eyebolt on the route, downclimb to pull the lower gear in case it's
needed later, tie in to the eyebolt, and bring Sara to the base of the route. Ah, that's better. Now for some fun!
Sara en-route to the top of the technical section.
The route in winter is a blast. There's a little water ice on the route, which as expected is way too thin to protect. However, the crack system is ample
for pro. I'd wondered how far it is between cable bolts, and had planned to get a good look at this for future reference, but forget all about it on lead.
From the rappel and memory, I've come up with the following diagram. Hope it's helpful for those interested in the route.
Numbers to the left of the route are rough distances between fixed pro. There are actually five 1" eyebolts, including the top. Note the 70-foot runout.
This section is protectable with gear if desired.
As can be seen from the numbers, three rappels (single 60m) will get one down off the route, and through much of the lower snow apron.
These are some tough alpinists. Check out the chick with the vicious-looking axe!
Natalie starting the rap.
Sara and Jim on Longs Peak Summit.
I think this is the first winter summit where we didn't want to leave because it was sunnier and warmer on the summit than on any of the rest of the
route! The toes were cold and getting a little numb prior to summitting, but sun on the boots gives the ol' toes a great warm up!
Belaying Sara to the top of the Cables Route.
Just above the top eyebolt on the Cables Route, conditions and pitch are a little more sketchy. We feel it best to 4th-class belay this section.
I'm able to get a solid two-cam anchor in here. Interestingly, Sara points out some antique expansion bolts in the rock right at the point we're belaying
from. Apparently, historical alpinists felt the same as we did.
Good pro! Above, a #4 Alien (antique by today's standards, but still among the best.) Below, an old-style #2 BD Camalot.
Don't bother bringing hangers and a wrench.
It looks funky, but I did not feel the need to have Sara throw something in. She did have a secondary immediately above her.
A "long" day for us, but great friends, great weather, safe conditions. Can't beat that. We watched the afterglow, making way through the Boulderfield.
A look back on a great route and a great day.
Sara and I bumped into Chris near treeline on the way back. He wasn't sure of the correct way down and saw our headlamps and decided to wait
for us. The three of us travelled together to the cars. Chris had turned back at the Homestretch, feeling conditions were beyond safe travel
for his level of skill and preparation. John had decided to head home and rest up for a 7500 vertical, 25 mile daytrip on Barr trail the next day.
We later learned that John's Pikes Peak winter ascent was safe and successful. Congrats, John!!
Congrats to Greg and Natalie on a safe and successful climb, and many thanks to John and Sara and everyone for a great day!