Elevation Gain: 5,154'
Route: North Face / Cables Route
Beta: Dancesatmoonrise TR & Mountain Project
All good trips start out full of promise and expectations. We were excited for the possibility of climbing the Cables Route in January during a low snow year. The photos/beta looked great, we discussed gear and racks and meeting times, etc. A plethora of emails were exchanged in the week leading up to the climb. Then the night before came and somehow we had to get some sleep, despite how excited we all were. We knew it would be a long day. 7 people on a climb like this, will take a while, a long while.
3am came quickly. I readied my gear, boiled my water, made hot cocoa and coffee, got in my car and started driving to the rendezvous point... hmm where exactly is it? Since our group was coming from all over Denver and Boulder, it was decided to meet in North Boulder, at the Bustop Gentleman's Club. Yep. Thankfully it's a long running joke in Boulder, so I knew roughly where it was on Broadway, but not exactly. Here's some beta: typing "Bus stop" into iPhone maps feature in Boulder will not get you to the Bustop (one s). As the night was still young, for some, the place was still hopping. It felt weird to be hanging out in the parking lot, waiting for the rest of the crew to show up, dressed in climbing gear, and discussing nuts and ice screws... Too many jokes, too little time!
The guys discussing their racks, outside the Bustop... guess who chose this meetup location?! Not I!
Once finally at the trail head, gear was divided up, and we started up the well packed trail (microspikes are useful). Ryan set a blistering pace and eventually we had to have Shawn set a more humane one. Since otherwise, we'd all be down to base-layers in a few more miles! Oh the exposure! The miles ticked by and we found the Rocky Mountain rescue short-cut, to get rid of one annoying switchback. Once beyond that, we were above treeline, and we could see the glowing lights of the Front Range below. The sun quickly followed us up, and I ran to get a good vantage point of the Diamond for sunrise.
Sunrise on the Diamond
The team coming up the trail, sunrise behind
I remember the trail up to the boulder field being long, but the good company made the time go by quickly, maybe a bit too much so! We took a nice break below the pass, as we knew it would get windy once above it. Above the pass, the approach just kept going, it seemed like the peak wasn't getting much closer. Eventually as we got closer to the route, we could see a group of 3 in the middle of the climb. They were making good progress, so we wouldn't have to wait on them.
Ahhh, Longs North Face!
Still more boulder field to go...
Brian Crim's crew on the route
The apron below the route has a bit of snow, and during the climb up, I kinda wish I had my axe or crampons on, but it is doable without. For the last push up to the belay station, some did get out the spikes and points, since the snow was pretty hard packed. I certainly didn't want to fall here!
Shawn coming up the slope
Kyle and Joe traversing the snow to the base of the climb
The fun class 4 crack to the base of the climb
Looking back down the approach
Kelly using her tools to come up the rock
There is a nice ledge to the west of the belay station, that served as our gearing up zone. Joe got ready quickly and headed over to the base, to build the anchor. As he was starting up the route, the group of 3 we had seen before, showed up. Thankfully from our ledge, we could communicate with them, that there was a climber on the way up. They waited until Joe got to the top and then rapped down to get out of our way. It turned out it was BrianC! Small world on the Cables Route today.
The gals in silhouette
Joe leading the route
Joe just past the first crux
Joe using his ice tool, guess there is some ice!
With one rope up, Shawn followed on Kyle's bright orange new rope, and unclipped as he went. Then Kyle did a sport climb to bring up Joe's old crappy rope for the rest of us to abuse with ascenders. Standing there waiting for Kyle to climb up, my toes got rather cold as I was belaying. So I had to shake them as best as possible to keep them from freezing, since I would not have that opportunity while climbing. I then got the task to clean the route of gear, to finalize the fixed rope. I'm glad that my climbing mentors have had me second them so much, so I've had plenty of practice taking gear out. Thanks Bethany and Ben (ie B(3))!!!
Up to this point, I had never done any aid climbing, so my ascender was new, and while I understand the physics of how it works, I wasn't quite about to trust it completely. (Yes I did test my weight at the start) So I treated the climb like a lead one, and used my mantra of "don't fall", that I use while climbing in general. Yes, I know, falling is a part of this sport, and it can make you a better lead climber. Well, I'll fall another day, in a "safer" environment! It made the climb a bit more difficult with this mindset, but it also showed that I could lead this pitch, eventually (and definitely with experienced partner(s)). I'm not there yet, I have a lot more learning to go before I would feel confident to lead a group. Since knowledge and skills do not equate to experience. In that, I feel I know just enough to be dangerous, and I need to be careful in what I am willing to do. There are plenty of situations I have not seen, and in that I need to be aware of my own knowledge gaps. All that is needed is time and more learning experiences.
There is some ice along the route, which requires an ice tool and crampons, but not enough to be an easy ice climb. Plenty of places where you have to "spread your legs and trust your points". I found that it was too difficult to remove gear with my mittens on, and had to remove them each time. I wish I had brought my ice climbing gloves, as my liners were not enough to keep me warm, my hands were frozen by the top. I also need to work on removing gear with my left hand, as I had to constantly remove my leash from my axed right hand to get gear out. When I got to the top of the route I noticed a bit of a twinge in my right wrist, like I had banged it against a rock and bruised it. Now I know that I managed to inflame the tendons (hopefully minor), as there is swelling without bruising. I think over gripping my axe without the leash for support, may be what injured my right forearm.
The rest of the crew used their ascenders on the fixed rope to get to the top. One of these days, I'll have to try this aid climbing thing again. Maybe it will go smoother when it's not so bloody cold! With 7 people on the rope/climb, it took a long time to complete, and we all went as fast as we could, but not fast enough to stay warm in the shade and wind. I felt bad for the team of 3 who had to wait on us to get up the route. Especially when we later learned that it was Jim, the guy who holds the record for ascents on Longs, with 399 on this day! May # 400 be much faster!
At the belay station
Shawn seconding Joe, taking up the first rope
Kyle lead sport climbing, taking up the second old rope - Photo Credit: Caroline
Me belaying Kyle - Photo Credit: Caroline
Me using my beloved Grivel Rambo ice tool, cleaning the route - Photo Credit: Caroline
The first crux, and first bolt
Some ice, mostly friable crap to send down on your team/belayer. Beware!
Ryan follwing me up, on ascender
A view down the face
Once above the top anchor, the route to the summit is mostly snow free, otherwise barely ankle deep. It was nice to get to the summit where my feet could finally warm up in the sun. I really hate getting screaming barfies in my toes, but they don't make boots my size, and I didn't want to hike in my clunker size and half too big Koflach's! I may have to look into getting some of those fancy battery operated toe warmers that Kelly has. She had warm feet, I did not.
The route up the remainder of the face
The view from the North Face of Longs
We hung out on the summit for only a short time, as it was getting really late, and we all were exhausted. Longs just seems to have a way of taking it out of you! We snapped some pics of Jim's 399'th ascent, and headed down.
Pano to the north
Jim had set up a rap above our anchor, and so we graciously utilized it to get down the snowy steep section above our rap station. Since it was a very thin rope, I did a backup fireman on Caroline's first ever rap. It definitely contrasted with the next rap, as Joe's rope was almost too big for the alpine ATC I had brought. I had to forcibly shove the rope through the device to get down to the base. At least I knew I wasn't going anywhere! Though I did another light fireman on Caroline, just in case.
Ryan on the rap
Me rappelling - Photo Credit: Caroline
Caroline on rappel
Shadow of Longs behind Ryan
Sunset from up high
Jaw dropping exposure by the Diamond
The sun set as we took off our points and got out the microspikes again. It was quite beautiful to have watched sunset from so high up on Longs. Unfortunately the price you then pay, is going through the boulder field in the dark. Thankfully the moon rose and lit up the rest of our descent below granite pass. Finding our short cut route proved a bit time consuming, and taking the trail may have been faster than the wallowing we ended up doing. Once back on the trail it was a peaceful moonlit stroll through the trees, to get back to the trail head incredibly late. A very long day on Longs, but a fulfilling one for most!
My GPS Tracks/Waypoints on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
GPX file cannot be downloaded (per author)
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):