Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Kiener's Route, Longs Peak (07-Aug-2007).

I remember vividly my thoughts when I first saw Kiener's Route: you got to have a death wish and/or be just damn foolhardy to do that. It was about three years ago, I wasn't doing any climbing back then. The route just looked intimidating as hell, when doing Keyhole route seemed like a major adventure. But as time went by, the super-intimidating thing started to look pretty doable, so I decided to go for it.This photo was taken in May, it's not that snowy during summer time. But it's a long route, and escape from its upper part is problematic, in case weather turns sour. Storms usually come from over the mountain, so you don't see them until it's too late. Last year two climbers got caught up there in a storm like that, and one of them didn't make it. So you got to start early and go fast.

Here is a different photo of the route, taken a week before doing it:It's a lower portion of the route, Lamb's Slide couloir. One of the great things about this route is that it has it all: you start by 40-45 degrees snow/ice couloir, then traverse the Broadway (a horizontal system of ledges), then climb some easy fifth class rock (3 pitches of 5.4 when on route, the green line on the top photo), followed by quite a bit of fourth class scrambling to the top.

To be continued...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Long's Peak solo: Lamb's Slide, Loft, Clark's Arrow (2).

Getting back to it. I got to the Loft and continued on the Clark's Arrow route. The routefinding was fun: at first I started cutting the Keyboard of the Winds too soon and ended up cliffed out. I scrambled lower and went along the Keyboard, finally (after some more interesting routefinding) getting to the top of Keplinger's Couloir. The connection between the top of the couloir and Homestretch was snow-covered and ended up being the crux of the route:The snow slope was ~45 degrees steep, with a dropoff at its bottom. As I put my crampons on and started traversing it, I found that this "snow" was mostly ice. Boy, was I glad to have borrowed a second ice-axe from Morgan! I would have to turn around otherwise, it just wasn't very safe with one ice tool and my soft boots. It took me about the same time to traverse this thing as to climb the whole Lamb's Slide, and it was exhilarating! A no-fall territory, on ice, it was fun! Very tiring though :-) . That section really took its toll on me.

After finishing the traverse I started on the Homestrech, the last section before the summit (green line on the photo above). It was pretty iced too:To keep up with the spirit of the climb, I followed the ice line (green) to the top, summiting at ~9-30am. I shared summit with only one more person, a guy from California. He told me that a day before a hiker doing Keyhole route fell on the Homestretch and broke his leg. He had to wait for six hours before being evacuated. Poor guy, six hours on the mountain with a broken leg!

After resting and snacking, I went down via the Keyhole route. On my way down I bypassed the ice on the right (pink line), I was just too tired for downclimbing ice.

The lack of sleep really caught up with me on the way down. I got only around two-and-a-half hours of intermittent sleep in my armchair, and I guess it was not quite enough :-). I was hiking to the parking lot in a strange state, with dreams getting mixed with reality. It was kind of fun though, a mild hallucinogenic experience. The best thing was a bolder that looked (just for a moment) like an intricate dark castle, with towers and everything. After 13 and a half hours of hiking, I got to the car, had some coffee and headed home. It was a great day, and I felt that the next thing on my tack list should be Kiener's.