Long's Peak Trip Report (trip 2)

Trail: Cables, Class 5.6, 12 miles, 4800 ft elevation gain

Normally when I redo a 14'er or other mountain I usually just make some little note at the bottom of the original page but in this case I felt the trip warranted more of a write up.  I am always on the look out for a partner for more technical trips and it turned out that the boyfriend of one of my classmates was interested in climbing trips.  As luck would have it he was also more experienced on both snow and rock climbing than I was which was perfect, I'm always looking for more experienced partners to learn from.  Enter my partner for this trip, Brian Hynek, a research scientist at CU who does research concerning the planet Mars. 

I introduced myself to Brian maybe a month or so ago and we tossed around some ideas before settling on the Cables route on Longs for the day April 8th, 2005.  As the time approached we checked betas for the route to ensure it was doable this time of year.  As it turned out the weather on April 7th was supposed to be perfect so we changed our trip date (one of the joys of academia is the schedule flexibility). 

Brian and I emailed back and forth to make sure we had everything we needed for the trip, it looked like a spring ascent of Cables was going to be an entirely different beast than a summer ascent so we planned carefully.  In the end we brought a 60 meter rope, several slings, runners, beaners, quick draws, and a few smaller cams and nuts as well as shovels, beacons, and helmets.

I awoke at 2 in the morning and packed up, had a quick breakfast and headed to pick up Brian.  I met him at his girlfriend Licia's house and we headed to the trailhead.  we arrived at ~ 4 in the morning, packed up quickly and headed out.  The snow was well consolidated and we were happy to have left the snowshoes at home.  It was during the beginning of the trip through the trees that I realized a 99 cent pack of sausages is no way to start a day.  I felt like I was going to vomit for about an hour but eventually my stomach settled and I felt great.  We made quick time up to Mills Moraine and arrived within 1.5 hours of setting out.

It was slightly to early to catch the sunrise on Longs so I missed an otherwise great photo opportunity.  We set out and crested the saddle between Mt. Lady Washington and Battle mountain and headed across the Boulder field.  We consciously moved a bit more slowly to conserve energy for the upcoming climb and took several short breaks to take in the scenery. As we neared the approach route we headed up a steep snowfield.  The conditions looked relatively benign so we dropped the beacons, shovels, and Leki Poles behind a large boulder and replace them with axes and crampons before setting out on the final approach up steeper snow to Chasm View. 

Chasm View was a awe inspiring and to me at least gut churning.  I kept thinking how we would be navigating steep snow over the huge Diamond.  I think this helped me to be real f''ing careful once we were above it. 

The Diamond with the North Face route above it

The final approach to the North Face

We arrived at the base of the pitch 4.5 hours after setting out and removed our crampons and stowed the axes.  This would turn out to be a bit stupid.  I anchored myself to the first bolt and we donned our harnesses.  I belayed Brian up the pitch and it soon became obvious that there was enough snow and ice on the route to make it tough.  In the summer time I think I could free climb it (I'm not recommending this by the way) but now it was dodgy and Brian had a couple long sections of run out between pro placement.  Eventually Brian reached the top and I unhooked myself from the anchor and started climbing.  I was really glad to be following here because it was damn hard to find footing that didn't land on snow and ice.  I quickly made it up to Brian and we pulled the rope back up and re donned crampons and pulled back out the axes.

Brian leading up the old Cables Route

It ws up on the North Face that my old fear of steep snow really surfaced.  I hate steep snow, I really, really hate steep snow with patches of thin snow with no good axe placement, poor footing, and an 800 foot vertical drop beneath it.  Brian on the other hand had total confidence which helped bolster me.  We stayed roped for a distance and made our way up the face with Brian trying to find places to set pro.  It soon became apparent that there was not much in the way of placement and we stowed the rope and made our way up slowly.  Most of the climb was on snow and we made sure to get good footing and axe placement whenever possible.  Throughout the climb the thought of being above the diamond stayed with me. 

Various pictures of me up on the North Face

We finally reached a point where we were able to move up 3rd-4th class rock that weren't to slabby and crested to the summit.

The technical pitch and snow climbing took about 3 hours as we were being very careful.  I think free of snow I could have bombed up the whole section in an hour easily.

I haven't been up on longs for a year and a half and forgot how big the summit was.  We were on it but still a way from the summit block.  We finally arrived at the summit block around 1:45 and hung out for  about  20 or 30 minutes.  The Homestretch looked easily manageable but we didn't really give that route much thought.  The views were spectacular and we marveled at how perfect the weather was.  I think it was over 50 on the summit and the wind was blowing from the south west so it hadn't bothered us all day.  We called our respective others to let them know we were safe, ate, and drank and headed down.

At first I was still quite nervous but after awhile I noticed myself become much calmer.  We were looking down a steep field over a cliff all while downcliming wet 3rd and 4th class rock and carefully avoiding softer snow  and I started really enjoying myself.  By the time we were near to the rappel point where I had been terrified before I was enjoying the hell out of the situation.  Brian and I even started joking about how a slip would let us set the all time descent speed record.  I think going with a more experienced climber really bolstered my confidence and I feel like I passed one of those milestones in a climbers life. 

Anyways, we anchored ourselves and our bags to the top bolts and took some pictures.  It was surreal to be hanging out up there with snow everywhere and the diamond right next to us.  It was such a  cool experience to be somewhere most people won't go and take in the scenery from an amazingly airy vantage point. 

Brian Rapelling

Me rappelling

Brian set the rappel through the first and second bolt and headed down.  He yelled up that the rope didn't reach the bottom and that he was going to down climb it.  After a moment he was safely down and I headed down.  I just rapped to the second to top bolt, re anchored myself and pulled the rope out.  I then reset the rappel to the second bolt and made my way the rest of the way down.  In the interest of expedience Brian suggested I re anchor and set up a rappel from the first bolt so we could cover some of the snowfield quickly.  I did and we both headed down to a set of rocks 90 feet or so down the field.  We quickly recollected our gear and headed down the snow.  Brian ran over to a rock outcropping for a photo opportunity before we made the final push down.  I noticed that I was actually really enjoying running around on the snow slope up there, I guess my fear of snow has now evaporated.

We made quick time back towards the trees by crossing over the lower southerly ridge on Mt. Lady Washington and following snowfields down as far as we could.  By some stroke of bad luck allot of the snow had melted which led to tons of postholing and inadvertently following the wrong trail.  Apparently the whole area near the trees was criss-crossed with hikers trails and we ended up postholing for an extra hour through the woods.  The snow was melted enough that I kept going in it up to my knees or thighs.  This basically meant I spent an hour cursing my head off.  A look at the contour map put us in the right direction and we finally came across the stream.  I was getting pretty ill-tempered by this point and opted for following the stream if we didn't quickly hit the trail.  Thankfully Brian said lets try another minute or two and within 30 feet we were on the trail. 

We made it back to the car at 7 which gave us a total round trip time of ~ 15 hours.  Not bad when you consider the number of breaks we took and the care with which we did the sketchy part.

I dropped Brian off at his house in Nederland where he invited me in for a beer.  I declined as I was about as sleepy as you can get and knew I'd just sit there and stare at the wall before falling asleep on the drive home.  I headed down the canyon once again listening to obnoxious AM stations to keep me awake. 

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