Peak Trip Report (trip 5) - No Summit
Trail: Notch Couloir, Class 5.4,
12 miles, 4500 ft elevation
I try to keep these trip
reports as a journal so prefer to be honest about how things occur.
This trip posed a slight problem though because the trail
leading to Chasm Lake had been closed by the Park Rangers.
Apparently some rock had fallen onto the trail between Mills
Moraine and Chasm Lake at some point in late May so the park service
decided that they should get right on it and close it three weeks later
in June. So a bit of rockfall, three weeks earlier had
neccesitated a closure and the cancellation of my trip, right?
Nope, I ignore nonsense whenever given the opportunity and
this occasion wasn't going to be any different. A friend of
mine called the rangers and they told him he would have to hike up to
Chasm View and do the three double rope rappels if he wanted to access
Chasm Lake. They also told him they were not seeking climber's
input and the park would re-evaluate the closure in three weeks.
So, 2-3 more miles, 1500 feet more vertical, and three
rappels in the dark all to avoid the possibility of new rockfall that
climbers should already be mindful of. Neither myself nor the
three guys I went with felt this was worth paying attention to so we
decided to go anyway. Why do I go on about this?
Well it is because I am going to respect my partner's
anonymity in this one and not name them. It's unfortunate
because they are good guys and experienced and I like to post the names
of the people I climb with but in this one instance I'll forgo that.
On the up side the closure was lifted after three days and
I'm pretty sure it was a mix of a greater response from the climbing
community than expected and the input of the park's climbing rangers.
Prodded on by a couple
recent trip reports stating that conditions were good and the imminent
threat of warm weather obliterating the route I started making plans to
climb the Notch. In honesty one of the guys who came along (I'll call
him climber D) and I had already made plans earlier in the month but
new snow and 100 mile an hour gusts had forced us to cancel.
We rescheduled for June the 22nd and it turned out that two
other guys who were friends of D and one of whom I also knew would be
aiming for the same day. We conversed via email and ended up
carpooling together. I met the three guys in the parking lot
of Neptune Mountaineering at 1:30 in the morning on Friday,
June 22nd, 2007. I'll refer to the guys as climbers D, K, and
M. We headed to the Long's Peak trailhead and arrived at 2:30
in the morning. We packed up and were on our way by 2:40.
Climber K had been nice enough to bring a set of 50 meter
ropes for us to climb with. He and climber M would be on one
set and myself and climber D would be on another. When
climber K handed me the rope I fell in love with it instantly.
It was a Beal Ice Line and was about half as heavy as I was
Climber M knew of a shortcut that avoids the first mile and all the
switchbacks and we headed up it almost immediately after leaving the
parking lot. This trail is even more beaten out and
maintained than the short cut up to loch Vale so I didn't
feel like we were breaking any Leave No Trace ethics. It
almost has to be a ranger's trail that gets frequent use and it passes
by the water purification system that the bathrooms and rangers hut
We made good time and arrived at Chasm Junction in a under two hours.
From here we headed off towards Chasm Lake and made a point to not see
the closure signs. Sure enough there were some rocks on the
trail, the same rocks I saw in a photograph Chris Gerber had taken
three weeks earlier. The funny thing was that the rocks were
not blocking or threatening anything. As we had assumed it
was a stupid closure. We stopped briefly to filter some water
and then headed up to Chasm Lake.
Longs East Face
Our Destination - The Notch Couloir
Every time I view the
sun hitting Longs east face I am overcome by how magnificent a peak it
is. For me there is nothing like Longs in Colorado and that
is probably why, even though it was my fifth time on it, I knew I'd
keep coming back year after year. I really love that peak.
We scrambled around to the east side of the lake and
jumped onto thick ice that was near the shore line. The ice
was solid on this side and extended several feet down so we were able
to make good time across the lake. After the lake we hiked up
one section of snow until we reached the base of Lamb's Slide where we
Crossing Chasm Lake
Thick Ice Near The Banks Of Chasm Lake
Sunrise Over Chasm Lake
Climbing Lambs Slide
Slide was in magnificent condition and we easily kicked in steps.
We took turns kicking up the slide and quickly found
ourselves a the entrance to Broadway. The snow conditions had
been as good as any I've ever encountered, not too soft, not too hard,
just pure fun.
We exited Lamb's Slide and headed up the completely melted ramps that
lead to Broadway. The first bit was dried out but we soon
encountered some snow. For the most part it was pretty easily climbed
over or bypassed but we did encounter one little stretch to downclimb.
We belayed one climber down this portion to make sure it was
safe and when he reported good conditions the rest of us followed
without a rope. Compare our pictures to the much more serious
Just encountered on his ascent two weeks prior. You
can see why we were in a rush to beat the melting out of the route.
Starting Up On Broadway
Scrambling Up Broadway
The First Bit Of Snow On Broadway
Broadway Before The Crux Move
Crossing Snow On Broadway
D had been up on Broadway before but the other two had not. I
think they thought I was joking when I told them the way I handled the
crux move, a boulder jutting out over the lower east face, was to crawl
on my belly. I said, no, I was serious and that belayed or
not I was going to be crawling on my belly. I've got little
to no sense of pride when it comes to hanging my ass out over an 800
foot drop. Climber D went ahead and crawled through the move
and reported good conditions. Climber M and myself still felt
more comfortable with a belay which climber K thoughtfully provided.
Climber M stuck a few pieces in to prevent a swing and we
headed off. We moved through the rest of Broadway and climbed
up one section of rock to avoid a little traverse over a particularly
narrow section. We all soon found ourselves at the base of
the Notch Couloir.
The Skilled Technique We Used to Pass The Crux
My Skills On Display
The Start Of The Notch Couloir
Our plan for the Notch
was to simulclimb in pairs, myself and climber D and climbers K and M.
We would go until a stretch that needed a direct belay was
encountered or until we ran out of gear and had to swap.
Climbers K and D took the first leads. The snow was
pretty soft at the bottom but firmed up as we moved towards the first
constriction. Some of the steps had melted out and climber D
felt it would be prudent to belay me past one section. I'm
glad he did as it required some delicate stemming and mantling on rock
while wearing crampons. The moves weren't to hard
but the consequences of a fall back to and over Broadway were too big to
chance. I passed over the rock and made my way up to climber
D's anchor. At this point he handed me the rack and I headed
The First Part Of The Notch Couloir
Heading Up To Dave
found a decent placement for a
cam 30 feet from the anchor but then had to traverse through a flow of
water ice and pull over a bulge to return to snow. At this point I was parallel to climber M who was waiting for
climber K to finish his pitch. Since we were at the first
constriction I waited for him to head up to avoid crowding or crossing
ropes. He started up and I waited for him to move through
then headed up myself.
Towards The First Constriction
Me, heading Towards The Constriction
Chasm Lake From The Notch Couloir
In The First Constriction Before The Dogleg
Leaving The Constriction
The first constriction
was a ton of fun and consisted of a three foot wide section of hard
snow/ice. I (and everyone else) was climbing with two tools
(or a tool and an axe) and felt very comfortable here. I
placed a piece of gear every fifty or so feet and stopped to admire my
surroundings. The views were beautiful and Chasm Lake looked
amazing down below. When I reached the end of the rope
climber D took down the anchor and started up. He had the
misfortune of having a crampon pop off on the water ice section I had
traversed but luckily for him he is a much better climber than I am and
took it in stride.
Once climber D has his
crampon back on I continued up and turned right at the dogleg.
At this point Climber M was on the front end and was at a
completely melted rock step. I climbed up to his right and
put a yellow Alien in a crack as my last piece of gear was more than a
hundred feet below. I waited for him to clear his section and
climbed up over the rock. I love how well crampons bite into
rock when you trust them.
Up until now the weather had been absolutely perfect.
It was not to remain this way. As I climbed up
towards a rocky outcropping a couple hundred feet from the Notch, I
noticed that the clouds were building all around us. Soon
thunder began and from my vantage point I could see lightning striking
all around us. Due to the location of the other climbers I
was the one afforded the best view of the strikes raining down around
us. It was still clear overhead but I was getting
progressively more and more nervous. I found a place to
anchor myself and brought climber D up. We all realized the
gravity of the situation so I handed climber D the lead (he is a much
better climber than I am). He and climber K headed up to the
Notch and climber M and myself followed. This was the hardest
part of the climb as it went up a thin ribbon of ice that fractured
with every tool strike. If it had all melted it would have
probably been an awkward 5.6 off width but we managed to get through it
on ice. Above this we fell into many snow trenches and
struggled up to the top of the Notch.
We agreed that continuing on was stupid and made the
decision to rappel into Keplinger's Couloir and escape via Clark's
Arrow. The descent to Clark's Arrow was wet, icy, snowy, and
loose. It took a bit of time to get down and all the time it
was thundering. It was 10 in the morning and a good reminder
that shit happens in the high country no matter how early you get up or
how carefully you follow the forecast.
Heading To The Notch
More Weather Moving In
Rappeling Out Of The Notch into Keplinger's Couloir
the time we reached the entrance to Clark's Arrow it was graupelling
and hailing but wasn't too cold so, while it was obnoxious, it didn't
feel that terrible. The graupel also brought an end to the
thunder for which I was greatly relieved. We scrambled
through a ton of fun 3rd and 4th class stuff on Clark's Arrow and I was
happy to actually know where the route was. On my first trip
to Long's I had attempted this and ended up descending several hundreds
of feet too low. Even though we didn't summit I still finished
the Notch, got to 13,800 feet, and learned two new routes.
Not too bad for a day on my favorite peak.
Really Annoying Graupel
Climbing Through Clarks Arrow
At The Saddle Above The Loft
We soon found ourselves
at the Mt. Meeker, Longs Peak saddle and made our way over to the Loft
descent route. We headed down the cliffs and plunge stepped
down the Loft. At the base of the snow we stopped and rested
for 20 or 30 minutes. It was cloudy and a bit foreboding but
the danger had passed and we were happy to be down safely.
The hike out was beautiful as always and I marveled at all of
the features around us. We hiked back across the trail to
Mill's Moraine and stopped for another rest. At this point
climber K discovered that a hiking pole he had stashed was missing.
It was probably a marmot who found the sweaty grips too
tempting to pass up. We were also passed by a party of
several rangers who spent a lot of time staring at us. It was
probably obvious where we came from as they were descending the boulder
field route but they didn't see us do it.
We hiked back down to the parking lot and used the same cut off trail
we did in the morning. It was a pleasure not to deal with the
world's longest half mile and I'll never use that first bit of the
trail again. Our total time was around 13 and a half
hours and I'm guessing tit would have been a 15 or 16 hour day if we
had finished. I can't imagine going up the Stepladder and
rappeling the North Face would have taken much longer than our
obnoxious descent of Clark's Arrow but being up higher would have been
a bad idea with all the lightning.
All in all it was another fantastic day in the high country.
My Rainier trip was canceled due to fitness concerns on my
partner's behalf and I had bailed before the last pitch on Zowie a
couple weeks ago (too tired to flail on a 5.9 offwidth that day and
weather was rolling in) but I considered this day a success.
I'm more into route bagging on Long's at this point and
finished the one I came to do as well as one I hadn't intended to.
Climber K drove us all back and I fell asleep for most of the ride.
I said goodbye to those guys and headed in. I hope
to get out with them again soon. As I write this I am
preparing to head out the door in a few hours to hit The Bell Cord and
Meeker's Iron Gates
In The Valley Below The Loft
A Pretty Waterfall
Leaving This Beautiful Area
To My 14'ers Page