Longs Peak / Kiener’s Route (June 1991)

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on Kodachromes. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the Kodachromes haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. This is one of those.

Long’s Peak (14,259 ft / 4346 m) is Colorado’s  15th highest peak, its northernmost fourteener, and the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.  It has become the most popular climbing mountain in the state, with as many as 100 or more people on its summit on a busy summer weekend!  Such was not the case, however, back in the early summer of 1991 when I coaxed Alan, my old climbing partner, out West from Vermont for a few days of nostalgia climbing in Colorado (where The LovedOne and I lived at the time).  Sort of a last hurrah.  He and I did a few fun warm-up climbs and then capped-off his visit with a climb of Kiener’s Route (YDS II, 5.4) on Longs.  Also known as the Mountaineer’s Route, Kiener’s is on the East Face of Long’s.

Being a little light on required permits (and wanting an early start), we hiked to a spot above Chasm Lake and spent the night in a stealth bivy behind a huge boulder.  Pre-dawn the next day, we cramponed up Lambs Slide, an icy 1,000-foot long, 50° snow coulior that heads south and up from the Mills Glacier.  From the top of the slide, we could see that it was going to be a clear, bluebird-perfect day for our climb.  We then did an upward traverse for about 1,000 feet along the Broadway ledges, which were completely covered with snow pitched at a severe angle.  For speed, we didn’t rope up here but just stepped along, mindful of the 800-foot freefall that awaited us if we slipped.  Half-way along Broadway, we came to the Notch Couloir and, roping-up, climbed it to reach the 3rd Class Upper Slopes.  Some wandering up these (some with roping due to wet rock), and some exposure at the Diamond Step (a 3rd Class step-around directly over Long’s East Face), soon brought us to Long’s surprisingly broad and flat summit.  And, yes, Dorothy, we could see Kansas from there. 🙂 After a snack and some gear re-packing, we descended via the standard Keyhole route, which wasn’t hard, just a little tedious and tiring.

This climb was a classic piece of mountaineering done in decent style (for our era) on a big mountain.  It proved to be the last technical climb Alan ever did, as deep water sailing consumed his spare time from then on (a little like William “Bill” Tilman).  I kept on with mountaineering until 2008, finally realizing that, while it had been a wonderful part of my life, it had, nonetheless, run it’s course.  But I wouldn’t trade the memories it gave me for anything in this world! 😀

The East Face of Longs Peak
Packing up
Hiking in to Chasm Lake
Climbing Lambs Slide
Early morning on top of Lambs Slide
Traversing Broadway
Looking back across Broadway
Approaching the Notch Couloir
Starting up into the Notch Couloir
In the couloir
Traversing out of the couloir (arrow points to Alan)
At the bottom of the Upper Slopes
Climbing the Upper Slopes
Nearing the summit
On top pf Longs Peak
One last summit shot…
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7 comments

    1. At that time, the snow, while steep, provided for solid footings. It also held our ice axes well, so we felt pretty good going across. Of course, if we’d slipped and failed to arrest, the run-out is an 800-foot cliff. 😦 I understand it’s less gripping in the summer, when most of it is grass-covered ledges. Definitely one of the classic climbs in Colorado. 🙂

    1. Thanks! I took a lot of 35mm slides back in the day but only recently has scanner technology gotten good enough & cheap enough to let me digitize them.

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