Monday, December 07, 2015

Completed LPP!

This is probably going to be sappy. Move on if that bothers you.

I passed Thanksgiving with my wonderful extended family down in Mexico and around our massive dining table we went, each saying what we're thankful for. We're always thankful for our wives, kids, brothers, sisters, parents, but this year I also brought up my friends. I am so deeply thankful for the friends I have and am a bit perplexed why I have so many unbelievable people by my side. I know I don't deserve it and I try never to take it for granted.

For our twelfth and final month of the LPP, Charlie and I chose to do Keplinger's Couloir. This was the route of the first ascent of Longs Peak and the route I used when I did the LPP in 2008. It also starts from the Wild Basin Trailhead, the lowest trailhead for Longs, and hence has the longest approach and the most vertical gain. Why such a hard finishing route? To add weight to the LPP. I think the LPP requires at least one ascent from the three major trailheads of Longs Peak, Glacier Gorge, and Wild Basin. And since I'm making the rules...

Confident that we'd succeed, Charlie and I sent out an open invitation to the Satan's Minions Scrambling Club. This is a club I founded with Homie, Mark Oveson, and Trashman to scramble and sometimes race up the Flatirons. It seems to have evolved into a vehicle for meeting elite climbers and adventurers, and a number of them joined in for this climb. Peter Bakwin, legendary ultra-runner and man who ran the Rock Hard, Hard Rock (look it up - it will blow your mind), did most of the work in the couloir itself. Jason "there's nothing I can't do" Antin, whose list of accomplishments is so long I hesitate to even list a few, but he's done the Leadman, second team to complete the complete Elks Traverse, Nose-in-a-day, climbing in Greenland, etc. Martin Le Roux joined me years ago to do a one-day winter ascent of Mt. Alice. He's climbed big mountains all over, including what may be the biggest mountain on earth: Mt. Logan.  Homie is, well, if you don't know Homie, you likely aren't reading this blog. When it comes to Colorado 14ers, especially in winter, he's one of the best on the planet. John Ortega has been a ridiculously fast trail runner with more than a few big victories. Stuart Paul is on his way to mastering every facet of climbing.

But of all these great partners, one still stands out, as the most easy going, modest strongman of them all: Charlie. I might have cheated and tainted my ascent of Longs this day by following in the footsteps of all these great guys, but that's okay, because I followed in Charlie's footsteps for twelve months. There is no way I'd have done this without Charlie. The real accomplishment is that Charlie did it with me! He'd have been faster with most any other Minion. I thank him for his patience and incredible camaraderie. I'm truly blessed.

My son Derek also was excited to join us and so it was nine of us that left the Sandbeach Lake Trailhead at 4:40 a.m. We went for about a mile and a half before strapping on our snowshoes. It took us two hours to get into the lake. Derek had already hurled, mostly from anxiety. This was an intimidating group for anyone, but especially so for a 17-year-old with no winter mountaineering experience in hand-me-down boots he'd never worn before and no training since tennis season ended. It turns out even for a young, athletic, tough kid, that's too many strikes against you. It was silly of me to ask him, but I love adventuring with him and he was so enthusiastic about it that I failed to think it through. Seven years ago when I did this with two other very fit, very experienced partners, neither of them made it.

Despite foot and knee pain and lagging well off the back, he wouldn't quit. Ninety minutes above the lake I had to turn him around. I felt terrible doing it, but he not only wouldn't make the summit, but I wouldn't want to leave him as we entered much more difficult and technical terrain and therefore I wouldn't make the summit. I had already thought about coming back the next weekend, but what about Charlie? I'm sure he'd just do it again with me, but... I put myself in a terrible, stressful position and then I turned my son around. He apologized to me! I asked him to come and I encouraged him to come because he seems a better version of me in every way. And he is, when he's fit. I just thought he was even without training. He promised me to be very careful on the way out, alone, and I turned with tears in my eyes to catch up to the rest of the team. When I told Homie, the first thing he said was, "You want me to go down with him?" The least worthy person in this group was me... Jason made the same offer when we caught the rest of the group. To offer to do such a thing after arising at 2 a.m. and toiling uphill for 4+ hours and finally below the climb, shows real character and deep friendship. I declined their offers, as I was confident Derek would be careful, he had a track to follow, and he'd meet Sheri and Kristen on their way into the lake. I also knew Derek would feel worse if someone else turned around with him. I had to show Derek I believed in him to descend solo.

Charlie and Jason did a masterful job of trail breaking, at an incredible pace over difficult ground. My hat is off to guys this strong. We finally arrived at the base of the interminable couloir and left our snowshoes behind. The team spread out as we all entered the pain cave, ascending difficult, frustrating rock, then loose snow, and finally hard snow, where we donned crampons and could finally move upwards efficiently. I'd push myself to go a hundred steps before bending over and taking 15 long breaths before I could move again. Near the top it was hard to go 25 steps. Charlie waited for me at the start of the traverse over to the Homestretch and I just followed in his and Peter's footsteps. A couple hundred feet before the top, Peter stepped aside and let Charlie and I finish together. That was cool.

On the summit, we were whipped by strong winds. We stayed just ten minutes and only had time for me to dig out my goggles and down twenty ounces of badly needed liquids. The three of us were just starting our descent when Jason and Homie reached the summit. Five minutes further down was John Ortega. Another five was Martin and another five was Stuart. All made the summit.

The three of us descended to the bottom of the couloir with heel plunging and a touch of dicey glissading. We took a break here to change clothes, eat and drink, and Jason caught us. We continued as a sub-group of four back to Sandbeach Lake where I was hoping to meet Sheri and Kirsten. I thought the odds would be no better than 50% because we were a bit later than planned and I thought they'd get cold waiting. They also had no floatation and I wasn't sure they'd make it in there.  Sure enough, they were there with badly needed liquids and greatly appreciated brownies!

Within forty minutes we were back in one big group and finishing off the champagne that Charlie had carried in for the celebration. After some group photos we plodded out the long 4.5 miles miles back to the car, doing the last ten minutes in the dark, but not turning on our headlamps so that Homie's prognostication of not needing them would be right. We got there just under 13 hours after starting.

While the Longs Peak Project might be a silly, trivial pursuit, it is our pursuit. While it also might not be a particularly challenging accomplishment, it was for me. I believe that Charlie and I are the only two who have completed it. Yes, that is largely because only about a handful of people have even tried. But that's cool nonetheless. What will I do next...? I guess that depends on which strongman I can convince to partner up with me. I'm trying to be pro-active about this and I'm grooming and training a new strongman now: Derek.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Right Dovetail - Month 11 of the LPP

Getting to the start of our first roped pitch

The Right Dovetail is very cool mixed route that ascends an impressive wall to the left of the Keyhole Ridge. It was our objective for month eleven of the Longs Peak Project. When I left my house the temperate was just 23 degrees. With the summit 9000 feet higher, I wondered if this was a wise choice - going for such a technical route in such cold conditions. 

Charlie and I met in north Boulder, as usual, drove to the trailhead. There is some construction going on here, but I doubt they'll make much progress until Spring. They even have the pit toilets roped off and locked. That seems dumb. I'd love to hear the thinking behind that.

I was dismayed with the weight of my pack. Actually, that isn't quite true. In my pack was a light harness, a pretty complete rack, crampons, two tools, 60-ounces of liquid, some food, spare clothes, a headlamp, and a SPOT. It wasn't that it was so heavy, it was that it felt so heavy. Trudging up the trail I wondered how the technical climbing would go.

We took the first shortcut and then just stuck to the trail, as none of the cuts were tracked. I was moving slower than normal. It was my first time in my double boots since our May triple couloir outing and I felt out of shape and clumsy. Above the Chasm Cut-off, traversing right along the slopes of Mt. Lady Washington on the trail, we came across three separate parties. 

The first, a couple, stepped to the side with the woman saying she was tired. So was I. I asked where they going and the guy answered, “We’re not sure, but hoping to check out Alexander’s Chimney.” “Oh, that’s cool,” I said, but you’re not heading that way. You need to take the trail towards Chasm Lake and eastern cirque.” They thanked me and turned around. I doubt they even made the base of the route.
Charlie leading the way up frustrating snow
The second couple was planning to climb Mt. Lady Washington, but were continuing along the trail, headed to the Boulder Field. I told them that if they really wanted to make the summit, they should just start heading up directly. There is somewhat of a climber’s trail that starts at Chasm Cut-off. Eventually all routes become boulder scrambling, but there is no need to hike away from the summit on a trail that barely gaining any elevation.

The third team was a couple of guys who had never climbed Longs Peak before. This is a bold move. Not as bold as those two Polish climbers trying D7 in winter for their first Longs ascent, but bold nonetheless. They were going to either the Keyhole or the North Face. I asked if they had ropes and gear and since they did, I recommend the North Face to them, but they were reluctant, despite having listed it as one of their options. They quizzed me about descending via Clark’s Arrow and the Loft since the leader had climbed Meeker before and knew the way down from there. These guys had been breaking trail, but we took over, or rather Charlie did. They quickly fell far behind and something told me they weren’t mentally committed. I predicted they’d get to the Keyhole, take one look at the shaded, snow-covered traverse and turn around. We saw them in the parking lot when got down, and that’s exactly what happened. They asked us, “What’s the trick with the Boulder Field?” Indeed.

Charlie ready to head up the first and crux pitch

There is quite a bit of snow up there, especially for early November, and it is completely unconsolidated. To move in the Boulder Field, you had to hop from boulder to boulder. Any time you stepped in the snow, you plunged way down. This made for a tiring traverse, mentally and physically. We took a short break at the campsites and then continued boulder hopping towards the initial couloir. We geared up just before entering the shade of the north-facing wall and then started the most frustrating and tiring part of the entire climb. 

Charlie led upwards, postholing to his knees most of the time and sometimes deeper, but it was worse than that, because even then nothing was solid beneath your feet. I followed in nearly as tiring conditions.  For the next 300 or 400 vertical feet, we waded through the worst snow of the year, for us anyway. We roped up when the couloir pinched down to about ten feet wide and became bare ice. Charlie led upwards and found the ice incredibly hard and very brittle. Ice chunks and shards rained down, fortunately just to my right. Charlie disappeared from my view, as the couloir constricted further and angled back to the left, but the rope pulled steadily through my belay device. After 190 feet he called down, “Off belay.”
Nearing the top of the first pitch
I started up and continued an incredible sequence of whines that started with massive foot discomfort. On the approach my feet were just killing me and I didn't know why. My boots are still relatively new and I really should get some custom fitted liners, as I was in some serious discomfort. As I started up this first pitch it was cold hands, but I'm whine about cold feet on the second pitch. I forgot to bring eye protection at all and would have whined about that as well, but we seemed to either be in the shade or have our backs to the sun all the time. That's the advantage of heading west at the start of the day and returning to the east.

The higher I got the colder my hands became. After I pulled out Charlie’s sole screw and then had to ball up my hands to try and get some feeling back. Further up I stemmed up a steep rock corner. I climbed as fast as I could so that I could finish the pitch and recover my hands before they went too far gone. I wouldn’t have climbed this way without a nice tight belay from Charlie.

At the belay I went through the screaming barfies. I had to defer the next lead to Charlie, as my hands were barely functional to belay. I put on my down mitts with big chemical heaters in each mitt and before Charlie was halfway up the next pitch my hands were back in business. This next pitch started with some snow and then some very nice, plastic ice. Why was this ice so much better than the ice below? Because it was insulated by an 8-inch layer of snow. It didn’t bother me that I could see my frontpoints or my picks, as they felt so solid. The second half of the pitch was all rock climbing and most of it was easy, but there was one dicey move where I had my crampons on a sloping foothold.  
Charlie near the top of the second pitch
With my hands back in working order, I took the next lead, which was entirely a rock pitch. I stowed my axes, but kept my crampons on, as there was still plenty of on the rock. I moved up steadily and the climbing got easier. I hit the top of the wall, where our route merges with the Keyhole Ridge and set up a belay. Charlie followed and led the traverse over to the notch, where we grateful felt the sun’s rays and unroped. 
This is me in about the same position as Charlie in the previous photo 

The last few hundred vertical feet to the top seemed especially difficult. I had to stop to catch my breath a number of times and so relieved when the angle finally eased. We made the summit just a couple minutes under seven hours. Despite my fatigue we didn’t stay but a couple of minutes on top. The descent to the rappels was tedious and tiring as we once again fought deep unconsolidated snow. More deep snow was below the rappel and I wondered if it was in danger of sliding. If it did slide, it would slide down to rock, as this was one completely loose layer. We careful worked down the snow past the fourth-class sections and then I sat down and glissaded as far as I could. I didn’t make it all the way down to the rocks due to the angle easing and the soft snow. We then started the endless boulder hopping once again, broken by a short break back at the campsites.
This is me leading the third pitch
We stuck to the trail down to treeline and then took some of the shortcuts, arriving back at the car after ten hours and twenty minutes. This was a tough ascent, especially for me, but even Charlie was tired back at the trailhead. It’s been quite a journey, but we’re now one step, one ascent away from completing the Longs Peak Project. For our last ascent we chose Keplinger’s Couloir from the Wild Basin Trailhead. This is the longest route up Longs, with the most vertical gain - 6000 feet and it will be in the month with the least amount of daylight. It also involves a mile-long trail-less, bushwhack through dense forest and big boulders. We’re going to invite all our strongmen friends to join us. You might think, “Who’s going to be interested in that?” but if you did, then you don’t know our friends...

Eleven months down. One to go.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Making a New Friend

Patrick heading up the crux pitch on the Bulge

In April I flew down to Las Vegas to climb the Rainbow Wall with Chris Weidner. I was really there to belay Chris on his free attempt and to have an adventure. I couldn't have climbed the route without extensive aid and that's how I climbed it originally years ago with the Toolman and Opediah. Following us up that route with John-Mark and Patrick. We hit it off on the hike back to the car, later that day, in the dark and met up once in Boulder for beers. Patrick and I decided to climb for a weekend in the fall that's what we just did. 

Patrick climbs a lot harder than I do, but he also enjoys in cruising moderate pitches (my speciality), so we were compatible. I picked him up at the bus station and we went straight to Eldo, where cold temperatures drove us into the sun and we warmed up on the Bulge. The Bulge is only 5.7, but it's confusing, indistinct, slippery, and runout. This didn't faze Patrick and we led the first pitch, placing one piece down low, in about two minutes. He basically speed soloed it, onsight. 

We swapped leads and were at the top soon after. On the way down, we threw my "intro to simul-climbing" link-up. Here Patrick led up the Boulder Direct (because Calypso was occupied) to the Reggae and then downclimbed the Bomb while I was climbing up. It was smoothly and we headed back to the car for food, water, and a bit more gear.

We then headed over to the Long John Wall where we found a couple of other parties. They had both started with the first pitch of Break On Through, as it seems most 5.8 leaders do not like the start of the Long John Wall. Indeed, that first pitch has a "no fall" section that is freaky, even for me and I've done it probably twenty times. The first pitch of Break On Through is better climbing, but because of the two 90-degree bends, it forces you to pitch it out. You can't simul-climb or combine pitches with this start. Of course, that isn't a drawback for most parties.
At the crux of the first pitch of the Yellow Spur
But the route was occupied and we were planning to use it as an approach to the Yellow Spur. What to do... We headed up Chianti with the initial hope that we could figure out a way down the backside. I also thought that we could climb that route, rap back down to the west and the climb Long John. Patrick led up the first pitch to the rotten band/ledge system, which is at the same height as the second pitch of the Long John Wall. I could see that the leader had just arrived there and figured, if we were fast, we could cut across and finish with the last three pitches of Long John. We did just that, with the permission of the other party, and  simul-climbed a bit to the top.

At the top of the Long John Wall I gazed over at the Yellow Spur, expecting to find a bunch of parties, like we did on Long John, but only saw a single party on the fourth pitch. "Sweet", I thought. If we could only get over there before anyone else arrived, we'd be golden. The one strange aspect was that the party on the fourth pitch was belaying at the bottom of the V-corner in a semi-hanging belay. This is strange, as there is a huge ledge ten feet lower and a bit left - the normal belay at the top of the third pitch. Or there is a nice ledge forty feet higher as the normal fourth pitch belay. This was unusual enough where I remarked to Patrick, "I wouldn't be surprised if we caught those guys."

We downclimbed off to the east, crossed the gully and hiked/scrambled to the base of the Yellow Spur. We geared up here and I led the first pitch. Patrick followed and led the second pitch and half of the third pitch, as he wasn't sure where it ended and didn't want to go too high. I finished off the third pitch and then traversed left where I was shocked to find the party still at their hanging belay! They might not have been the slowest party ever on the Yellow Spur, but they'd at least have been in the discussion.

With the belayer's permission, I climbed by and up to the belay on the normal 4th-pitch-belay ledge. The other team consisted of John and Dave. Dave was leading it for the first time and John, presumably, was the weaker climber, as he wasn't leading anything. John climbed by me and soon Patrick joined me. Patrick wanted the pin-ladder pitch, so after a few minutes I headed up the fifth pitch with the thin hope that they'd let us by. I turned the roof on the fifth pitch and continued up to a small ledge down from the pedestal belay occupied by Dave and John. They hadn't started the pin-ladder pitch, but weren't offering to let me by and I just stopped and set up a belay from an old pin and a #3 Camalot. 

I brought up Patrick and we spent a solid hour on this ledge. The weather was great and we took a siesta and chatted, but it eventually got ridiculous. Even John remarked about Dave, "He's kind of slow." Glaciers move faster. We weren't in any hurry, but we also weren't out to just sit on a ledge. We wanted to be climbing. Oh well. It happens. I surveyed the rock above me and figured that some Eldo hardman has put a route up this terrain, but I wasn't about to try it.

We waited until John was well up the pitch before Patrick led upwards. We did the Rearick Traverse instead of the direct finish just because it is so cool. I led the final arete and we caught up to John and Dave at the notch. Patrick and I descended back to the car once again for another drink and decided a quick simul-climb lap on the Bastille Crack would be the perfect end to the day. 

Of course, the route was queued. When we got there two parties were at the base, but neither had left the ground again. I inquired about their intentions and were told rather brusquely "Your third in line." I didn't bother asking if we could go first, even though we'd have held up these parties by less two minutes total. Instead, I walked east just a bit and started up Werk Supp on our doubled 60-meter rope. 

I led up Werk Supp's firs pitch with the intention to cut over to the top of the second pitch of the Bastille Crack and finish up there. When I tried this, I found a third party on it. I recognized this older couple from the gym. They climb hard 5.11 in the gym, but weren't too speedy on 5.7 trad. I backed up a bit and did the 5.8 variation to the left, joining the Bastille Crack on the fourth pitch, which I then followed to the top.

Patrick simul-climbed below me and we did the roundtrip in around 35 minutes, getting back to the base before the second queued party had left the ground. It was only four o'clock, but we'd had enough and headed for the showers.
Soloing the Direct East Face of the First Flatiron with Stefan
The next morning we headed out early for lap on the First Flatiron. Patrick had never climbed the First Flatiron and wanted to experience the full Minion-Style outing. Stefan at first said he wouldn't make it, but then couldn't resist the pull of the First and ran up to catch us at the base of the route. We had a great time climbing it and I had a chance to catch up with Stefan.

We downclimbed off the trotted back to the car and immediately headed for Eldo and the Naked Edge. I was a bit nervous even though I knew Patrick would lead all the hard pitches. I hadn't done much hard climbing since I left the gym in April. I'd done the Edge while out of shape before, though, and knew one way or the other (mostly the other), I'd get up it.

Since it was already 9 a.m. we found Eldo crowded. At the base of the Ramp Route we found two parties. One was in the process of climbing the first pitch of the Reguard Route and the other was waiting on them, enroute to the Edge. I found this curious with the Ramp Route right there, but didn't mention it, as it gave us a nice opening to get up there first. We shod up, I grabbed four cams off Patrick's harness, and I led upwards, telling Patrick to follow when I ran out of rope. 

I went up the Ramp and around the corner and found a women at the base of the 5.6 crack, belaying. Thankfully her leader was nearly out of rope and I expected to follow her up shortly. Instead, though, the woman couldn't communicate with her partner, Wendy, and was reluctant to pull her belay and start climbing. I offered to climb by and act as an intermediary repeater to bridge the communication gap. She said, "If you're comfortable doing that, yes, that would be great." I led upwards until I could yell up to Wendy and confirmed her partner was on belay. I yelled down that she could climb and continued upwards.

When I climbed by Wendy and told her what I was doing, she thanked me not once, but twice. That's a nice pass, when the other party is thanking you. I stopped in the shade below the 5.8 roof pitch because Patrick was moving slower passing the two women and I forgot to pull the large cam off of Patrick to protect the roof. When Patrick arrived at my belay I finished off this pitch to the base of the Naked Edge.

Patrick cruised up the first pitch with remarkable ease, seemingly finding comfortable stances to place gear. I knew better. They sure aren't comfortable for me. I followed reasonable well, falling off once due to pump. Patrick zipped up the second pitch and I followed cleanly. I led the third pitch and then Patrick led the 11a chimney pitch so fast and with absolutely no hesitation that you'd have thought he had it as wired as speed-record-holder Stefan. I know this pitch well and that knowledge helped me ascend it without falling...barely!

Patrick dispatched the crux fifth pitch efficiently, though with a bit of effort at the boulder-problem start. I asked him to belay at the top of the overhanging hand crack instead of finishing it to the top in order to give me a tighter belay. Gratefully he agreed to this. Following this pitch was my usual combination of pulling on gear, hanging on the rope, and whining. While the other pitches are very hard for me, this pitch seems to be 5.12 for me. I just suck at it. I started off intimidated and mentally beaten and proceed to get physically crushed as well. I should start working this pitch again. There is obviously so much for me to learn here.

I finished off the 5.6 to the top and we headed down the familiar slabs. Patrick said he had enough rock climbing and wanted to bag a peak, so back to the Flatirons we went. We parked at the Gregory Canyon Trailhead and then went and scrambled the Second Flatiron via Free For All to the cool Tunnel section and finishing on the very exposed and committing Freezeway to the summit. We downclimbed off and then hiked up Green Mountain via the direct path behind the First Flatiron. 

After a short rest on top to drink the water we carried and enjoy the view, we trotted down the Ranger and Gregory Canyon trails back to the car. Patrick packed up his gear and I dropped him back at the bus station 20 minutes before it was due to leave. It had been a great 36 hours with Patrick. We vowed to do it again in the Spring. It looks like I've gained another friend and climbing partner, so that was the huge win for the weekend.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Longs Peak Project: Month Ten

Winter has returned to Longs Peak and with it, the screaming barfies to my hands.

Chuck Charlie and I viewed a sun-drenched, dry, impressive West Face of Longs Peak two weeks ago when we did the Glacier Gorge Traverse. I knew the face held some moderate (5.7 and easier) rock routes and I'd never done a route there before. That was to be our October ascent.

The thing snows on Longs Peak. Pretty much every month of the year. The only difference is in our long that snows sticks around. In October, in the shade, it isn't going anywhere until April or May or June. And get this, west faces don't get any sun until the afternoon! Who knew?
The Boulder Field
We met in Boulder at 5:30 a.m., which means 5:25 in Bill/Charlie speak apparently, as we always arrive early and always within 60 seconds of each other. It was my turn to drive and Chuck Charlie piled into my car. On the drive up there Charlie regaled me about his fancy new mountain bike and how he could have spent $5000 more dollars and saved two pounds. We both agreed this was pretty ridiculous and concluded that the rider should just lose pounds off his fat ass instead. But then I realized, in horror, that might mean cutting back on donuts. All of a sudden I could see the reason in spending the extra five G's.
Nearing the Keyhole
At the trailhead Chuck was ready to go in a flash, but I had to visit the Little LPPer's room. Still, we were hiking one minute before 6:30 and I was $2500 dollars lighter.

On the way up we passed a number of people coming down. They had got to the Keyhole and took one look at the snowy, icy, shaded ledges leading over to the Trough and turned around. This showed great judgement, as none of them carried Microspikes and didn't have the experience for such a dangerous ascent. Just last year a friend of mine died on this traverse. Later that day, on our descent, we'd learn of a lost hiker/climber named Spencer who has been missing since Friday. I cringe at what the probably means.
Nearing the top of the Trough
We passed a team of about ten climbers on the way up to the Boulder Field. They were all headed for the North Face / Cables Route. We'd see them again on our descent. They didn't have Microspikes either...

We spiked up at the Keyhole and moved cautiously across the frigid ledges to the Trough. The temperatures, snow, ice, and shade quickly dashed any thoughts of a West Face route. We hoped to salvage things by ascending the Southwest Ridge, a highly recommended, 3-pitch 5.4 route that starts at the top of the Trough and makes a beeline for the summit plateau.
Crux dihedral on pitch one.
We geared up at the base and I slipped some chemical heaters into my gloves before leading off on the first pitch. We didn't put on the climbing shoes we carried, as it was too cold and too snowy. Instead, we climbed in our running shoes and Microspikes - a sort of ultralight mixed climbing footwear. The crux corner had me completely desperate because my hands were so cold I could barely use them to grasp the holds or place gear. When I got to the ledge atop the corner and hit the sun, I immediately set up a belay and endured ten minutes of intense pain. My hands were just returning to normal when Charlie arrived. His hands were cold too, but has a distinct advantage over me: he's not a wimp. In just a minute or two he was good to lead the second pitch.
At the top of pitch one
Chuck Charlie scampered up ridge and soon 200 feet of rope was gone from my feet. I pulled our one-cam belay and headed upwards. The first corner was in the shade and while there was a decent hand crack in the corner the slabs were smooth and I tugged mightily on the #2 Camalot Charlie placed. I eased my conscience with my favorite rationalization: "This is alpine climbing. Anything goes." I find I'm doing more and more alpine climbing these days on sunnier and sunnier rock that is closer and closer to the road.
Jazz hands or ten months completed?
We coiled the rope and scrambled the last fifty feet to the summit. On top we met a guy who had come up the Loft and was going to descend the Keyhole Route. I would bet that he was the only other person that made the summit today. The summit register on Longs is a bit of mess and we didn't bother to sign it and, after a quick sip and a bite, headed down the North Face.
Above the clouds
We moved slow and cautiously, still in our Microspikes, as the snow face had a lot of snow on it. We saw the group of ten below at the base of the crux pitch and when we got close they yelled up for us to be careful. Amazingly, we were able to negotiate the loose ledges without knocking down a single pebble. I wish the Bozos that climb up the North Chimney to the Diamond would learn these techniques...

We looped our 60-meter, 7.8mm line over the eyebolt at the top and I rapped down the line, stopping when I got to the lead climber below who was in the process of rapping off a marginal sling he'd placed. He was retreating from thirty feet up the pitch. He had no traction, no spikes, no crampons and it was the right call. He'd led the pitch before and said he leads 5.8 on a good day, but this was "alpine conditions" so, you know what that means: Bill gets to pull on everything in sight! Wait, no, it means it's harder to climb than when it's dry. I downclimbed the last twenty feet, as a 60-meter rope doesn't get you all the way down. I know the descent well, though and stemmed and jammed my way to the ground. Charlie stopped at the intermediate eyebolt and did a second rappel, retrieving the lead climber's sling and biner for him. We then gave all ten of these guys the hard sales pitch for Kahtoola Microspikes. If we didn't sell ten pairs right there, I'd be surprised, as we then demoed them by downclimbing the icy 4th class section that they were setting up to rappel. We were down at the privy in the Boulder Field before half of them were down this 100-foot section.
Looking back up at the North Face after descending it.
The rest of the descent was smooth and we mostly stuck to the trail, except when rational thought precluded it. We took Jim's Grove and all the short cuts and were back at the car 8h21m after we had left. We feel we can now definitely answer the question of "How long does it take to climb Longs Peak?" I'd always wrestled with that question when asked by hikers. "Uh, it depends on what route you take, what month you do it, how fit you are, etc." It turns out that none of that is true! It takes eight hours and change to climb Longs Peak. Period. It doesn't matter what route or what month. At least for Charlie and I. Strange, huh?

Yeah, yeah, there are some exceptions.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bagging Peaks and Ticking a Goal

I'm very goal oriented. My goals might be modest, but I really like having projects and a ToDo list that can direct my activities throughout the year. Each January I make up a list of goals in a whole bunch of different categories. I usually don't do that well against them, as I'm overly ambitious in my planning and overly lazy in my execution. But I do it nevertheless.

One of my goals for this year was to climb 52 unique summits. These didn't (and weren't) have to be peaks I had never climbed before, I just wanted to average a new summit each week for a year. Of course, I started off way ahead of pace by bagging all the local summits: Green, Bear, South Boulder Peak, Flagstaff, and Sanitas. As you can see, my definition of summit was somewhat liberal. Any named highpoint was considered valid.

Yesterday, I completed this goal with the first summit (Half Mountain) of our Glacier Gorge Traverse. I then did nine more new summits for the year. Longs didn't count at this point since it was my tenth ascent of that peak this year. Here is a list of my totals to date. First, and most important, my partners:

Unique PartnersNumber of Ascents with them
Mark Oveson14
Charlie Nuttelman18
Chris Weidner2
Jason Antin3
Will (new minion)1
Marcus (new minion)1
Corey Kline4
Mallory Oveson3
Jon Ortega2

I've done 128 summits this year, but many are repeats due to the Longs Peak Project and my other goal of climbing the five local peaks in each month of the year. Here is the complete peak list to date:

DatePeakNotesNumber of Ascents
1/1/2015FlagstaffFirst person to top out Flagstaff in 2015. Nicely packed trail until I went off-trail for the summit. Then snow nearly up to my knees17
1/2/2015Mount Lady WashingtonCold, but no wind. With Mark Oveson. 5h20m for the roundtrip.2
1/3/2015South Boulder PeakCombined with Bear Peak. Packed snow all the way. Went easy the entire time11
1/3/2015Bear PeakSee above8
1/4/2015SanitasDid a cool loop to the west. Cold: 12 degrees9
1/6/2015Green MountainWith Homie. Up normal route and down via First Flatiron route. Microspikes the whole way up and down.16
1/10/2015Estes ConeWith Mark and Octavian1
1/29/2015Longs PeakWith Charlie Nuttelman10
1/29/2015Mt. MeekerWith Charlie Nuttelman2
2/15/2015Coal Creek PeakSolo, all off-trail. Avoided snow mostly1
2/15/2015Crescent MountainSolo, all off-trail. Avoided snow mostly, except near the very summit where I did a bit of postholing. Took it slow1
3/22/2015Independence MonumentWith Derek, Arthur, and Homie1
3/23/2015Ancient ArtWith Derek, Arthur1
3/24/2015Assembly HallWith Derek, Arthur, and Homie1
3/25/2015Window Blind PeakWith Derek, Arthur, and Homie1
3/29/2015Twin Sisterssolo1
4/19/2015Rainbow Mountainvia Rainbow Wall w/Chris Weidner.1
4/20/2015Juniper PeakLinked two rock climbs to the summit with Chris Weidner.1
5/2/2015Wigwam PeakIn the Lost Creek Wilderness with Homie, Mark, and Charlie1
5/2/2015Buffalo PeakIn the Lost Creek Wilderness with Homie, Mark, and Charlie1
5/2/2015The CastleIn the Lost Creek Wilderness with Homie and Charlie. A dicey 5.6, bouldery, scramble in my hobnail shoes1
6/7/2015Wheeler Peak, NevadaIn Great Basin National Park with Derek. Cold, windy, and no visibility on the summit.1
6/9/2015Half DomeSnake Dike with Derek1
6/10/2015Lembert DomeHiking and scrambling with Derek1
6/12/2015Cloud's RestMy Favorite Things with Derek1
6/13/2015Boundary PeakHighest peak in Nevada - with Derek1
6/25/2015James PeakEarly morning ascent with Mark1
6/29/2015Eldorado MountainSolo. Found a good trail up the lower part and then a decent route at the very top. The steep section in between is difficult and tedious1
7/3/2015West Spanish PeakWith Sheri and Derek. Fun, casual hike. Top part is steep and loose, but not too bad.1
7/4/2015Wheeler Peak, New MexicoWith Sheri and Derek. Super fun, beautiful hike.1
7/4/2015East Spanish PeakWith Sheri and Derek, after Wheeler Peak - huge day. Raced the darkness on this one, not starting up until 2:40 p.m.1
7/10/2015Handies PeakWith Sheri and Derek1
7/12/2015Sneffels PeakWith Derek1
7/15/2015St. Vrain MountainWith Corey, Jon Ortega1
7/15/2015Meadow MountainWith Corey, Jon Ortega1
7/22/2015Mt. AudubonWith Corey and Mark1
7/29/2015Gannett PeakWith Derek - awesome!1
7/29/2015Miriam PeakWith Derek1
7/29/2015Dinwoody PeakWith Derek1
8/1/2015Grand TetonWith Derek - Major crowds, a couple doofuses1
8/3/2015Granite PeakWith Derek1
8/3/2015TempestWith Derek1
8/5/2015Pawnee PeakWith Mark1
8/8/2015ApacheWith Mark, Derek, and Mallory1
8/8/2015Dicker's PeckWith Mark, Derek, and Mallory1
8/8/2015NavajoWith Mark, Derek, and Mallory1
8/22/2015Green Mountain (RMNP)With Sheri1
8/22/2015Nisa MountainWith Sheri1
8/22/2015Mount PattersonWith Sheri1
8/23/2015Mount IdaWith Sheri1
9/6/2015Mount AnteroWith Sheri, Derek, and Danny1
9/20/2015Half MountainWith Charlie Nuttelman1
9/20/2015Storm PeakWith Charlie Nuttelman1
9/20/2015Pagoda PeakWith Charlie Nuttelman1
9/20/2015Chiefs HeadWith Charlie Nuttelman1
9/20/2015McHenry's PeakWith Charlie Nuttelman1
9/20/2015Powell PeakWith Charlie Nuttelman1
9/20/2015Taylor PeakWith Charlie Nuttelman1
9/20/2015Otis PeakWith Charlie Nuttelman1
9/20/2015Hallet PeakWith Charlie Nuttelman1
9/20/2015Flat Top PeakWith Charlie Nuttelman1