This was my first outing with Tom in a long time, as he was concentrating on the Grand Traverse ski race up until a few weeks ago. We’d climbed many mountains together, though, and had been partners for over 25 years. We were hiking out of the Longs Peak parking lot a little before 6 a.m. One minute up the trail we passed a party of two heading for Kiener’s Route. They were already shedding clothes. Further up the trail we passed a team of two heading for Dream Weaver. Then, just above treeline, we passed a couple of guys descending, telling us, “It’s pretty windy up there.” “Pretty windy” is a relative term and to an experienced winter-Longs-Peak-climber this was a light breeze. I didn’t even need to put on my shell.
When we hit treeline I was mildly surprised to see how much snow was up there. Tons. The trail, usually quite visible all winter long because of the high winds blowing the snow off, was completely buried and the track leading upwards wasn’t anywhere near it. To go off this track meant plunging in to your knees or deeper. We followed this track to Chasm Cut-off and then followed what looked like a single set of posthole tracks across the steep slopes of Mount Lady Washington. We could see climbers heading up the Loft and figured they must have put int eh track. It must have been grueling and they must be experiencing the same snow conditions over there, but they turned around just above the privy. We never saw the Dreamweaver team and figured they bailed as well.
Tom and I took the high traverse to Chasm Lake, forging our own track. This was very physical, as the snow conditions were about as frustrating as possible. I was breaking trail here and I step onto the crust of the snow and then nearly step up before breaking through and plunging in to my knees. Hence, each step I had to gain the elevation twice. So, the three hundred feet of climbing to Chasm felt like 600 feet, through knee-deep snow. I led us up to the base of Martha’s, as Tom had never climbed it before. He’d do the leading today, as I wasn’t supposed to be jarring my eye, so he was about to take over the bulk of the work.
|Tom approaching the bottom of Martha's|
|The lower crux|
We continued upwards on this really moderate and really fun climbing for about 600 feet, when we encountered our first water ice section. This was the same location where Charlie, Jason, and I got out the rope last June. This time it wasn't dripping, steep rock, though, it was ice. Thinking it would be a short section or that we'd simul-climb the rest of the way, I had Tom tie into both ends of the rope, so that I'd only be 100 feet below him at maximum. This turned out to be not my best idea.
|Tom at the crux. I'm hiding under this boulder.|
|Tom about to engage the vertical ice.|
|Tom finishing up the last bit of Martha's.|
|Brutal postholing to the summit.|
|Tom on the summit of Mt. Lady Washington|