Sunday, August 07, 2016

Kiener's Route on Longs Peak w/Derek, Homie, and Kyle

Derek climbed Longs Peak via the Keyhole Route when he was ten years old. He was my September partner the first time I did the Longs Peak Project. Until this year that was his only Longs Peak ascent. He found that to be unacceptable. This year we've done quite a bit to right things. Derek just completed his fourth ascent of Longs this year. Not only that but all five of his ascents have been via a different route and a different month. He's 5/12's of the way to a career LPP:

March: Cables/North Face
May: Notch Couloir
July: Keyhole Ridge
August: Kiener's Route
September: Keyhole Route

We had just done a tough 16-mile, 6000-vertical-foot run the day before, but the weather looked good and we had lined up two incredible partners. First, Homie. We'd done the run and the 10-4 the previous weekend with him and he's such a great partner to have in the high mountains. The fourth member of the team was Kyle Richardson, a junior at CU double majoring in Jazz and Business. He's also an extremely fit mountain runner and very fast climber/scrambler. He graciously agreed to slow down to our speed and even carry some gear for us (which he did not use) in order to help equalize our speeds. What a nice kid!

Homie picked us up at 4:15 a.m. and we picked up Kyle at 4:30 a.m. We were at the trailhead a bit before 5:30 a.m. and were soon headed up the trail. I led for a bit and then Kyle took over. His pace was hurting me, but I could just barely hang on. The lighting was really dim (we didn't bring headlamps) and I kept my eyes glued on his feet so that I wouldn't trip.

I took over at the front after a bit, so that Kyle wouldn't go too fast, and we made our way to Chasm Lake. Derek had never had to go around this lake before. On his previous visit he could walk right across it. We traversed around on talus and huge boulders and then up more talus, this time pretty loose, the other side. We got to the bottom of Lambs Slide and stopped to pull on Kahtoola crampons onto our running/scrambling shoes. We put on our helmets (except Kyle) and pulled out our ice axes. Homie and Derek put on harnesses. I didn't pull one on as we neglected to bring another. Oops.

Kyle did most of the step kicking up Lambs Slide and it was just barely soft enough to  allow safe passage in running shoes. Just as we started up I heard the terrifying howl of rock falling at high speed. I yelled and crouched down, but never saw the rock. I took over just for the very top to give Kyle's toes a break. two thirds of the way up, a softball-sized rock sped within a foot of my head. I never heard it or saw it coming. Before I even had registered exactly what it was, it struck Kyle in the hip. Ouch! If it had hit any of us in the head, we'd have fallen all the way down Lambs Slide. I was impressed that Kyle hardly made a sound and didn't lose his footing. I know, from experience, how badly that hurts. He had a mark on his hip, but carried on, seemingly, without being hampered at all.

I had to cut four steps across pure ice for us to gain the rocky ledges of Broadway. Here we put away the crampons and ice axes and then continued on the increasingly exposed and awesome Broadway to the start of the rock climbing on Kiener's. This traverse isn't very hard, but it is spectacular and if you's a 1000-foot fall to the talus below. We didn't trip.

Homie and Derek climbing up Lambs Slide
At the base of the steep rock climbing, we got out our two 30-meter ropes and our four cams. Kyle soloed above me and I led with Derek tied in at the other end of our first 30-meter rope and also tied into the rope leading down to Homie. We simul-climbed up 300 or 400 feet of beautiful, mostly solid, low-5th class climbing. Everyone was super solid. Neither Homie nor Derek needed a rope, but I insisted on it. I wanted Derek to do it once on a rope before he solos it.

I screwed up and dropped my belay device. The Petzl one I just bought. Dang it. At least it didn't hit anyone. At the top of the steep section, we put away the ropes and the gear and continued up via mostly beautiful, solid, ledgy third class climbing. This scrambling is tiring, as there is no reason to stop, but it is so fun to be climbing up alongside the Diamond to the top of Longs Peak.
Kyle leading the way on the Broadway traverse
We got to the summit 3h37m after we started. We took some photos and had a bit to drink and Homie signed into the summit register for us all. Then we headed down the North Face. At the rappels, Kyle downclimbed, then Homie rapped to the next anchors. Since I had dropped our only rappel device, I taught Derek how to rappel with biners. As he rappelled down to Homie, I downclimbed, since I had no harness or rappel device. We repeated the procedure at the next rappel and soon we were packing up the gear. Once again, Kyle chipped in and carried gear that he didn't even use.
Homie at the top of the roped climbing
We passed a team of four who roped up for the approach pitch to the Cables. They were still on their way up. A bit further down Homie mentioned that one of the two guys just below us was Jim Detterline. Jim has climbed Longs Peak 500 times or so (I'm still in the 70's) and I'd been seeing his name in the summit register for the last twenty years, but we had never met. When Homie, Mark, Tom, and I climbed Kiener's on January 1st, 2000, hoping to be the first team to climb Longs in the new millennium, we found that Jim Detterline has summited at 4:15 a.m. He really wanted to be first and he was. He also was on Denali the same time we were this past June, but missed the weather window and waited out his time with no summit (2 from his party did summit).
Climbing up the last steep section of upper Kiener's
We cruised down the rest of the descent with the conversation flowing nearly as easily as the miles. We took all the nice shortcuts and ran quite a bit of the lower part. I was driving this, I guess. I had promised the team that we'd do the roundtrip in six hours. I didn't want to be wrong. We finished in 5h54m.
One more summit for Derek and I
What a great day out on my favorite mountain with my son, one of my favorite partners, and now a new friend. We were back home by 1 p.m. Our perfect day was marred by passing a horrible accident during the Boulder Ironman Triathlon. A woman got hit by a car during the bike leg and was killed. We passed by well after the accident, but the clean-up crew we saw didn't bode well. I didn't find out what had happened until a few hours later. Tragic. With all the cones out there and so many bikers, how does that happen?

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