A day at Longs Peak in any season besides summer always starts the same. The normal start of getting up at 1:30 A.M. and trying to find a breakfast that will feed the thousands of calories you will burn off. While at the same time really wondering why you really do climb. The drive is always the same, the approach is even more the same and really gets old after doing it several times each year. It’s not until your a couple pitches off the ground on alpine mixed or rock that you realize it’s so worth every bit of suffering.
That’s how this day turned out. I met Jay at 2:30 A.M. and we headed off to go climb Alexanders Chimney (WI4, M4+). Jay had talked to Jack Roberts who was just up there. It sounded like it was in the doable shape, and I’ve had it on my list for a long time! The approach turned out to be dark and quite boring. Step after step in treeline you listen to the hurricane force winds blasting everything above treeline. You really wonder if your plans are going to work out. Right above treeline, we too got blasted. It is only October but it felt like the middle of winter up there.
We got to Chasm Lake as the sun was coming up. An alpine glow was accross the Diamond creating amazing colors. This is why it was worth it. Cold again, we kept moving. Progress was made slow with all the boulder hopping we had to do in a couple inches of snow covering up every hole. It makes you wonder which step you’ll brake your ankle but soon we got to Lambs Slide.
Jay has done Alexanders a few times and decided to let me have two out of the three pitches. We geared up and went a few hundred feet up Lambs Slide to the base of the route. I got to the base really excited. The setting, climbing, and just weather, everything was working out. Jay led a 30 foot steep mixed pitch to get to a position to take killer pictures of my lead on the crux ice pitch. The conditions were challenging with alot of snow cover on everything making progress on mixed terrain slow. You could not tell what was a hold or not.
I started off traversing and then climbing some mixed terrain for a bit until I was on the WI4 crux. The ice was kind of bad but a good screw could be found with a little search. It was my first ice lead of the season and what a good first one! Near the top I looked down and took in where I was. It was exposed, the Diamond to my right, a little spindrift, and myself quite excited.
Jay lead the next pitch which had lots of moderate ice and mixed. He belayed me up to the base of the crux pitch. I’ve always stared at pictures of this pitch. It’s kind of the most photographic part of the climb.
“You’ll cruise it man,” Jay stated. He also stated it had lots of ice so it would not be bad.
On lead I got to the crux chockstone. It was some weird climbing, kind of being forced in a corner. There turned out to be no ice at the crux making for a bit more of drytooling and challenging climbing. I put it away and Jay followed. Most people rappel from here as it’s sort of the end of the route. After a couple rappels we downclimbed Lambs Slide.
I stared at Smear of Fear the whole time. The top 100 feet has formed. Perhaps this year it will come in as I really want to get on it.
One other thing about Longs Peak. It always taked longer to descend then the ascent time. I don’t know why, maybe it’s in a time warp. The last .5 miles always seems like 2 miles. We got down at sunset perfectly content with our day. Some of the better alpine mixed I’ve had the priveledge of doing.