month 10 of the Long's Peak Project
My Saturdays belong to DerekÕs football games and yesterday Derek had his best game. He had two big punt returns, one where he broke six tackles. He played safety every play on defense making numerous tackles, defended three passes, and had two interceptions, both with big, 20+ yard returns. He played every down on offense as well, first, as wingback where they threw him a couple of passes and ran the reverse. Then our starting tailback went out with an injury and they moved Derek there. He had a number of great runs and scored a touchdown. His team, the Superior Mustangs, won 19-6 to finish the regular season 5-1 and division champions, but I digress. This is supposed to be about climbing.
IÕd wanted to climb the Dove for years. One winter we went in to climb it, but it was 20 below and we opted for the much easier and shorter Cables Route. The weather report for today was a 70% chance of snow, but I talked Ben Hoyt into it anyway. Ben always seems to be so excited about everything. HeÕs a very positive guy and a great partner because of it. We met in Boulder at 5:45 a.m., taking advantage of the lack of popularity Longs has in October. Last weekend Derek and I were two of thirty people to summit Longs. Today Ben and I might have been the only party to climb it. The weather turned out to be reasonable. It threatened to turn nasty almost the entire day, but never did anything. We even occasionally saw the sun. We started hiking around 6:50 a.m.
Ben has redpointed 5.13, sent V10, and led WI6. So when he told me he wasnÕt fast, I figured IÕd at least be the fittest one on the way up and down. Wrong. Ben was on my tail the whole way up and then I couldnÕt keep up with him on the way down. Damn, himÉ
We took a little over two hours to get to the Boulder Camp. We headed directly for the Dove snowfield. This is the snowfield that runs from the base of the north face all the way over to the Keyhole. The tail of the Dove heads up into a steep inset just below the Keyhole Ridge. There are two routes up this area: the Left Dovetail and the Right Dovetail. Each involves a mixture of snow, ice, and rock. We decided to do the Right Dovetail.
After gearing up, Ben led up the snowfield, kicking steps. We elected to go ultra-light and both wore running shoes and Kahtoola crampons. This was a bit marginal for the pure water ice we encountered. Ben brought a light alpine axe and I brought two technical tools. I gave one to Ben to lead the ice section and I followed with one tool and a tight belay. I avoided some of the ice by stemming up the gully on rock. I was pleasantly surprised how well the KahtoolaÕs performed on rock. On water ice they are nearly useless, but on rock, not bad.
I took the next lead and climbed up a near vertical chimney section with great holds, solid gear, and perfect rock. I set a belay just above and went through a bit of the screaming barfies as my feet thawed out. I had chemical heaters in my shoes and in my gloves and this belay was the only time I was seriously cold.
Ben kicked up another short snowfield and then we simul-climbed another hundred feet of rock. Ben had me on belay just before I had to climb the crux, a steep layback off a gloved hand jam. I was glad to have a tight rope for this move. Above we climbed some run-out slabs interspersed with big holds. I led up to the Keyhole Ridge and we traversed left until we hit a notch that put us right at the top of the Northwest Gully route. I had climbed that route with Homie in March. It looked to be in similar conditions now in October. Rime ice plastered the gendarmes up here.
The slog up the rest of the Keyhole Ridge was tiring and had me dragging. I realized that IÕd only had two Shot Block cubes since we started. I started eating and continued to do so until we gained the summit just before 1 p.m. We ate and drank a bit and I signed the register. It was 12th ascent of Longs this year, all by different routes.
The descent down the North Face was routine. Below the rappel and a bit more downclimbing, we were able to glissade the rest of the snow. We observed something strange to our left. Just left of the Keyhole is a steep monolithic wall. Beneath that wall is one of the wings of the Dove. We saw two climbers traversing along the top of this snowfield, just where it touched the steep wall above. Why they hiked in so far to climb sideways on snow, I could not fathom.
The hike out went smoothly and we returned to the trailhead at 3:10 p.m. doing the roundtrip in around 8h20m. – just under Derek-time from last week, so we were feeling pretty good about that. DerekÕs a monster in the mountains.
Ten months down and only two to go. IÕve got a month off before I have to tackle November.
And so it goesÉ
Photo 1: The GPS Trail went nuts durning the ascent of the Dove, but you can see the general area of this climb. The clean line is our descent down the North Face.