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The idea got into my head just this past Saturday. So I called Alan as he was heading back from Kansas and asked "what do you think about Keiners?" "Let's do it!" was the response I got.
It was 2:00 on Tuesday morning and we were just about to hit the Long's Peak trail to give one of the classic mountaineering routes on Long's a try. Keiner's Route is a brilliant line that ascends the east face of Long's Peak. It is actually the easiest route on the east face. The route begins in ernest above Chasm Lake. It crosses Mills Glacier, climbs Lamb's Slide, traverses Broadway, through Keiner's Chimney, onto the upper east face, through "the staircase," onto the north face and finally to the summit.
So there we were, staring the Diamond right in the face, and gearing up at the base of Mills Glacier. Once the sun was up and the chill gone from our bodies, Alan and I started making our way up Lamb's Slide. This is a moderate couloir that ascends towards The Loft (the saddle between Mt. Meeker and Long's). It was pretty hard while we were climbing it and we weren't able to kick good steps in so our ankles and calfs got fairly tired pretty quickly from using the French Technique and front pointing. We wanted to get off this snow climb quickly so we pushed it up Lamb's Slide and in half an hour we were at the ledges leading to Broadway.
This is the part I had been dreading. I had nightmares on Sunday and Monday night about this stretch of the climb. Broadway is a narrow ledge that splits the east face in half. At times it is only six inches wide and sloping downhill with an 850 foot drop demanding your full and ultimate attention. I have never been too afraid of heights, but this got me good. I was actually nauseated for a good half an hour and I couldn't get the thought of me falling into the abyss out of my mind. Luckily, Alan cheered me through the tough parts. One of which was an overhanging rock that left you only a couple of feet to go under. Some folks go around it hanging their butt over 800 feet of nothing, but not this hombre. I gladly did the belly crawl under this rock to the relative freedom of the other side. I didn't get a shot of this but you can see a shot that Barry got of Fabio when they did it last summer HERE. Yeah, there is only about 800 feet of straight downess to Fabios right. Broadway, while not broad by my standards, was named so because it gave (gives) climbers a well deserved haven of relative safety as they come off of some of the insane routes on the Diamond.
We were soon traversing under the base of the Notch Couloir and could see the start of Keiner's Route proper. The direct start begins right on Broadway. We built an anchor and I was soon leading the first pitch on Keiner's! I started off to climbers right of the real route as it gave the belayer a little more breathing room. So I had to make an interesting move to gain the correct dihedral. This was a little nerve-racking as I could look down at my feet and see nothing but 900+ feet of air between me and Mills Glacier below. Once I was in the correct dihedral there was a piton nailed into the rock so I clipped into that and took a sigh of relief. The next few moves were easy and I was soon above the first technical obstacle of the day...now we were having fun! Alan easily followed me up and he led the next pitch to the base of a chimney. We could have made this one single pitch, but I had no idea what was ahead so I played it safe and anchored on safe ground. Once I followed to the chimney, it was an easy 3rd class scramble to a nice ledge and the next of our challenges.
As we were climbing to the chimney below, a Colorado Mountain School guide and his client passed us. I talked to the guide for a bit and he said we could un rope above the chimney and scramble the rest of the way to the summit. So we put the rope away and started on 4th class rock to gain the upper east face. However, there was one move that was a little airy and back to the 5.4 range so we got the rope out just to be safe and were easily up and over this obstacle. We simulclimbed for a bit over 3rd/4th class terrain until we were sure we were through the difficulties. We then scrambled along the edge of the Diamond, stopping every-so-often to take in the views and remind each other of the route we were doing! "Alan, just look where we are!" "Can you believe we actually climbed this thing!" I would just laugh to myself thinking of how amazing this place, this route and this legendary mountain truly is.
Before too long, we were nearing the staircase that tops Keiners Route which dumps you onto the north face for a short scramble to the summit. Some folks rope up for this part, but it is nothing more than some 4th class moves in which you can avoid most, if not all extreme exposure. The "official" route takes you over the Diamond Step, about five feet below the move we did. The Diamond Step had you leaning out over the entire height of the Diamond as at this point we were at the very tip tip of this 1,600+ foot wall of granite. I didn't feel like playing that game again so we opted for the less exposed option. Just a few short minutes later and with smiling faces we were on the 14,259 foot summit of Long's Peak! This was Alan's and mines 4th ascent each of this mountain, but our first time on this route. In fact, Alan has summited every time by a different route.
We sorted our gear, enjoyed a warm Red Stripe and chatted with some folks on the summit before heading toward the North Face for our descent.
We made it down the North Face with relative ease, except switching to our second rappel. This was a little tricky as we were both perched on a little ledge trying to get the rope situated. I have it down in my head on a much better way to do this, so next time it should be a breeze. So, two raps down the north face and a long, horrendous slog down the Camel's Gully, we were back at Chasm Lake ready for the grunt hike back to the car.
16 hours after we set our on the trail, we sat our butts in my car and were headed home for a much anticipated night of sleep. Although I woke up about 5 times sweating bullets and thirsty as hell...I guess the long day did take its toll on me. It must have been the running of the last half-mile..oh well, it's always worth every bit of pain!
This is a day that I will remember forever! It is an amazing route on a classic mountain in my favorite corner of the Rockies. I will be back on this route again in the future, but have a few more to tick off the list in the meantime.
click to enlarge!
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