Rocky Mountain National Park
It took three tries before we were able to even get up to the Notch Couloir on Long's Peak. I had my eye on this route even before I had moved to Colorado, as it was one of the classic lines on Long's, but it took some doing before I finally was able to climb it.
All three attempts were with a friend named Stan. Our first attempt was in December of 1995. There had been only a little snowfall so far that year, and conditions for an attempt on the Notch seemed perfect. We headed up the long trail to Chasm Lake and the bivi spots below the East Face. It was cold and wintery, and it was after dark by the time we reached the bivi sites. We were looking for a cave that Stan had slept in several years back, but we overshot it by quite a bit, and ended up taking shelter among some large boulders. We awoke very early the next morning to very cold weather, and began to make our way up Lamb's Slide in the dark. Unfortunately, we misjudged the distance to the big ledge, (named Broadway ledge) and kept going up Lamb's slide until we were well past where we should have cut back on Broadway. A bit puzzled, we finally did cut back onto Long's and headed up a series of steep, ice-choked gullies and chimneys. After several pitches of ice and mixed climbing, we realized that we were nowhere near our intended route, and so we bailed out and headed back down. On the way down Lamb's Slide, we located the Broadway cut off, but by now we'd had enough fun for one day, and decided to come back another time.
Our third attempt was in Late September of 1997. Given our experience of the previous attempts, this climb went relatively smoothly. We found the bivi cave without much difficulty. We woke up early, and cruised up Lamb's Slide and found the Broadway ledge. It was hard to believe we had missed it on our first attempt. The guidebook said that crossing Broadway could be tricky and required a rope for some sections, but we never felt the need to rope up. There was little snow on Broadway, so it was mostly scrambling on dry rock. We finally got to the base of the Notch Couloir, and headed up it. The first pitch was soft snow, which rapidly gave way to a mix of hard neve and water ice. The climbing was pretty easy, as it never became very steep. We protected the climb with a combination of ice screws and rock protection. The narrowness of the couloir was comforting to me, and lessened the feeling of exposure. After about 4 pitches of ice, the route became dry, and we spent the rest of the time climbing without crampons; up some moderate chimneys and gullies until we could finally traverse right along ramps toward the summit. There was one puzzling section at the top, trying to get from the ramps up onto the final ledges which led to the summit, but we solved it without too much trouble. Then it was a casual hike up to the top. We stayed there for a while, accompanied by a couple of guys who had come up via the keyhole route. Then we headed down the old cables route for our descent. We rappelled from the huge eyebolts on the cables route, and began the hike down.
We celebrated with pizza at Estes Park, then headed back home. All in all, it was a good route,
and an excellent way to the top of the mountain that I see almost every day on my drive to work.
BACK TO THE CLIMBING/BACKPACKING MAIN PAGE