Longs Peak Northwest Couloir Climb


With predictions of great weather (Sept. 09, 2012) we started our second trip up Longs Peak at the relaxed start time of 6AM. It pays to have a park volunteer as a friend since we still got a front row parking spot. Derald, Jim, David and I made steady time up the standard route until we split off on the Jim’s Grove Trail which is a local’s shortcut up to the boulder field. We then joined the end of the line of hikers up to the Keyhole. The sky was an amazing color of blue without a cloud in site.
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We had great views and after a quick break at the Keyhole we continued across the ledges.They definitely earned their reputation and David tried to not look down. Just before the Trough we saw the Horse head that identified the Northwest Couloir.
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It took some negotiating due to ice in the couloir but we managed to work our way up to the crux of the climb. Ice continued to be a problem and we held a mini-conference regarding if we should continue or head down to take standard route up. With David’s help we set some protection and I climbed up the 5.2 face to above the Pancake rocks and the Cave. I belayed Derald up next and he decided to slip up through the Cave. Next it was Jim’s turn and finally David brought up the rear. Whew! Next we had to find our way up to the top of the Keyhole ridge and finally to the Summit.
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The weather continued to hold and we lunched on the summit. We made it quickly down to the top of the North Face for our rappel down. With only a short delay as we waited for another team to clear the route we rapped down, again having to avoid ice. The rest of the hike out was uneventful but a great finish to a great day. All in all it took us a total of 13 hours from parking lot to parking lot.