Longs Peak winter attempt

26 Jan 2002 - by Doug Cook

With Colorado under a high pressure front and Denver temps forecast in the 60s for the weekend, I headed up to the Longs Peak TH with intentions of hiking the 12 mile round trip to the Boulderfield.

Conditions were dry, dry, dry and WINDY, WINDY, WINDY!

The trail below treeline is packed and snow in the trees was generally less than a foot. Above treeline, the trail was mostly dry down to the dirt with some sections covered with a few inches of drifted packed snow. As you break out of treeline, the route is not wanded (as it was last year anyway), and I had a difficult time refinding the trail several times. The air temp was around 30F (balmy for Longs) with a pretty constant 15-20 mph headwind accented frequently with gusts that pushed you around.

After being beat up by the wind for a couple of hours and starting up the long traverse to Granite Pass, I decided it would be a good day just to climb Mt Lady Washington. I climbed to 12,200 and decided, after being blown to the ground for the third time, that it was wise to head down the shoulder of Lady Washington back to Chasm Junction. At the Junction, I headed down the trail toward Chasm Lake to check out the beautiful, frigid area around Chasm Meadows. Columbine Falls ice is well formed, and appeared to be primarily snow covered WI 2-3. The ice above Peacock Pool (aka Dragons Breath) was much more than described in any of three ice climbing guidebooks and looked as fat as Lincoln Falls. It was a distinct, eerie blue in contrast to the snow and rock. Peacock Wall appeared to be at least two pitches of WI 3-5. There were tracks in the snow where a few ice climbers had made the trek in.

Dream Weaver and the Right Chimney (left and right of the Flying Buttress) were narrow ribbons of snow against the rock. There was a faint climbers trail up Dream Weaver. The gully below the Loft appeared to be completely dry except near the top at the headwall, which likely was part waterfall ice. Keiners and the Cable Route were practically wind blown dry. After gawking at the overwhelming views and the ever-imposing sheer face of the Diamond, I "sailed" down to the TH.

Per GPS, it ended up a good day with 9.5 miles and 2800 vertical in 6 hours.

No snowshoes or crampons required under current conditions. Hiking poles recommended, to avoid slipping on the packed snow and as a prop to remain upright in Longs "breeze."


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