If the number of visits from UPS in recent days is any indication, something’s going down.
Our departure for Nepal and Ama Dablam is next week and with the steady stream of new gear deliveries it feels like Christmas around here. New boots, backpacks, crampons, gloves, overboots, down layers, base layers, sleeping bags and pads, one freshette (Google it), climbing gear, etc. You name it, Dirk, Christy and/or I just got it, new for this trip. And we need to break it in.
We decided to climb Kieners Route on Longs Peak. With all the new gear it probably looked like we had just walked out of the local mountaineering store. We didn’t care though, this route was a perfect shakedown. Exposure, mixed (snow and rock) conditions, ropework through stretches of 5th class climbing, all done in big bulky boots and taking all day, it was exactly what was needed. It’s as close to the conditions we expect to find on Ama Dablam right here, right now.
Dirk had climbed this route four times before, including what was reported as the first guided winter ascent, back when he was working for the Colorado Mountain School. I had climbed this route once before and Christy would be on this Longs’ Peak classic for the first time. She was excited to finally see the route firsthand. Her adrenaline got flowing right on cue, while on the traverse of the Broadway Ledge (pictured).
Once the traverse was behind us we had two roped pitches up to easier ground. On a nice summer day, and in light hiking boots or sneakers, its 5.4 rating is pretty easy. With big plastic boots, bulky gloves and snow on the ledges it becomes a bit more challenging and slow.
As we made our way towards summit, the beautiful morning weather became increasingly threatening. Before long, the afternoon thunderstorms that are a fixture of the mountain were all around.
Once at the summit, Christy took off her helmet and it was clear we needed to get moving. Dirk and I stared with concern at her hair sticking up, and she asked, with a tone of insecurity, what we were looking at. There was electricity in the air and it was time to go.
After 14 hours we were back at the car. It seems no matter how you go about it, Longs’ is a long one (check out our ski day here in 2005). Our feet felt as they should after all day on the trail and the new stuff passed the test. It was even looking slightly used which was nice. No one wants to be that guy at a major mountain basecamp with brand new gear.