Longs Peak North Face Climb and Ski Descent

I’ve been trying to get a ski descent of Longs done for a while now. A few years ago an attempt was cut way short by logistical errors. In March of 2009, I made the summit but the mountain was bone dry above the top of the trough. A couple weeks ago it looked like conditions would shape up, but wintery conditions through May kept pushing off any attempts. I’ve been talking for over a month about trying to get Longs skied this year and putting out feelers, and a couple weeks ago got word that Kim was interested.

Not being content to simply rest up for the climb, I worked Thursday night, got a few hours of sleep during the day, went to a concert at Red Rocks, and then drove to Boulder to pick up Kim for the climb. We got started at 1:00am, and two quick miles changed in to ski boots (in retrospect we could have stuck in hiking shoes most of the way to the climb). Kim sliced her finger open on her boot, but fortunately was able to patch it up with some toilet paper and duct tape.

It was a beautiful clear night – very calm winds, no clouds, no moon, and bright stars. I often forget why I do the things I do, and in the manner that I do them (for example, start climbing in the middle of the night) but I always get reminded of the reason quickly.

The pace was kept comfortable. We didn’t want to be too slow and late, but neither did we want to be climbing the technical section in the dark. The air below us started to get a little hazy – we would later learn that this was the beginnings of the smoke we’d receive from the large wildfire in Arizona.

It was here that we got our first good view of the line we were about to climb and ski.

I’ve never had such an easy time crossing the boulder field here. Normally a huge field that takes some time to cross while hopping from boulder to boulder, it was entirely filled in with snow and the large boulders were reduced to tiny bumps (at most).

The sun hit with near-perfect timing as we arrived at the base of the climb.

Sunrise is usually best from the summit, but this wasn’t something I could complain about.

The climb is incredibly aesthetic, as are most on Longs.

I was having an absolute blast, and Kim seemed to be enjoying it as much as I did.

Though the chances of a slip leading to a fall over the edge of the Diamond are small, they are there – which adds a bit to the excitement.

The choke in the middle wasn’t terribly easy, in large part due to the snow being rock hard. My Venom axe would have been useful, but I made it through with dual whippets without much trouble. I can certainly see why it’s rated at 5.4.

A bit more snowclimbing and we found ourselves alone on top, in beautiful weather.

This was Kim’s first time on top of Longs, and my seventh.

It was gorgeous on top, in all directions.

Photo Courtesy of Kim Ross

After an hour or so, the snow had started to soften and we decided to head down.

Photo Courtesy of Kim Ross

Kim was pretty excited to start down on the line, and certainly won the “heaviest skis of the day” award.

I dropped in first, and took our ascent route verbatim. I had grossly overestimated the width on the way up plus the snow hadn’t softened much in that particular spot, so I had a challenging couple hundred vertical feet to start things off.

Photo Courtesy of Kim Ross

Kim took a slightly different route, and seemed to enjoy herself quite a bit more off the top.

Though I didn’t envy her skis during the climb, I certainly did on the descent.

It’s always fun skiing down past climbers.

The snow had softened considerably at the choke, which actually made the downclimb much easier. Because I was having so much fun, I downclimbed it, reclimbed it, rigged a rappel through one of the bolts, and rapped down. So much fun. Kim elected to only do it once.

A 30m rope was perfect for today. During dryer months, I’d suggest a 50m or longer.

There was still more skiing to be had, enjoyably close to the edge of the Diamond.

You can make out our tracks if you look close enough.

Unfortunately, ski mountaineering in June almost always requires lots of downhill walking. This day was no exception, but the suffering was made much more bearable by knowing we’d just skied an amazing line on an amazing mountain.

3 thoughts on “Longs Peak North Face Climb and Ski Descent

  1. Hi Guys, jut pik up your link from twitter after searching for north face. What a impressive climb and ski down. Looks great over there. All the best Darren (UK)

  2. Why is it always fun skiing past climbers? We bumped into you on our way up(2 skiers and 1 board) Hope your descent was good. Ours was like butter!

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