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Bumblies On The Hill


by Unknown

December 29, 2001

Bumblies on the Hill - Not Quite Kiener's

I dunno why, but Long's Peak has a strong pull for me. It's beauty is not really all that striking from many low elevation viewpoints, but I've always been able to see past the veils to the true heart of the mountain. I've spent so much time on it, the trenches of our love-hate relationship have gouged everlasting scars into my psyche. Back in '81, I'd only summited Long's once, via the North Face, but I'd failed twice already.

Craig was a summer intern at the school I was attending: CSU in Ft. Collins. He had done a little moderate rock and wanted to get into alpine climbing. Craig was about 5'9" or so and maybe 140, had long curly hair and a great attitude about climbing. He'd not climbed all that much, but his mentors had prepared him well with respect to safety, so, with his energy and attitude, we clicked. I hadn't climbed all that much either, but I was focussed on alpine climbing and learning more about leading. Being a poor grad student, I only owned one rope, a 45m 9mm, so I had to borrow an 11 forthis climb. But, for the first time, my rack had grown to the point that I could lead on my own gear without borrowing. I'd recently picked up hexes from 4 through 8 to go with my handful of stoppers and small hexes, plus another half dozen biners.

Craig and I planned our climb in the lab at school, and another climbing buddy of mine, Jonas, overheard. He asked if he could join in and we gladly accepted. Jonas was a big boy, maybe 6'2" or so and around 200, but he'd played soccer for years and was deceptively quick and tough. He and I bouldered away many hours at Rotary Park and I really miss his company these days. He had a great sense of humor and plenty of smiles to share. We both worked in the same group for Frank Stermitz, doing research on plant natural products in search of anti-tumor compounds. Jonas was the best pure chemist I've ever worked with and he has a heart of gold. When bouldering, you could trust his spots and this was long before people learned to deflect their partners into the pad pile. We didn't have bouldering pads so we learned to take care of each other.

Jonas was part of our bouldering team. Every Friday, he, Mark and I would head to Rotary or Duncan's or the Torture Chamber, etc., for a good session. One day, we met a guy named named Dave while we were toproping a highball at Rotary. Right off the bat, we could see that Dave was a total klutz. Little did I know that he would eventually become the strongest, boldest boulderer of our little clan. Back then, guys like John Shireman, Scott Blunk, Malcolm Daly and Mark Wilford were the strongest climbers in the area and they kept pointing us at harder problems as we progressed. It was a great scene, with plenty of friendly competition and many visitors that could blow your mind.

But our new addition, Dave, was the odd man out. He was nearly as tall as Jonus, but lighter, and overly quiet. I can't remember ever seeing him laugh at even Jonus's jokes - which had the rest of us rolling in the dust. Dave was his own guy and at first I underestimated his resolve, masked as it was by his klutziness. Later, he would drive me to the edge of my ability and we bonded in the process, but just barely. When Dave heard Jonus and I talking about Kiener's, he wanted in, so we decided to do two teams of two, with Craig being my partner. We pow-wowed over beers to plan gear.

Our approach hike was around 4 or so miles and a little over 2,000' vertical, so it was pretty mellow. We did it on a Friday, having bailed out of school at noon and had plenty of time to locate a bivy before dark. Back then, you could bivy on the east side of Chasm Lake, which we did. What a setting, looking across the still waters of the lake up the incredible east face of Longs - the Diamond. Back then, I only dreamed of ever getting on the Diamond... Our route went toward the south below the lower East Face, up Lamb's Slide, a couloir that would get us to Broadway. Broadway is a long ledge that separates the lower East Face from the Diamondand other high, majestic formations. Once on that ledge, we would traverse to the southern edge of the Diamond, then take the easiest route, Kiener's up alongside the Diamond, to the summit, then descend the North Face. Classic, easy mountaineering, as long as the weather didn't turn on you.

I was to sleep in my comfy, home made Gore-tex bivy bag, warmed by my thick, soft, North Face Chrysalis. I put my camera on my tripod at sunset. There was a huge electrical storm brewing in the Mummy Range to the north. Every burst of lightning would reflect off the Diamond, looking like the perfect backdrop for an alpine horror story. Throughout the night, I took longer and longer time exposures, finally getting 3 stellar shots. Match THAT, David Meunch! Towards morning, a freezing rain fell on our bivies. Jonas, Craig and Dave crawled under the obvious bivy boulder, but, with my weather-proof cocoon, I just pulled my camera inside and snoozed.

Sunrise found us packed and underway. The Diamond glowed an incredible copper-red and our shutters clicked as we oogled. The grunt up to the base of Lamb's Slide turned our unacclimatized guts but onward we trudged. The lower part was purrfect styrofoam and having a conditions report from the previous weekend, all of us but Dave had left crampons at home. Mistake #1. About 500' up the 40 degree snow, Jonas' rope slipped out of the straps of his pack and slid most of the way down. Mistake #2. Jonas is an excellent skier, so he glissaded down to the rope in a flash, then burned lung blood on the way back up.

Before long, the previous night's freezing rain had its effect on the snow and I had to start chopping steps. No biggie, Broadway was only 50' above. Then the ice got nasty and the steps needed to be deeper. Jonas rested up as I toiled. When I got to within 10' of the talus and dirt of Broadway, my way was barred by a large boulder sitting in the ice. It was about 4x5x1.5 feet and was laying about parallel to the ice. I went above it, then stepped gingerly to test it. It spun. I looked down at the base of Lamb's Slide and saw a group about to head up. I asked them if they minded if I trundled the boulder. No prob, they yelled, so I goosed it out. We'd already warned them to take cover, but they were casual. That is, until it got up on edge and began spinning, then hopping. Then they ran for their lives through the talus. The boulder was at Mach 1.7 when it hit the talus and it didn't stop for about a quarter mile. We could smell the flint odor for a half hour.

The traverse of Broadway to Kiener's is typically done unroped but the "rib-step-around" is always included in the beta. We bypassed it by going hand-over-hand along the flake above. The exposure down the lower East Face is about 800' and I'd never soloed anything like this before. Exhilerating, especially given the increasing amounts of verglass. By the time we reached the Notch Couloir, the verglass was treacherous. So I chopped steps a short way up the couloir since the other alternative was a verglassed slab that plunged to hell. Once on the other side, I saw that the usual start to Kiener's was similarly verglassed, so I kept going to the north along Broadway until I found the double bolt anchor. Above is an alternate start, supposedly 5.8 but more like 5.6. I lead a full rope length and brought Craig up. He climbed so fast, my arms got pumped trying to keep the rope up on him. Then I did the Kiener's Chimney lead as Dave prepared to lead up to Craig's belay.

As I mentioned, Dave was the odd guy out. He had many strange behaviors and one of them was the abhorrence of foot perspiration. Once at the base of the route, he began to debate whether or not he should change socks. He'd brought 4 pairs of spares. I told him to go for it, but to not dawdle. He dawdled. So I was belaying Craig up pitch 2 and he was still pfutzing with his socks. Once Craig was up, we butterflied the rope and began wandering up the slabs above the upper edge of the Diamond. The weather was looking grim, but holding. After a few hundred feet, we sat down on a comfy ledge to wait for our partners. We ate and drank much of our reserves, knowing that it would probably be too stormy to hang out on the summit.

Finally, Dave topped the chimney and I ragged on him to shag his ass and pointed out the weather. He told me he was going to change socks befor bringing Jonus up. I was not happy about that. So Craig and I began to think about the last technical pitch. But, rather than heading up, we waited until they got near, then ran up the remaining slabs. I had Craig tie in about 40' from me, set a belay for him, then did the easy traverse and mantle - the view down the top of the Diamond was incredible. I got a good boulder belay and brought Craig up. Craig told Jonas and Dave to tie into the remainder of our rope and I brought them all up. The storm was unfolding and we had to boogie amidst hail and way too much lightning. We tagged the summit and scurried down towards the North Face rap. I knew the way, so I took both ropes and went fast, set the rap and went down. I ran down a ways and dropped my pack, which had the ice axe on it, not wanting to be ground zero, then went up and spotted Craig's rap. Jonas was next, but Dave was changing his socks again. After yelling at him to hurry, I was pissed. A huge lightning bolt hit on the ridge no more than 30' from me. Granite schrapnel cut my ear and my ankle. Fuck you Dave, change your fucking socks, I'm outta here.

I skidded down the slabs, grabbed my pack and boogied towards the Camel. Dave was on his own. My ears would ring for 3 days from that bolt. Craig and Jonas were waiting below the Camel, uncertain of the route. From that position, they heard yells of help from folks on Broadway below the Notch. They were unexperienced and managed to get there but were too afraid to try to get back down. I told them about the enmergency box and told them to get insulated and out of the weather. We gave Craig all our spare water, split up the contents of his pack and he boogied down to tell the rangers about the stranded hikers.

Dave arrived and we worked our way down the talus to our bivy by Chasm Lake. We split up Craig's gear and guess who go the lion's share? Yep, me. Jonas took his empty pack and I got the rest. Dave was tired and his feet were too sweaty to allow him to take on any more load. So here I was, at 6', trying to keep up with two taller hikers, with me carrying an additional 30 pounds more than them. It was sort of a bad end to a pretty good day. Two hours later, we were at the car, drinking the beers I'd brought. Craig was happy and fresh and I was beat to shit. So I drank more than my share of the beer, and I figured that was good and fair under the circumstances.

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Live To Climb