Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Longs, Storm and Lady Washington

After being thwarted by Trail Ridge Road being closed Friday, we thought to shorten our Glacier Gorge Traverse by one night and decided to camp at Boulder Field on Saturday night, climbing Longs in the AM and then continuing on Keyboard of the Winds from there.

We got up to Boulder Field and it was very pretty and pleasant. We set about choosing which of the stone rings to camp in and soon found that it is difficult to get a tarp to pitch properly in them as they are too small to be able to properly tension the tarp. Also the winds were starting to pick up a little in the evening. Nothing like what they ended up being that night, however! I enjoyed a little bit of alpenglow, but not stellar and tried to get my new ND Grads to work, but found it difficult to position them correctly and didn't notice a striking difference. I was trying to handhold them, however, and will try getting a filter holder for the future.

Dinner was amazing as usual with loads of fresh veggies and yummy beans and couscous. 
We retired to sleep but by now the wind had really picked up and the tarp was making a huge racket and getting blown around quite a bit. To make matters worse I decided to go with my summer bike touring sleeping system. A 40F down bag and a synthetic insert I sewed up so we both fit in the bag. It was a bit cold at 12.5k ft in the tarp and summer bag and hard to get cozy. I didn't sleep much and at one point in the night I got up and lowered the ends of the tarp to as low as I could get them and re-tightened all the guy lines. As well I put anything dense and heavy on top of the tarp to take up some slack that way and keep it from whipping around too much. I tried to go back to sleep, but don't know if I ever truly got any. 
In the AM we got up to the smart people hiking by us on their way to the Keyhole. We started making breakfast and decided to break camp, but leave everything there stashed and come back this way after Longs and go back the way we came. The Traverse would have to wait for another weekend with better preparedness or better weather. As it was, all 6 of the others who camped at Boulder Field turned back that morning instead of their presumed goal of Longs. It looked like two of them got up Storm and Lady Washington on their way out which we followed a few of their footsteps later.
We went up to the Keyhole pretty quickly and found two people turning back there after they had gotten to the snow beyond and were unprepared without an axe. There was another fellow who ended up summitting after us debating whether to continue, he later told us it was his 18th time on Longs, but the first time in May. He was trying to summit in every month of the year.

We continued on the trail, impressed with how well marked, and also how technical it was. I was expecting it to be much more of a 'tourist' route, but found that it needed a fair bit of concentration and care. It was gorgeous to be looking over at Sikes Sickle, where I'd been climbing a few years ago and to see the immensity of the drainages.

The Trough was pretty easy to boot up, we didn't use our crampons the whole time, but were jealous of one parties yak tracks, that sounds like a good addition in the future to spring or shoulder season mountaineering kit. We got up the trough and were very impressed with the Keyboard of the Winds, I was expecting something a little more broad and less of a ridge. I'm not sure where people rappel down this, some day we will have to return in more agile footwear(we were in ice climbing boots) when the conditions are better to scope this out.

When we were just getting to the summit we saw the only other people to make the summit before us. They were on their way back down then. 
At the top it was surprisingly warm and still. On the way up we had been mostly in the shade and the wind was pretty strong, but now it barely blew at all. We enjoyed our time, walking the entire perimeter of the summit, amazing in how large and flat it is, and enjoying all the different perspectives.

The way down went quickly and we saw the fellow on his 18th time again. We got back to the Keyhole and decided to go for Storm. We didn't actually make the true summit, but got to right under the ships prow formation of rock and then came down to camp.

I found a marmot eating some of our cheese when I got there and chased it off. It was very brave and came back a few times to check it out, letting me get some nice pictures of it.

We decided not to spend another night at Boulder Field, so we packed up and headed out. On our way down we went up Lady Washington to get a better view of the Diamond before heading to Granite Pass. Just as we were getting to Granite Pass weather moved in and it started snowing.

On the way down the snow and winds continued.

It took awhile to finally get back to the truck at 9pm and the winds were blowing ferociously in the Bear Lake parking lot. I set my hat down on the ground while getting the keys and it blew away, never to be found. We spent the night sleeping in the truck and throughout the night we could feel the winds rocking the truck. It was the strongest winds not on a summit I may have ever felt. I was feeling very sorry for the party we saw arriving at Boulder Field for the night as we were leaving and hoping they had a very sturdy tent. 

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