A History of Andrew Riley vs. Long’s Peak
– 2004 –
I was 15 years old. My family was spending a week in Rocky Mountain National Park, and an Uncle and I decided to climb the tallest mountain in the park. We got three-fourths of the way up Long’s, past the boulder field and through the keyhole. We were beaten by the mountain on a small ledge. Where, cold, tired, hungry, and without the proper gear, we turned back.
– 2011 –
Now 22 years old, I met a Hungarian Climber–Agoston Viktor–while rock climbing at North Table Mountain. We proceed to have adventures every week: including skiing and snowboarding at resorts and in the backcountry and climbing everything from hard sport at North Table to trad routes in Eldorado Canyon. All this, with the ultimate goal of climbing and snowboarding Long’s.
– 2012 –
Now 23 years old, Viktor and I have been talking about snowboarding Long’s for a while. Some combination of obstacles (weather, snow conditions, schedules) has always prevented us from giving it a shot. Finally, as the winter snow was starting to disappear, we decided to ditch the snowboarding and try to conquer Long’s via a mixed ice and rock alpine climb called the Notch Coloiur. The plan was to meet Viktor and his friends above the tree line at a place called Chasm lake, camp with them, and then tackle the climb the next day.
I arrived at the lake right as the sun set and a wind storm started whipping snow and ice around at random. I looked around for an hour trying to find Viktor and his crew. I seriously considered bivouacking in a snow drift and trying to ride out the night. I might have, but there is a deep lonliness that seeps into the core of a person being in the mountains alone in a storm, it feels like you will never see another human again. Essence of fear.
So I turned back.
The next weekend Long’s got lots of snow. So Viktor and I switched back to the snowboarding plan; we would summit and then ski and ride Longs via the Lambslide Couloir.
The massive flaw in our plan was that the summit is not accessible via the top of the Lambslide, so we turned back. I carried my board for 9 hours for only a couple of minutes of riding. It was worth it. I don’t think I have ever had a more epic run of riding. It was steep, shooting down into the cathedral of stone, surrounded by the diamond and other towering walls of Long’s.
Some footage Viktor put together:
The next weekend (my 3rd straight weekend on Long’s) we decided to try to attempt the Notch Couloir again. We left Denver at 12:00 A.M. Saturday morning, arrived at RMNP at 2:00, and started hiking at 2:30.
After three hours of now very familiar hiking, we reached Chasm Lake. It was just before sunrise.
We hiked above Chasm Lake to gear up for the technical climbing above.
We kicked steps three-fourths of the way up the Lambslide, and then roped up and proceeded to start the traverse across Broadway. Climbing was slow. We were a party of three, and there was only ever one person climbing at a time. 1 pitch = 1 hour
By the time we made it across Broadway and into the Notch it was already well into the afternoon.
We were starting to worry about time, and all of us were tired.
At this point we started to get really stressed about time. It was getting into the late afternoon and we still had another couple of pitches to go on the Lambslide. We decided to simulclimb. I followed Viktor and took pieces out while he put them in. At one point we had only one sketchy nut placed for all three of us.
At this point Viktor hadn’t gotten to a spot to build anchors yet, so we took our last nut out and climbed the last pitch with no gear. No gear no fall.
We made it to the top of the Lambslide at 4:30 P.M. I would say I was exhausted, but my schema of exhausted was about to be redefined: I was a little tired. We were 300 vertical feet from the summit, but we didn’t have time to finish. It was going to get dark soon and we needed to go. So we turned back.
The way back down was absolutely ridiculous. It got dark, we got lost, crossed the worst terrain with no pro, had a lightning storm coming, lost gear, broke gear, and hiked and glissaded and hiked. We got back to our car at 1:30 A.M. Sunday morning. We were climbing on Long’s for 23 straight hours. Exhaustion redefined. Long’s peak by mountaineering standards is largely a story of failure. However, good for me, history is written by the victor, and it just so happens he’s my climbing partner. I’ll be back.
Update: Finally, late in the summer I climbed to the summit of Long’s via the standard Keyhole Route.