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Kiener’s Route, Longs Peak

Kieners in red (photo from May 2010)

We met at 1am in Estes Park, confirmed we had the needed gear, and drove off into the night.  Steve and David had been in Estes a total of three days, fresh in from New York City, and were acclimatizing as best they could.  Two days before, on the 18th, we had driven up on Trail Ridge Road for easy access to rock, snow, and altitudes exceeding 12,000′.  We’d worked on ice axe and crampon techniques, climbed some steep snow, and then climbed a 400-500′ ridge of technical rock below the Rock Cut.  Kieners isn’t an easy route, demanding a wide variety of skills, but after seeing these guys in action on the 18th, I knew they’d do great.

We began hiking at 1:30am and by 4:30am were gearing up at the base of Lambslide, a 40-45 degree couloir that accesses Broadway Ledge, the middle portion of our route.  Temps that night never reached freezing so Lambslide was still soft but that gave us good edging and steps most of the way up.  Sunrise at 5:40 greeted us on the southern edges of Broadway, where we stopped to soak up the rays, rest our legs, rehydrate, and get a bite to eat.

Broadway is amazing!  The further along you go, the greater the exposure as the Lower East Face drops precipitously away below your heels.  We enjoyed dry conditions all the way across to where the Ledge intersects with Upper Kieners.  Soon we were climbing Longs’ perfect, dry granite in one of the most amazing settings in the Park.  400′ of climbing took us through the crux of the day and into the fatiguing scrambling that would eventually deposit us on Longs’ broad summit.  Perfect, clear, warm, calm weather allowed us to revel in the summit views for nearly 30 minutes.  The Front Range far below was socked in under a cloud all day; to our east the valleys and plains were covered under this blanket and made us seem so much higher.

Then we were off, descending the North Face, another technical route.  Careful scrambling above the 2000′ Diamond brought us to the first of our rappels.  Steve and David cruised through with no problems and we were able to pack away the technical equipment while checking out the stunning vista from Chasm View.  The altitude was finally catching up with Steve and David so we hustled down to the Boulderfield and then to the trailhead.  Our round-trip time was just under 13 hours, an excellent time for any roped team especially for guys from sea level.  The weather couldn’t have been better, the conditions were great, and we had a great day enjoying a fun climb on an amazing peak.

To see more photos from this trip, please visit my personal blog:   Longs Peak and other mountains in the Park are in awesome shape right now; take advantage of the good conditions and come enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park this summer.
Andrew Councell
AMGA Rock Guide and year-round Guide for CMS

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