Brian and I climbed the Notch Couloir on Longs Peak's east face. Some refer to this route as the most spectacular snow climb in Rocky Mountain National Park. We climbed conservatively and ended up doing 8 pitches from the start of Broadway to the Notch. Overall, it was a sketchy traverse followed by a steep snow climb. Although I did get one short screw in right at the top of the dogleg right, we only encountered a couple very short sections of thin ice near the rock steps.
I got up at midnight after a couple hours of fitful sleep and picked Brian up at 12:30. We were hiking up the Longs Peak trail by 2:20. It never ceases to amaze me at how fast the hike up this trail goes but how long it takes to hike out. We made good time to Chasm Lake in about 2.5 hours. I put on my boots, and we circled around the north side of the lake to the base of Lambs Slide. The temperatures were chilly but tolerable. Some spindrift was coming down the Notch as we geared up and watched the sun rise. The snow conditions on Lambs Slide were nearly perfect and we quickly made our way up to Broadway.
We scrambled a short section of Broadway before deciding to rope up for the remainder of the traverse. Brian took the first lead placing one piece of gear and a snow picket before we had to simul-climb about 40 feet for him to get to a nice belay station. This first roped pitch was on a very snow-covered ledge of Broadway which certainly grabbed our attention early. On the next pitch, I had a couple of tricky moves to make in order to get to a more negotiable section of the ledge. I got a couple of nice pieces of gear in and also clipped into two pitons. After the initial steep traverse and our tricky down-climb on the second pitch, we didn't even realize we made the infamous crux move. I brought Brian over and he led us over an easy short pitch to the base of the Notch Couloir. It was around this time that we saw Kevin Craig, Dave Cooper, and Mike Keegan starting up the Flying Dutchman.
Not wanting to down-climb if I ran out of rope before I found another belay station, my first pitch up the couloir was probably a little short. I brought Brian up and he continued on to another short pitch. I slung one rock on my pitch and he didn't place any gear on his. Now that we had both belayed in the shade of the couloir, we had gotten fairly cold. On my next lead, I worked over to the right side of the Notch in the sun and warmed myself as Brian climbed. Brian spent a little time in the sun before climbing the narrow constriction half way up the couloir. He found another sunny belay station above and to the right of the narrow chimney. From here I climbed a short ice section where I placed a screw. I put in one more piece of pro before running the pitch out and bringing Brian up. From here, we stuffed the rope and free climbed to the Notch. I have to give kudos to Brian for carrying the rope most of the day when we weren't using it.
We wasted nearly an hour near the Notch looking for the low class 5 chimney that would lead us to the summit. After being totally perplexed, we had to bail and did two rappels off the back side of the Notch to the Loft route. The traverse on the Loft route over to the Keyhole route was practically as difficult as the first pitch of the traverse on Broadway. The class 3 ledges on the ascending traverse below the Homestretch were snow covered and proved to be sketchy with considerable exposure. We finally made it to easier ground and ascended the Homestretch to the summit. It was a relief to finally be on top. Unfortunately, I should not have let my guard down quite so much.
We refueled and started descending the north face route. We followed tracks which led us to the eye bolts for our rappel, but I felt the down climb was very exposed and mentally draining. My crampons kept balling up and I never felt like I had solid footing. In addition, our route went very low and close to the edge of the Diamond which also wore on my nerves. By the time I got to the eyebolt I was totally fried. Brian did much better on the descent and was waiting for me at the base of the rappel. We had earlier discussed descending the Camel to Chasm Lake in order to save some distance on the hike out, but we decided to stick to the trail through the boulder field. We were both dehydrated and had to push ourselves on the hike out. It ended up being over a 17 hour day.