Approximately one year ago, Brian and I climbed the Notch Couloir on Longs Peak. We rappelled off of the back side of Longs and traversed to the Homestretch to finish the climb. Jeff and Kevin have wanted to climb this route for quite some time, so the four of us returned this year to climb it together as two independent teams. Jeff and I bivied at Chasm Lake Friday night while Brian and Kevin decided to day-hike the trip. We all met at the base of the Lambs Slide Couloir at 4:00. Brian and Kevin were already a couple hours into their day while Jeff and I were trying to get our systems going after a miserable night of sleep because of gusty winds.
The hike up Lambs Slide went relatively quickly, and we regrouped at the first belay station on Broadway. Last year, Brian and I completed the lower traverse of Broadway which required a tricky downclimb and the 5.4 step-around move. This year, Jeff and I received good information that the high traverse was in and decided to give it a try. I led the first pitch halfway across the steep traverse. Jeff finished the traverse and proceeded to bring me across. In the mean time, Brian and Kevin were attempting the low traverse. As I finished the high traverse to the base of the Notch Couloir, Brian and Kevin backed off the low traverse and decided to follow Jeff and I. Jeff led off into the Notch Couloir and we simul-climbed about one-third of the way up the Notch. I climbed a pitch, Jeff climbed a pitch, and then I led to the actual Notch as we finished the ascent simul-climbing also.
Brian and Kevin followed us up the route and we regrouped at the base of the Step Ladder/Staircase. The traverse to the base of the chimney has one or two tricky moves in mountaineering boots. Jeff did a great job leading the pitch which still had enough snow and ice in it to make it interesting. Near the top, he actually moved to the right and exited the chimney earlier than the standard route dictates. Jeff belayed me up the pitch as I brought Brian and Kevin's rope up behind me. Jeff then belayed both of them up together and we congregated at the top of the ridge. The ridge scramble to the summit kept you on your toes with a couple of exposed slabby moves to gain the summit.
We had the summit to ourselves and took only enough time to eat and drink some. We scrambled down the North Face where Jeff found a rappel station above the highest eye bolt on the route. This was once again the crux of the route for me. I did much better than last year, but down climbing steep snow with a fair amount of exposure isn't my forte. We tied our ropes together at the high rappel station and were able to get all the way down to the snow slope with only one rappel. Near the Boulder Field, we parted ways as Brian and Kevin hiked out the main trail and Jeff and I descended the Camel route back down to Chasm Lake and our cached bivy gear. The hike out wasn't too painful, and the beer and Mountain Dew at the trailhead tasted great.