|By Scott Bennett
Jul 26, 2011
The Triple Lindy (with a half twist)
Has anyone ever told you something was impossible? Something you'd been dreaming of for a lifetime, something into which you'd gladly invest your whole heart and soul?
Well, chances are they were right, or at the very least your goal was not nearly as important as you might have thought.
Thornton Melon, played by Rodney Dangerfield in the 1986 classic Back to School frameborder='0'>.
What does this have to do with rock climbing? Eight years ago, in homage to that famous dive, two very real, but equally funny, Colorado climbers pulled off a massive linkup in Rocky Mountain National park, and named it the Triple Lindy. Jonny Copp (RIP) and Kelly Cordes climbed for nearly 24 hours and scaled what are (by their estimation) the three biggest rock faces in the park: the East Face of Long's, the Northeast face of Cheifshead, and the East face of Mt. Alice.
The indomitable Mr. Copp prepped for the Triple. Kelly Cordes Photo.
3am, Friday July 22nd, 2011
The Long's peak trailhead is nearly overflowing with camelbaks, trekking poles, led headlamps, and summit hungry hikers. Blake and I have not had much sleep, but have had much expresso, and thus bolt from that asphalt circus and thankfully find the first shortcut trail immediately. A near perfect forecast, probably the first of the season, has enticed the goretex masses up to the highcountry, and it certainly hasn't hurt our motivation either.
For the past two summers, the words "triple" and "lindy" have occured more frequently in the conversations of Blake Herrington and I than one might expect. Sitting in the Cordes abode after finishing up a five-tower ramble last summer in RMNP, Kelly told us how he thought that his and Jonny's linkup had been easy, and that a really motivated team could improve the style by doing harder routes. Of course we didn't (and don't) consider ourselves to be a stronger climbing team, we do have a high tolerance for pain, expresso goo shots, and late night slogging, so maybe we should give it a go.
Motoring up the forested trail, we've settled into a blazing pace. We're going light, since I'd stashed my rack at the Diamond earlier in the week. I've got our rope, and Blake has a tiny pack stuffed full with bars, goos, and other high-tech sugar bombs. Busting out above the tree line, we pass group after group of hikers, often sitting beside (or on) the trail, shining their mega watt headlamps in our eyes as we stride past. Soon, though, we make the Chasm Lake turnoff, and follow the familiar rock paths up to and around the lake. "This shit has split hard" I comment to Blake, observing not a trace of cloud in the sky, every star burning coldly white.
Blake approaching THE BIG D
Sunrise finds us as the base of the "Mills Glacier" (snowfield), contemplating the icy-hard snow. This is my third time up here in five days, but the previous starts weren't quite so alpine, so I've always had the luxury of crossing sun-softened snow. No worries, just find a sharp rock and start chopping.
In an effort to climb the whole East Face of Long's, we opt to start with "The Crack of Delight", a slightly harder version of the standard North Chimney approach to Broadway. The COD is wide and wet, two adjectives I can't ever imagine being psyched to hear together. We grope our way up the slimy fissure, tied about 120' apart and simul climbing. Our slog is soon over and were lounging in the orange sunlight on Broadway.
THE BIG D
We traverse B-way to the left, and find the base of Pervertical Sanctuary. The second easiest route up the main Diamond face, we choose PS for it's splitter cracks and straightforward climbing. I lead the first few pitches in one 100m simul block, and then link the two 5.10 pitches into one 70m crack feast. MMM-MMM Good!
A traversing pitch then leads us past the standard rap anchors, over to the base of the Forrest Finish. I've never climbed above Table Ledge here on the left side of the Diamond, and I probably won't again. The FF is very mungy, wet, slimy, and generally unpleasant.
| || Scott on the Diamond |
Me belaying on Table Ledge
Summiting, we're mildly surprised to see the massive and motley assortment of hikers who've sent today, all enjoying the full sun and thin air, trying to see if their iphones get reception so they can make their co-workers jealous.
We too are tourists now, running down the slick "Homestretch" on the hikers trail. We make it to the Trough, on the West face of Long's, and are disappointing to find that the sun has not yet softened this snow either, and boot-skiing down into Glacier Gorge is out of the questions. Resigned, we trudge down the talus, eyeing up our next objectives.
| || A pano of Glacier Gorge |
The West face of Long's on the left, with the Trough visible (the big snowy coulior). The Spearhead is the pyramidal peak in the center foreground, and the Cheifshead is on the right.
Next up, we planned to make a minor detour from the original Copp-Cordes linkup. The Spearhead was sitting in front of us just begging to be climbed, so we obliged by rambling up "The Barb" (5.10). Though it ends well before the summit proper, we convinced ourselves to maintain "real mountain" standards and make the summit slog.
We agree that the Spearhead is not the fourth biggest face in the park, so it can't count as another "Lindy", so we'll just call it a half-twist.
A creative traversing decent brought us to Cheifshead. Just last summer, Blake and his friends Graham and Joe put up a new route on the left side of the face, "Flight of the Kiwi" (5.10+). Since Blake knew it well, he tied in for the lead and cranked out the high-quality and sometimes runout pitches. Content with low-pressure following, I stayed in my approach shoes and enjoyed some of the most relaxing and fun climbing of the day.
After another gratuitous summit slog (why can't any of the rock climbs actually end at the summit?) we've ticked our third peak of the day and sit for a second plotting out the route to the fourth. Neither of us has climbed on Mt. Alice before, and I had only a vague idea of where it was until this moment. Sure enough, though, it does look impressive, and a series of grassy ridges lead invitingly towards it.
Blake heading down off the Cheifshead summit with the big East face of Mt. Alice visible on the left.
Setting off on the pleasant ridges, our priority is water. We find a trickle meandering through the picturesque alpine meadow, and gratefully stop to eat and drink. Que pura vida!
We finally find some sun-warmed snow, and enjoy a rapid boot-ski descent to the base of Alice's East face. Since we have no knowledge of the face, and it's late evening, we opt to attempt the easiest route (5.8). It does turn out to be easy, following ramps and gullies back and forth across the big face, rarely exceeding 4th-class. The occasional low-5th-class pull-up move past a roof or chockstone keeps things interesting.
| || Mt. Alice |
Blake traverses a snowfield to the base of Mt. Alice
Fatigue had definitely set in for both of us, and that's clear as we simul the first half, frequently shortroping each other and yelling back and forth. We wisely opt to pitch the rest of this wet and loose terrain. Headlamps come out, and two more pitches bring us to the top of the wall. The last orange glow is hovering in the West, and a similar orange glow in the East denotes the Front Range megapolis.
We pull out my camera, and open the photo I took earlier from the Cheifshead summit. Leaning in close and pointing, we agree that the best descent will be the North ridge, and we identify snowfields to use as guideposts. The ridge is even easier than we'd expected, and soon gives way to grassy romping. Or at least it would have been romping, had our knees not been at the point of mutiny. We trudge down the slopes, the only motivation now being the food stashed in my car.
We find the trail, and miles roll by hazily as we sleep walk. Reaching my car at the Wild Basin trailhead, I retrieve the hidden key, open the car, and turn on the dashboard clock: 2:45. We've done it: the Triple Lindy with a half twist, 23 hours and 45 minutes!