Archive for September, 2013

Longs Peak via the Cables Route

September 2, 2013

Dominating the northern horizon in the Front Range, Longs Peak calls out to climbers, and I have been up it several times. However, I had never climbed up the Cables Route, and thought it would make for a great CMC climbing trip. I also hoped to interest some students that had taken Basic Rock School or Rock Leading School this year, and thereby cultivate more trip leaders.

Successful on both counts, I was lucky to get Aaron Nichols as my co-leader, who completed RLS this summer, and Josh Bourdin, who had taken BRS last spring.  Completing our team was Martin OGrady, an experienced member of the Denver group, who had led many trips and assisted in their climbing schools. I felt we had a strong team, and looked forward to our trip, on Saturday, August 10, 2013.

The Cables Route (read the Mountain Project description) owes its name to the fact that there actually were steel cables installed on it, from 1925 to 1973.  Using 5/8″ cable through huge eye bolts built out of 1″ thick steel, it provided an easy access up the north face of Longs Peak for decades. Old photographs of crowds of folks using the cables can be viewed in the Longs Peak ranger station, which is full of such memorabilia, and well worth a visit. However, the ease of access and increasing crowds created too much risk of injury, not to mention acting like lightning rods! So, the Park’s supervisors had the cables removed. What remains are the big eye bolts and these serve, to this day, as reliable rappel anchors. There are many reports, descriptions and pictures of this route to be found online, such as this detailed one at

We left Lafayette at 4:30am, but even arriving at the trailhead around 5:30am was not early enough to get a decent parking spot; Josh said he had go about a quarter mile down the road! Yep, Longs Peak is a busy place in August. Hiking at an average pace, we arrived at the Boulderfield Campground after about three hours. Talking with some of the campers, we learned it had snowed up there the previous afternoon. This was not so unusual, considering the elevation of the Boulderfield is slightly above 12,000 feet.

Rick in Boulderfield Campground

Though the route is in sight from the Boulderfield Campground, it took another hour and a half of picking our way through boulders to get there. We were finally ready to begin climbing by 10am. This was later than I wanted to be starting, but the technical part of the route is only two pitches of easy climbing, so I still thought we had a decent chance of making the summit.

Aaron, Marty, and Josh at the Start of The Cables Route


High Over Boulder…and Stuck: Rescue on the Seal Rock Rappel

September 2, 2013

Photo and Article Contributed by: Eileen Monyok

Author’s Note:
I don’t often contribute stories for the Compass. But when Basic Rock School (BRS) Director Rick Casey asked me if I would share my rescue story of helping a woman stranded in the middle of the Seal Rock rappel with a stuck rope, I agreed.

This rescue took place during our Spring BRS graduation climb. Being able to help this woman (non-CMC member) and her boyfriend made me proud of the skills that BRS teaches. It also made me grateful that I had once taken BRS and was now instructing, which gave me the opportunity to learn and refine these skills.

Last, I’d like to extend a special acknowledgement to the three graduating BRS students – Jon Campbell, Erica Colegrove, and Anne Park – who waited with patience and good sportsmanship at the top of a very windy Seal Rock rappel while the rescue was taking place. Also, lead assistant instructor, Mark Thomas, who was the last person to finally rappel down, deserves honorable mention for his clear thinking and good management of the situation from the top.

The day of our Seal Rock graduation climb started as a pretty typical graduation climb, although with two instructors and 3 students divided into two climbing lines, we thought we would move pretty quickly. At the elbow of Seal Rock, we hit a bit of a snag. The Denver CMC Group’s BRS was also climbing Seal Rock that day, although their trip had not been posted in the trip schedule. We waited patiently for this group to climb. Fortunately, we were anchored at a comfortable ledge. This delay later proved to play a critical part in the timing of the rescue.

After our BRS group enjoyed the summit of Seal Rock, I downclimbed to the rappel area to set up an anchor for our group. There was a couple at the rappel station, ahead of our group, who were just throwing their ropes for the rappel. I had noticed this couple earlier, as they were climbing the East Face South Side route on Seal Rock. The members of our BRS group continued to downclimb, one at a time, from the summit to the rappel area.

Seal Rock Rappel

At one point, the boyfriend of the couple, Jim and Sara (not their real names), said to me, “I think one of our ropes is stuck, and Sara can’t go down any further. Do you think that you could rap down and clear the rope? It should be easy to clear. I think it’s stuck in a tree just a few feet from Sara.” (more…)