Kieners Route Diary:
Setting the Stage

Normal people often travel to meet other people. I made the two-hour flight from Michigan to Colorado to reacquaint myself with a cubic mile of granite and metamorphic rock called Longs Peak.

While flying into Denver on the afternoon of Sunday, July 7, 2002, I scoured the scene out the airplane window for any evidence of the massive, uncontrolled fires that had been so much in the news. I saw no sign of them, not even haze. The mountains were shrouded in storm clouds. I didn't take this as a particular worrisome portent, though, as afternoon thunderstorms were common in the Rockies during summer. The plane touched down with the usual lurch and squeal of rubber. I had arrived!

By two o'clock I was cruising west in a rented car, working my way through the northeastern suburbs of Denver. The goal was I-25, the artery that would take me north toward the front range of the Rockies. A distant jumble of grayish-blue shapes lined the western horizon. It looked as if an enormous white wave was breaking over them. The mountains were getting hammered by storms. I sped along the highway craning my neck beyond the brim of the sun visor to see an impressive wall of clouds with dark interiors wrapping themselves over the ridges and summits of mountains as far as I could see. While making an effort to keep the car from swerving into oncoming traffic I focused on a specific, large mass to the northwest. There it was; the unmistakable flat-topped block of granite that made my ultimate destination so easily identifiable. Even from 60 miles away, Longs Peak was dominating.

After ninety minutes of easy driving along the winding roads of the foothills, I rolled into Estes Park. This was my third sojourn into what was becoming familiar territory to me. My staging point this time was the Columbine Inn two miles north of town. It was not a particularly swank establishment but adequate for my purposes, which consisted of sleeping and watching the Weather Channel, as needed. The room, itself, was a broom closet without air conditioning or an ounce of charm. It was perfect. It encouraged me to be elsewhere. I checked in at 4 p.m., off-loaded my equipment and ten minutes later I was driving into the heart of Estes Park. Ah, the Stanley Village! The Mecca of victualizing and provisioning, the staging area for logistical expedition planning. In fact, it was the local Safeway supermarket. I parked there and walked the streets amidst vacationers young and old, letting the excitement and feelings of past mountain encounters wash over me.

There it was. Looming over the foothills to the south: Longs Peak. I could see the upper reaches of the Boulderfield and the Keyhole. I had been to those places before. But now, my gaze was drawn to the shadowed east face and the vertical expanse of the Diamond. Within days I would be up there, skirting its fringes. For it was my goal on this trip to climb the most "classic" mountaineering line on Longs Peak: the Kieners Route that wound along the very edge of the Diamond, steeply to the summit.

The striking east side of Longs Peak showing its
vertical face, The Diamond. The Kieners Route
follows the left edge of the Diamond.

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