Keyboard of the Winds, Various Ascents. In early July, Nigel Gregory approached me with a gleam in his eyes. “Are you up for a little new routing?” he asked. Nigel’s British upbringing made me immediately suspicious. I hesitantly said, “I don’t know; maybe.” He took that for an enthusiastic “yes,” and before I knew it we were off to explore a beautiful group of small, unclimbed spires in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Perched on the ridge between Longs Peak and Pagoda Peak are five independent spires called the Keyboard of the Winds. Although they look a bit slabby when viewed from Black Lake, they are quite steep and offer interesting climbing. The spires range from 250 to 700 feet tall and we found the rock to be fairly solid, despite the occasional loose block and some thick lichen. It all made for a marvelous adventure! However, the climbs were not without incident. Nigel fell from the first pitch of Mr. Stubbs, and one of his double ropes was severed two-thirds of the way through by the gate of a carabiner. Unconcerned by the event, he simply pulled out a knife, cut off the damaged bit and carried on to the belay.
In total, we climbed a new route on the northwest face of each of the five towers. At least two of the spires had never been summitted, and four of the towers had never been climbed by a technical route. Generally, we followed the path of least resistance up obvious crack systems. Starting from Pagoda Peak and heading northeast, the towers and routes are as follows. Picking Plums (5.10c) on Sievers Tower; Brass in Pocket (5.11b) on Jackpot Tower; Cools the Burning (5.10a) on Mrs. Stubbs; Stubbs Fights Back (5.11a) on Mr. Stubbs; and Step-in-stein (5.10a) on The Dark Tower. It is easiest to descend off the back of the spires via one mandatory rappel or some easy scrambling.