Mountain and Route: Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker via Loft Date: 08/12/12 RT Mileage: 13.9 mi Vertical Gain: 5713ft Party: Prasanna and Karthik (theotherindian) Wildlife: Persistent marmot near Clark's arrow, rat inside Agnes Vaille Hut, pikas, some sparrows(?), funny sounding raven at the peak
Should we go Saturday? Or Sunday? Is 30% chance of rain all day worse than 30% chance of rain after noon? Is loft better than Keyhole? OMG, there's no GPX file for Loft route!
Longs had been my first 14er attempt two years ago. As a newbie hiker, I managed to haul up cans of Red Bull, assorted trail mix, gallons of water and non stretch jeans pantaloons upto Keyhole. I was, as I remember, terrified by the exposure on the other side of Keyhole and had to turn back a few hundred feet into the ledges because both me and my jeans were exhausted and could take no further boulder hopping. In many ways, I still blame this experience for my lack of courage to try anything class 3 for over 2 years.
After much deliberation, my friend Prasanna (not a 14er member) and I decided to give the loft route on Longs a go on Sunday. Prasanna had previously summited via keyhole and had returned with a lightning nightmare. To our pleasant surprise the weatherman decided there shall be no rain whatsoever on Sunday.
I'd estimated it was 4.4 miles to the base of the Loft couloir from the TH and was expecting it to take about 3.5-4 hours based on my usual pace. Armed with Derek's GPS tracks, we started from the TH just before 2am and to our surprise found ourselves close to Chasm lake and by the base of the couloir only two hours into the hike with a few breaks for meteor watching. We did catch 3-4 meteors zooming by close to the moon.
I'd hoped there would be twilight by the time we start ascending the loft couloir. But it was not to be. We were the first hikers on the Loft route for the day and decided to continue on with our headlamps but did notice a few other headlamps taking the loft route at the Chasm junction. After some easy scrambling near the top of the Loft couloir, we landed at the exit ramp. By this time, the sun decided to show up and two other hikers had passed us and were heading up to Meeker.
The sun rises late
Somewhere in between the loft couloir
Lighting up the terrain
Just before the exit ramp
After some off route talus hopping/scrambling like headless chickens for the last 400 feet, we found ourselves at the Loft. I thought Longs looks like an idiot from this angle and that it's PR managers had done exceedingly well to show the world the Diamond face of it.
First view of Longs
We trudged up the loose trail up Meeker, took a turn and scrambled up to the summit ridge. What I initially thought was the summit block turned out to be lower than another block a few feet away. We kept to the left of the ridge to get closer to the summit block and took turns hopping on to it for the photo op. The hike down to the saddle was quick and we met lots of other Meeker summitters on the way.
Mt Meeker summit shot
As we were heading towards the marker (tape on a stick) in the northwestern corner of the Loft, we met a few other hikers, going in both directions. The downclimb here is the only 0.2 mile stetch of the entire hike that is not cairned. And this was the only part of the hike I was concerned about since the description says there might be some Class 4ish moves involved and I don't even understand what that actually means. Anyway, they turned out to be small jumps from one level to another with occasional use of both hands. All of the downclimb could be done facing out. However, to add spice to our boring lives, a full grown marmot decided to make a guest appearance right at the crux of this route. He had the audacity to come very close to us, was not really scared by our frightened angry shrieks, didn't budge much even when we threw small stones in his general direction. The only recourse we had was to hurry down what was supposed to be the crux of the route and my only regret is everything seems pretty hazy now.
I had read a dozen blogs and TRs about Clark's arrow the previous night and was pretty determined to find it. Right after the down climb, you turn around a huge boulder and turn back and you can marvel at Clark's graffiti. Its not big, its not bright. Too close, and it blends in with the rock texture, too far and you can hardly make it out. When you are just the right distance from it, the arrow will present itself to you!
Mr. Clark's artwork
We stuck to going from cairn to cairn with some scrambling in between and landed at the homestretch to meet the pretty ladies and angry men hiking in from the other side of Longs. I felt the hike up the last bit of Keplinger's was the most grueling part of the day.
The route ahead
Looking back behind Longs
The Palisades(?) And that famous rock!
Near the top of Keplinger
A short scramble up the slippery homestretch and we were on top of Longs, the tallest point in Colorado north of 70.
Homestretch is steep. Don't attempt it people
Team shot on Longs summit
After the customary photo session, refuelling, we started hiking down from the summit exactly at noon. The downclimb through the homestretch and narrows were monotonous. Our sore legs didn't appreciate much of the boulder hopping. The trough was even more brutal on them.
The not so narrows
Never ending trough
Long way to Keyhole
The boulder field and the subsequent hike to the car were long and needless to say largely uninteresting but exhausting. After going through the Boulderfield thrice (twice in my previous attempt), I have developed a healthy dose of disrespect for it. I dont see the point of a Boulderfield in the location that it is in the grand scheme of things.
Keyhole and Boulderfield
The very concept of having to walk 5 miles from the Boulderfield to car with not much views and no scrambling makes it a zombie walk. We eventually got back to the car about 16 hours after we started. I'd overcome some of the demons plaguing me and Prasanna had made his second summit of Longs, the only 14er apart from Bierstadt he has set foot on.
In summary Longs peak is a great peak, Loft route is a great route. From a newbie perspective, sure, Loft involves a bit more effort than the standard route, but I'll do anything to avoid descending the trough again. And Meeker can be tagged along the way and it is not much effort to do so. A fun but longish day!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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