Uniquely Majestic view of Longs Peak from the Iron Gates
Peaks (In order of summit): Meeker Ridge – 13,860’, Mt Meeker – 13,911’, SE Longs – 14,060’, Longs Peak – 14,255’, Mt Lady Washington – 13,281’
TH/Route: Meeker-Iron Gates, Loft/Clark’s Arrow-Longs Peak, Keyhole descent
Elev Gain: 6800'
Time: 13:00 (5am - 6pm)
Technical Gear: Microspikes, Trekking Poles
Climbers: Geojed (Jed), Jim Yaich (Yikes)
Special Thanks: Aaron (Andyouseeme), Jeremiah (Gen131)
Ever since Aaron posted his TR for the Meeker Iron Gates route over a year ago I’ve wanted to do this route. I don’t know maybe it was because “Iron Gates” sounds cool or something. Now with how dry this winter has been it opened up the possibility of adding Longs Peak to the mix. The trickiest part would be the climb up the top of Keplinger’s Couloir and the traverse to the Homestretch. A bad cornice and 50+ deg snow slopes can form here as shown in this picture from a TR by Brad Snider for the Keplinger’s Couloir
I was pretty sure with how dry the winter was this tricky area wouldn’t have much snow in it but it’s always nice to be REALLY sure before committing to the route. Two days prior to the climb Jeremiah (Gen131) posted a conditions update for Chiefs Head Peak in the Wild Basin. I immediately PM’d him asking if he had any good pictures of the back side of Longs Peak and Meeker. He very kindly and generously emailed me 12 FULL resolution pictures that confirmed my suspicion of the Keplinger’s Couloir being pretty darn dry. So the planned route was a GO! Thanks again Jeremiah!
Jim and I met at the rockin Longs Peak TH. Otina and another group from 14ers.com were doing the Cables Route on Longs on Saturday too. Jim and I set off up the trail at 5am sharp making good time up the bootpacked trail. The temperatures were warm for January and we spent 20min of the next hour de-layering. Finally when we got above tree line a nice breeze was there to keep us cool. We arrived at Chasm Meadows just in time for the alpenglow to hit the Diamond on Longs. From the meadows we followed the gully towards the Loft to a talus bench and then hooked a left and climbed up fairly stable talus blocks towards the Iron Gates on Meeker.
The Iron Gates
I had been eagerly anticipating the very unique and breathtaking view of Longs that can only be had from the Iron Gates route on Meeker and it did not disappoint in the least! I couldn’t stop turning around and taking pictures of it!
Longs, MLW and the Chasm
The talus steepened at the top of the gully and the last 30’ prior to topping out was some fun/solid Class 3 scrambling. It was nice to finally get to the south side of the ridge to be out of the wind and to be in the warm sun. I basked in the warming sun for 20-30min or so until Jim made it to the ridge. We drank and refueled here for a bit and then headed up the last ~850’ to Meeker Ridge.
Longs from Meeker Ridge
From Meeker Ridge we dropped down to the left and did an airy scoot around a boulder and then stayed on the ridge crest for the most part until the knife edge. At the knife edge there are some ledges on the North/right side we could shuffle along while our hands were on the knife edge crest at chest height. The ledges eventually angle back up to the ridge crest and the knife edge relents. We then scrambled over and around large boulders that led finally to the 13,911’ summit of Mt Meeker. Centennial #65! Fantastic views were to be had all around.
Knife Edge ridge to Meeker from Meeker Ridge
Northern IPW from Meeker
Looking back at Meeker Ridge from Meeker
SE Longs aka: "The Beave" and Longs Peak
After chilling on the summit for 20min or so we headed down to the Loft. I sped ahead to climb SE Longs as Jim had already climbed it. There was almost no wind across here as Longs must have been blocking it all. I scrambled up the ~600’ to the summit of SE Longs in about 25mins from the Loft. Whereupon I yelled: “DUDE! Where’s my Bridge?!” The view of Longs’ SE face, the chasm 2000’ below and the top of Keplinger’s Couloir were just spectacular!
Dude where's my bridge? SE face of Longs Peak from SE Longs
Amphitheatre on Pagoda and tricky traverse we would have to do at top of Keplinger's Couloir.
Mt Meeker from SE Longs
I admired the views for a couple of minutes and then headed back down towards the Loft. We followed Bill’s beta from the Loft Route on 14ers.com, the numerous cairns and a GPS waypoint to the top of the Clark’s Arrow Gully. Here we descended down easy Class 3/4 blocks to the right turn onto a ledge below the famous and very faded “Clark’s Arrow” at ~13,200’.
Jim coming down the Clark's Arrow Gully. The arrow is behind his right shoulder
From here we had our first close-up view of the very dry Keplinger’s Couloir.
View up Keplinger's from bottom of Clark's Arrow Gully
As we scrambled up the Couloir towards the Notch we couldn’t stop gawking at and admiring the incredible Palisades that towered over us to our right.
Jim contemplating the awesome Palisades
Hope that refrigerator sized rock doesn't decide to fall today!
Jim heading up below the Palisades
Looking towards Pagoda Mtn and a cool "diving board" rock formation
As we neared top of the couloir where it splits right for the Notch and left for the Homestretch we could get a better view of the tricky traverse section.
Almost to the tricky traverse to the Homestretch
That way to the Notch
There was some snow on the ledges but it was easy to kick steps in the snow when you had to and connect up dry, rocky sections.
Looking down the Keplinger's Couloir from the top
Jim on the tricky traverse with SE Longs and Palisades behind
We finally made it to the fairly dry Homestretch. Shortly thereafter I arrived at Longs’ summit just before 1pm with Jim arriving 15min later.
I signed the register and noticed that Brian Crim., Pete K. and another had done the Cables Route that morning and were the only others to sign in so far for the day. Otina and her crew must still be on Cables/North Face route then. We rested and snacked on the summit for 30min or so before donning our Microspikes and heading down the Homestretch and the Keyhole Route.
Meeker from Longs' Summit
The Narrows were pretty dry too while the Trough had nice crusty/grippy snow that made it easy to descend. All the while we admired the spectacular views of the Glacier Gorge area.
View across the Glacier Gorge
Looking down the Trough
Looking back up the Trough
Almost to the Keyhole!
Jim in a contemplative mood admires the views
Traversing across to the Keyhole was easy as all the newly painted yellow-red dots were easy to see.
Jim heading towards the Keyhole
Last short climb to the Keyhole!
Through the Keyhole and looking at Storm peak
We reached the Keyhole at 3PM and took our Microspikes off as the Boulderfield area was pretty dry. We also split up here after a short rest as I headed to bag MLW while Jim headed down the Boulderfield to the Longs Peak trail.
Evening light/dark provides a nice contrast on Mt Lady Washington
As I headed across towards MLW I spotted some people on Longs’ summit plateau. There’s Otina and her crew! I yelled up to then as they began their descent down the Cables route.
Jaw dropping views of Longs’ North Face
Looking back at the Keyhole
I made quick work over towards MLW though I did stop frequently to take in and photograph the awesome and varied views around me.
Sliver of sunlight left on MLW sub-summit
Take me to your Mummy!
Jaw-dropping face of the Diamond seen up close and personal
Meeker’s impressive east face. Iron Gates at far left
Sun peaks out from behind Longs Peak. Keyhole at far right.
I reached MLW summit around 4pm and did a cursory look for the register but couldn’t find it. I didn’t linger long as the wind was picking up.
Last light on MLW summit with cool lenticular cloud forming high above
So I headed down the seemingly interminable East Ridge on MLW. I spotted Jim down below and yelled to him. He kindly waited for me at Chasm Junction and we headed down the trail towards the TH. Along the way we watched as the evening sun illuminated the numerous lenticular/wave clouds a gorgeous orange/red color.
Fantastic Wave Cloud seen over Mills Morraine
Another Wave Cloud on fire!
We reached the TH at 6pm, jumped in our cars and headed down to feast on yummy burgers at the Wapiti Bar and Grill in Estes Park.
What a fantastic day w/ a great climbing partner, and such an amazing circuit around one of the most spectacular peaks in the state. It has so many different faces with so much variety. When I climb Longs again it will probably be by this exact same route.
When I went to load my pictures on my computer there was a card read error and I thought I had lost all my pictures! I bought a drive memory recovery program for $70 and I was fortunately able to recover 99% of my pictures. The only ones I couldn’t get were the ones of the sunrise alpenglow on the Diamond. Oh well. It was definitely money well spent IMHO.
Stay thirsty for summits my friends! 8)
My GPS Tracks/Waypoints on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):