| Lonely Longs
Longs Peak (14,255') – 15th highest
Mount Meeker (13,911') – 68th highest
Meeker Ridge (13,860') – unranked
Traverse: Clark's Arrow to the Loft
Descent: Iron Gates
Mileage: 15 miles round trip
Vertical: approximately 6,000'
Longs Summit: 8.20am
Meeker Summit: 10.45am
Disclaimer: Please note that the Keyhole and Loft Routes on Longs Peak are still considered "Technical" at this time, and probably will be for at least another month. Ice axe and crampons are STRONGLY recommended!
I thought an appropriate place to start my "homestretch" on finishing the 14ers would be to head up Longs, seeing as the final summit pitch is called the Homestretch. I had a hard time finding any route information though as it seems no one has really been climbing Longs lately. There were two reports from two weeks ago, but none had pictures of the Keyhole Route. I knew that Skasgaard had been up Meeker around that same time and from his photos knew the Iron Gates were dry. I figured at the very least, Meeker would be "in".
I drove down on Saturday and camped at the trailhead. The morning came quickly and I started out on the trail a little after 4am. Early goings were smooth as the well maintained trail was dry except one small snow patch until well above the turn off for Goblins Forest. Above this there was patchy snow all the way to treeline, but it was all well trodden. Definitely save on the weight and leave the snowshoes behind! I made it to "Sky Potty Pass" a little before sunrise on dry trail and had a break waiting for the alpenglow to hit the Diamond with a few other people hoping to catch a beautiful sunrise.
The traverse below Mt Lady Washington had a few snow patches, but again the snow was packed down by previous travelers and was solid. Granite Pass was dry, and most of the way to the Boulderfield was as well. Surprisingly from treeline to the Keyhole was 90% snow free. But things would change!
After a break at the Keyhole it was time to begin the "climb". It was a little before 7am, and the backside of the Keyhole had no sun so far today. I knew any snow was going to be rock hard and I was glad to be carrying crampons and an ice axe. The early part of the traverse was dry and the "bullseye" markers were easy to follow.
As I neared the Trough there was a large patch of snow covering the route, and I could see the Trough was all snow. I decided this was my point to "gear up" and donned my crampons. This made the remaining traverse over to the Trough go smoothly and safely, though I did see evidence in the snow of others from the previous day going without crampons, and a few slipped steps that had me glad to have mine!
The Trough was delightful, fairly mellow by "snow climb" standards and the crampons were biting the snow perfectly. It may have been possibly to avoid most of the snow on the left side, but if you have the gear, this is a wonderful snowclimb. Due to its aspect, it was completely in the shade the entire way to the top, and stays firm all morning.
I now reached the top; the third class exit move was dry, which created an interesting challenge. I had only twice before scrambled in crampons and sort of "dry tooled" my way though this point. I didn't want to take off the crampons and put them back on every time I crossed snow on the remaining route so decided to leave them on. The first part of the Narrows was mostly dry, and any snow and ice were not a threat.
Then the final section leading to the Homestretch had a large section of snow. Again there was evidence of "crampon free" climbers from yesterday, but I definitely felt they were needed. The snow was once again rock hard in the morning and a fall would be very bad…
The Homestretch, much like the Trough, was a delightful snow climb. I actually thought that despite its "Technical" rating, this was a very enjoyable way to climb this mountain. If you are uncomfortable on snow and with ice axe and crampons, you should probably wait this one out though.
The summit was great, and it was all mine. I had not seen another person since the sunrise photographers at "Sky Potty". I probably spent a half hour on the summit admiring the views. It was also fairly calm, some light breezes of course, but none of the famous winds this peak attracts. It was quite pleasant! View of Meeker:
I still had a long day ahead of me as my plan was to climb Meeker as well. I descended back down the Homestretch and continued down to the ramp that traverses over towards the Palisades. Crampons and ice axe still were required equipment as this was all snow. Looking back at this face from the descent:
The Palisades were casting a large shadow on the top of the gully system used when traveling between Longs and the Loft, and the snow was not only rock hard but interspersed with ice. This was the "crux" of the day from a snow climbing standpoint.
Just below this point, however, there was no more snow of note the rest of the way to Meeker and I packed up the snow gear. Below there was some loose rock though and the travel stayed deliberate and careful.
I never did see Clark's Arrow, but as I got to the base of the Palisades the way was clear and I climbed about 150 feet up the rocks to reach the Loft. The route to Meeker from here was class 2 until just at the summit area where the large boulders require some class 3 climbing.
The summit boulder itself was to my chest and I had to mantle onto it. The views were great, and in contrast to the "football field" on top of Longs, this was an airy perch. With all of the snow and loose rock, it took over an hour and a half for this traverse, about the same time it took me to get from the Keyhole to the summit of Longs. Just below the summit I saw two guys that had just come up Dreamweaver and said it was in prime condition.
Perhaps the most fun part of the day was the route was the traverse over to the top of Meeker Ridge. Large boulders marked the beginning and then an exposed knife section in the middle before some more boulders at the summit. Lots of class 3, lots of air, but also lots of solid rock!
The descent along the ridge from here to the Iron Gates was all class 2, although a few larger blocks required a hand or two to maneuver around them. The top of the Iron Gates was cairned and after a brief class 3 down climb to get through the top, it was class 2 boulders back to Chasm Meadow from here. Looking back at the imposing face of Meeker, it's hard to believe there is a safe passage through all of those cliffs!
The hike out was uneventful, some snow to cross along the Chasm Meadows trail and a lot of confused day hikers wondering what this guy is doing with ice axes and a helmet. I became somewhat of a "trailhead celebrity" as I stopped in the ranger station to check out the model and photos and talked to the on duty host about my climb. A few others came in and asked if anyone had climbed Longs yet this year and of course he said "he just did it today" and pointed in my direction. It was kind of fun describing my climb to them, they were in their upper 50's and have always wanted to climb Longs, maybe later this summer they will be back.
I leave you with the amazing views of Longs you get from the Iron Gates route on Meeker...
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):