I met up with Mike (great guy!) through this site as I didn't want to give Longs a go by myself. When he proposed the Loft and Mount Meeker instead of the Keyhole, I was psyched. It was my first time on Longs and this route was an absolute blast. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a tour of this magnificent peak, as you can easily add Mount Meeker which has a fun summit ridge and great views of Longs itself.
We left Westminster at 1AM and hit the trail just after 2:30am. Even with this start time, we had to park over 100 yards down the road. The trail was easy to follow in the dark, and we made it to the Chasm Lake Junction in 1:24. It was still too dark to take pictures, so we contoured around Lady Washington toward the base of the Loft.
There were two relatively short snowfield crossings on the way over to the base of the couloir, and in the early morning dark they were frozen solid. The two of us had trekking poles, but crossing these was still a little dicey, and it would have been somewhat nerve-wracking without the sticks. Regardless, we made our way over to the base of the couloir and began picking our way up through loose scree and talus, as it was too dark to locate the "loose trail" described in the 14ers.com route description.
We ascended much of the Loft, and reached the exit ramp before sunrise. There are still two large snowfields in the couloir that can be completed avoided, however they can lead to major routefinding issues if not negotiated correctly. The lower snowfield is easily bypassed on the left, as you will be deposited here off the trail coming from Chasm Lake Junction. The upper snowfield fills most of the upper gully and extends to the cliff band near the top. At present, it is important to ascend left of this snowfield, as going right will force you to cross it. When the sun came up around 5:30am, the snow was ROCK SOLID, and an uncontrolled slide down here would send you into rocks and end disastrously. It is important to ascend left of this field as the exit ramp starts near the top of the gully on the left side. The climbing up high was fun class 3 on solid rock. ***As the snowfield continues to melt this advice will likely become less necessary, but for now it is important.
Mike on the exit ramp at sunrise
Coming up the top of the Loft
We scurried up from the saddle at the top of the couloir and grabbed Meeker. There is a good trail some of the way that eventually disappeared on us, so we scrambled up through talus to the fun summit ridge. There is an exciting block perched up here that you have to pull yourself over!
Traversing the summit ridge on Mount Meeker
The summit boulder on Meeker
It was a gorgeous morning up there
Mike had been up the Loft before, and the route from the Meeker - Longs saddle was relatively straightforward and cairned. We descended slightly and contoured around the backside of the mountain, following cairns the majority of the way until we noticed Clarks Arrow over our right shoulders, just like the route description says!
Looking at Longs from Meeker
Heading around toward the downclimb
Class 3 downclimbing
Starting up Keplingers Couloir, the route was well cairned most of the way.
The climbing in Keplingers was snow free on good rock. There is some loose scree in here but if you are careful you shouldn't have issues sending anything down below you. We went left once the large notch above the couloir came into view and could eventually see the homestretch. When you go from solitude to New York City you know you're near the summit.
How does this happen???
Ascending Keplingers on good rock
Looking down toward the entrance to Keplingers
Nearing the upper portion of Keplingers, we stayed below the snowfield while traversing left
Ahhhh, mountain solitude
We reached the summit around 8:30am, and hung out for 20 minutes while tons of folks arrived and departed. This was definitely the most crowded summit I've been on so far, it's a good thing it's so big!
The summit is huge!
I just had to strike that awkward "look at me!" summit pose
The Narrows - I thought it looked worse than it was
Rounding the corner on the Narrows
Looking down the Trough
Coming around the Ledges
Out of the Keyhole
The Boulderfield - HUGE!
Looking back at the mountain. You can see the two snowfields in the Loft, the upper of which should be ascended on the left side at the time of this writing.
Looking back at the mountain - you can see the snowfields in the Loft
A great day
The descent down the Keyhole was straightforward. Once we hit the Boulderfield we put it in cruise control as thoughts of Oskar Blues and Dales Pale Ale floated into our minds. Overall this was a great day on an exciting mountain, and a neat way to see some of its many faces. It was also fun to grab Mount Meeker, and I highly recommend this side trip to anyone going up the Loft.
If you have questions about this route or the conditions, feel free to PM me.
Thanks for reading!