Date: August 5th, 2012 Distance: 13 miles Elevation gain: 5,100 ft Routes: ascent – North Face (Cables), descent – Loft Roundtrip time: 4.15am to 3.30pm (11 hours 15 minutes) Party: Natalie (nkan02) and Hugh
Plan C never looked more attractive. After scraping the plans for the Elks (Plan A) and Sangres (Plan B) for this weekend, the rare perfect weather forecast for Longs - no mention of rain at all and very little wind - made it an obvious choice. Hugh and I met at the ranger station at 4am on Sunday morning, distributed gear - Hugh was carrying a 60mm rope, and I got a heavy sack with trad gear (estimated at over 7 pounds) – and we were off. As usual, Hugh set a good (read: blistering) pace and shortly after 6am we were at Chasm junction watching the sunrise above the Twin Sisters.
By 7.30 am we were in the middle of the boulder field, eyeing the path of least resistance to the first bolt. Without good beta, we decided to ascend the obvious gully in the middle of the face.
I don't know how to draw arrows, but we aimed for a gully (dark spot) in the middle of the field
Close-up of the route
Scramble up the gully (Class 2+)
The trad rack was really starting to slow me down at this point, so I took my sweet time scrambling up the boulder field, as Hugh patiently waited for me. I also took some photos of people on the Keyhole Ridge, as well as many more on the standard, Keyhole route.
Party on Keyhole Ridge route
At the top of the gully we picked up a faint hikers trail (apparently also used to hike to Chasm view) and route finding was no longer a guessing game.
Route so far (Boulderfield below)
I followed the steep gully to the right of the rock rib, and then the short Class 4-5 scramble brought me to the first bolt with Hugh already geared up and ready to rock-and-roll (aka lead).
Short, unroped low class 5 section below the 1st bolt
another scrambly section
A solo scrambler, Scott, joined us for the roped-up pitch - he did this route before and was prepared to solo it, but seemed glad to have a company. Hugh did a great job leading the pitch, making it look effortless. In no time he was pulling on a (red) rope and it was my turn to follow. I was carrying a (blue) rope for Scott and was also expected to clean the route. Unlike other climbers, I did not bring my rock shoes – I reasoned that the extra weight savings on a long day would outweigh the benefits on a relatively short Class 5.3 rated section. At both cruxes I came close to regretting my decision, but I made it through without an hitch, but not without an effort The route was mostly dry, save for a few sections with running water, most notably around the 1st crux. The views were tremendous and to my surprise, the exposure did not bother me at all this time (being roped up probably helped). Still, I made a mental note to refrain from skiing the North Face slope in the future – but will give huge props to guys & gals who can do it.
Hugh placed very few pieces of gear and just threw a couple of slings with biners on bolts for protection, making my cleaning job really easy and soon I was on the ledge enjoying the views and watching the 3rd person, Scott, scrambling up the pitch.
One of the bolts
Scott is coming up
Hugh is having good time belaying Scott
The remaining route from the top of the anchor station to the summit was a Class 3-4 scramble, and both Hugh and Scott had no trouble staying on route.
Remaining route. Navigating this maze could be a challenge for people with lesser route finding skills. Hugh & Scott did not have any problem with it.
Unfortunately, the trad rack was really weighting me down at this point and the last 300-400 feet was pretty slow going as I was running on fumes. Finally, a quarter after 10 am we reached the summit (it took us an hour longer than via the Keyhole route last year, but I blame the trad rack).
Victorious on the summit of Longs (2nd time for both, I believe)
With the perfect weather forecast like this, I expected to see half the city of Denver on the summit, but it was not bad at all. Hugh did run into some people he knew and has not seen in almost a decade, which was neat. Scott, a radio enthusiast, planned to stay on the summit for a while and then rappel down the Cables route, so we split up. My preferable descent route was Loft – I’ve done bits & pieces of it (once in snow), but never the route from Longs in its entirety. I also was intrigued to find an elusive Clark’s arrow. After 30 minutes on the summit, we took off and began descending the Homestretch.
Hugh on Homestretch
It was in perfect summer condition and as dry as it gets. At the bottom of the Homestretch, we found the fairly obvious turn off and followed the cairns through the gully around the giant spires and buttresses (aka Palisades).
Going around the Palisades
Contemplating the line
Descending the gully
Traversing between the gullies
The route up to this point was relatively straightforward and well cairned. However, as soon as the route started going up again the things got a little more interesting (or confusing – depends on the perspective). We followed some cairns through a gully (which I seemed to recognize from 14ers.com route description) to a large bulge step. Hugh started up the rock but said that it was pushing Class 5 with no good footholds, so he came down. Then he tried to cross the rib with a few Class 4 moves and it worked. Once over the rib, we found ourselves traversing above the (melted out) Keplinger’s couloir and soon thereafter merged with the standard cairned route. Alas, we never saw the elusive Clark’s arrow. My guess is that we did not go high enough.
The route suddenly gets more difficult to read
Hugh thinks this way is a no go (especially with a heavy pack). I concur.
Traversing above Keplinger's
Back on track with Loft/Meeker in sight
On top of Loft looking down - snow on the left is entirely avoidable
We followed the white cairns and then started descending the standard Loft route on the right side (which I’ve done once before, coming down from Meeker). It was a bit loose but not too bad.
Following the ledges on the Loft route
Some Class 3 scrambling on Loft route
It’s there where we noticed several parties on the Flying Buttress and higher up on Meeker. Quite a sight to see! Here is the TR from one of the parties in question. What an impressive work.
But the show was not over yet. As we were approaching the Chasm lake, I heard a few more climbing commands yelled out above me. I looked up and saw two more climbers on the buttress just above the lake. As soon as you start feeling good about your skill set – just look up. Longs/Meeker is that type of a mountain.
More pics of the route are here
The discussion about gear needed for the route is here (we brought way too much gear)
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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