| Sawatch & Front Range Finishers
Sawatch & Front Range Finishers
I've been lucky enough to keep my sanity, love for the mountains, and health over the past three Summers to finish up The Sawatch and Front Range 14ers in Colorado. And since then, I've come to several conclusions. Here are a few;
There are a few things that I know;
- It's 14er, not 14ner
- 14ers usually don't have 14,000' of elevation gain
- The mountains are the only place that can tame my sense of adventure
There are a lot of things I'm not sure about;
- What is the Loft? The saddle between The Beave and Meeker? The entire route?
- Do we have climbing limits? Or can they be stretched with experience and time?
- Is there an official list of 14er finishers? If so, how are they confirmed?
And there are endless things that I will never understand;
- Free Soloing
- How Dillon Sarnelli finished the 14ers so damn quick..
- How anybody has managed to climb all the 13ers in Colorado
- How so many people manage to reach the Summit of Longs
- How do all those rocks get on those peaks..
Sawatch Finisher - Mt. Princeton 7/14/13
Truth be told, Mt. Princeton is a mountain that has no real outstanding qualities or characteristics that make it a memorable or favorite climb. Luckily, I was able to make Princeton special by bringing my Mom, Sister, and Aunt to the Summit. The peak may not always stick out in my memory, but bringing the family out on a 14er is an experience I'll never forget
First clear view of Tigger from the road
The Monarch of the Sawatch
Some Mountain Flora
One rocky slog
An unforgettable summit crew
Clouds forming over the Elk Range
Some excitement showing from finishing the Sawatch
There were a hilarious amount of spiders up there
Winding down the road to the Radio Towers
Front Range Finisher - Longs Peak via The Loft descent of The Keyhole 8/16/13
Truth be told, this might be my favorite 14er route that I've done so far. I have been reading endless trip reports on Longs and the surrounding peaks lately and this route gave me a little taste for everything. I know this peak and route are far from being anything extreme, but I also realize that not everyone is an extreme climber or is looking for an extreme climb.
The Loft route is pretty well detailed on this site and there are quite a few reports that do a good job of describing the route as well, but it was my first real class 3 climb and I highly recommend it for anybody who is making the transition from class 1-2 to class 3. The exposure is very manageable, the rock is great, but the sense of adventure is great. I've done Kit Carson, but that's on the edge of being a real class 3, so this was my first sustained class 3 14er
Longs was especially fun because I had read about several distinctive features along the route that everybody knows it for. I felt like a paparazzi photographer taking photos of all these "celebrity" features that I had read about, but had never seen. The checklist for the route for me was
1) Chasm Lake Junction
2) Clark's Arrow
3) Stuck Rock along The Loft
Jake and I left his cabin in Estes Park at 4, and were hiking towards Chasm Lake by 4:45. I was feeling pretty tired, hadn't done a 14er in about a month, and wasn't feeling too confident about the climbing because there was a death on the Keyhole route just a day before. I started up through the forest with a bit of a stressed mind, but the in the 3 miles it took to get to the Chasm Lake junction, all of my worries had faded away. We flew the forest in under an hour and were out of treeline really early, were greeted by a unique sunrise, and the view of Longs were enough to drop my jaw for the next 2-8 hours
Sunrise opening it's eye?
Jake leading our way to the ledges of the Loft
View up the Loft
Sunrising over the "Mordorish" Iron Gates
Making our way to the ledges and across the ledges was the first class 3 section that we met along the day. The rock was wet from not only the stream that flows down The Loft, but there was also some snow melt from the recent snow fall last week that added to the wetness. It was pretty easily avoidable, and the rock was fantastic; very jagged which allowed for numerous hand and foot holds. It was a good warmup to the climbing we would do the rest of the route and was a blast
Jake crossing the ledges on our way to Meeker
We made direct line from where we exited The Loft to the Summit of Meeker. I was looking forward to seeing Meeker's Summit Block, and "The Pocketknife" along Meeker Ridge, and I was certainly not disappointed. The exposure on either side of Meeker is probably some of the most exposure we saw all day. Scrambling across the summit blocks had a cautious feel that I've never really had to use on a summit. One of the coolest peaks I've climbed
We knew the SAR helicopter was coming in this morning to retrieve the body of the young man who had fallen along the Keyhole Route the day before, so we kept our eye out, and saw the chopper come into view while we were on Meeker. The body was on the West Face of Longs, but the helicopter was doing maneuvers and hovering near The Chasm Lake area. We thought perhaps it was maybe doing some warmup, or checking the conditions, but later found out there had been a climbing accident in that area, and the helicopter was actually focusing on retrieving them and not the body. Two accidents in two days set an eerie setting for the rest of the hike that kept me cautious
Good thing the camera focused in on the rock and not our matching outfit...
After descending Meeker, we started to make our way down towards Clark's Arrow and back to The Homestretch. Jake had done The Longs Grand Slam not too long ago, so he knew exactly where we were headed.
Descending towards Clark's Arrow
Jake guided us right to the Arrow
Beginning the traverse towards the Homestretch
From descending the saddle below Meeker, most of the climbing was class 2 and was going by fairly quickly. We started up towards The Homestretch when we were intrigued by the thought of going up to The Notch. The snow didn't look too bad, and I figured it would be awesome to look at Longs from I-25 and see the notch I was in. I was reading some reports of The Notch climb, and it looks pretty "rad". There are about 200 different routes to the summit of Longs. It's awesome
View from the top of The Notch
The Notch had a tough move along some of the snow that I wasn't sure I could make, but Jake pushed onward and peered through the window over The Diamond. From the sound of it, the route from The Notch to the Summit of Longs looks pretty doable, but "has some exposure". Yeah, I can imagine. I'll save that one for Winter
Remaining route to The Homestretch and Summit of Longs
Getting to The Homestretch was a pretty tricky task. The route seemed straightforward, but there was water everywhere. It was essentially unavoidable for the last 200-300 feet below The Homestretch. There were several moves along the water that got my heart pounding; the exposure isn't terrible, but I didn't like my chances of stopping if I were to fall.
I saw one person on The Loft; Jake. We didn't see another person the entire ascent, and that made it quite a bit more enjoyable. But I will confess that it was comforting to see the masses of people just 20-30 feet above me climbing the same rock. The Homestretch was wet and full of people; like always. The climbing along this section was pretty fun, but limited by the number of people next to you. We topped out at 10:30, 5 hours and 45 minutes from when we began
Meeker with SAR Helicopter on the right shoulder of Meeker
The summit of Longs is freakin massive. Jake and I were talking about it being an awesome helipad. We were greeted by about 25 other people, and talked to a few people who had climbed The Cables Route. They heard some screams in the Chasm Cirque, and assumed they were connected to the accident that morning
We ate some food, took some photos, then began our way down The Classic Keyhole
Making our way across The Narrows
The Narrows had some stretches of exposed climbing, but the ledges are so wide that it never felt uncomfortable
And down The Trough
After descending The Trough, I can say that I'm glad I haven't ascended The Trough
RMNP has a bunch to offer
Jake pointed out The Keyboard of the Winds, Pagoda, Hallet, and several other peaks in the area and where he went for his Grand Slam route. There is a lot of climbing that can be done up there
Little Diamond Cairn in front of The Diamond
That's Longs Peak...
But this is a lama.. with Longs Peak
I read a report by bpettus that had a picture of him standing at this bridge from a trip he did in 1975 and another picture of when he did it in 2009. This day on Longs was too perfect to not make plans for more trips back, so I'm hoping to get some photos over the years of me here. My first visit to Longs was simply, awesome
Hoping to come back here for years to come
I'm excited for what's left on the 14er list, The Centennials, 13ers, 12ers, and whatever other mountains I can get on top of. I think I finally feel comfortable enough with my climbing ability to push onwards to the more difficult, and as Colby Renfro calls them, "fun" peaks. And yes Colby, Longs Peak is more amazing than I could have ever imagined or you could have ever described!
List of Recent Great Reads:
In memory of Sean Wylam - By Monster5
WE'RE BETTER THAN SurfNTurf - LOOK AT THIS! - By Fisching
Loft Route with Keyhole return & Longs Peak via Dovetail - By bpettus
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):