| JB&MikeyC‘s Excellent Adventure
"Another climb?" read my PM inbox. Well of course, Longs via the loft you say?! Lets do it.
A few weeks later I was finding it hard to get to sleep. The alarm set for 1AM and as I lay in bed I felt almost like I was waiting in line for a roller coaster. All summer I have cursed my alarm, 3:30AM is my new least favorite time ever. On this day though I was up and ready to roll. Jessica was even coming with me today. She has come so far; from being furious at me for dragging her up Elbert, to freezing up on Quandary's west ridge, to cursing at me as she worked her way up Conundrum's couloir, to voluntarily getting up at 1AM to climb Longs with me. Maybe that's the trick, you don't find surfer girl in the mountains, you bring her to them. We arrived at the near full trailhead at 2:30AM and Mike quickly found us. There was only a light drizzle but it was obvious that it had rained quite a bit that night and the day before. We signed in at 3:20AM, I left a happy birthday note for my little sister who turned 14 that day and we were off. We made good time up to Chasm Junction and were at the ranger station before the sun so we paused and let it come up a bit before setting out up the loft.
The mountain was drenched, waterfalls poured down the loft and I quickly wished I had Gore-tex shoes.
Jessica has gotten to be a pretty proficient scrambler and the class 3 didn't feel so bad here.
We worked our way up and found the exit ledges easily.
Once on the loft we caught some of the best pictures of the day. This is my favorite.
It was now 8AM and looking at the clouds we decided that we would focus on just Longs. (We originally hoped to do both Longs and Meeker.) Something that I hadn't factored into my estimation of how quickly we would move was that Jessica moves very slow over class 3 stuff. If you throw in some exposure then it gets even slower. Which is fine, but I should have done a better job estimating our movement on the route based on this.
So we started over to the west side of Longs behind the "Beaver" and quickly found the class 4 down climb, by the way, if that is class 4 then why is this route rated class 3? There was a little added tobasco sauce because of all the snow/hail/frozen pellet stuff. Here is Mike working his way down.
We got through this section pretty easily and never felt uneasy. The exposure is worse on the keyhole route I thought, but the climbing is more technical through here. Just as we discussed the "elusive" Clark's arrow it was there. Here is Jessica rounding the corner after the down climb as we entered Keplinger's.
It was here that the clouds rolled in, both Mike's and my barometer read sunny all day though.
With such low visibility our trip started to get more interesting. Also I am guessing that snow/hail/frozen pellet stuff covered much of the route because things got much more difficult. Mike did a great job of route finding but there was one move on a traverse that had to of been low class 5. Did I mention that the rock was soaking wet? Makes getting a good smear a bit harder and this move required it. Jessica's foot slipped and she started into a bit of a panic, we have worked on this and I stayed right with her talking her through it. "It is just one move, 2 feet over and you will be safe..." she pulled herself quickly together made the move and grabbed onto me. Whew.
Here is a picture of Mike just before the section that was our crux for the day. The last of the blue sky waits to disappear behind him.
We carried on and made our way, 50 feet or so at a time. It was hard to really know where we were at because visibility was so poor but both Mike and I had a pretty good understanding of the route and just as we were talking about the homestretch being here any minute I spotted some other climbers and we knew exactly where we were. As we started our way up the "bobsled run" some kids coming down looked terrified and warned us about how wet things were. With what we had already dealt with the homestretch was a relief. We moved delicately up this slick section and finally topped out around 11:30. We exchanged foggy summit photos with some other folks who were up there.
Jessica was justifiably proud.
And we took a picture holding the signs we made for my little sister, Happy Birthday Beth!
After this something magical happened, the other folks started down and the 3 of us shared Longs summit alone. Something we had also done on Quandary. It was about noon and with a forecast of possible storms at 2PM and no idea of what the weather was doing around us we began our way down the keyhole route. Going down the homestretch was interesting, Jessica was pretty done with being wet and scared so I reminded her that there was only one way down whether we like it or not and she perked up. The narrows were wet and snowy but didn't pose much technical difficulty. Here is Jessica starting across.
The fog seemed to help disguise the exposure and that helped Jessica move through here and the ledges a little easier. Finally we popped through the keyhole and began the long slog to the car. Unfortunately we didn't get a single good look at the diamond all day but the clouds broke just enough to get this picture that shows the bottom.
My advice, don't start looking for the trail head on the way down, the trees are endless on the way home and it is best to just be pleasantly surprised by the parking lot than waiting to get there. Having done this before I knew what to expect and was still surprised at how long it seemed to take to get there. We got back to the car at 5:15PM, 14 hours after starting out. If you are all comfortable with scrambling and have good weather you could pretty easily take 3-5 hours off that time. I would highly recommend this route, the keyhole is crowded and less fun. Going up the loft and down the keyhole was nice, a full circle around Longs and a beautiful day, with no view.
All photos by Jesse Benn or Jessica Schouten
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):