| Smitty‘s Loft
I have slept in for Meeker and missed climbing it more than any other mountain. Not this time though, that would make for a very boring and uninformative trip report. This time the alarm went off and I jumped up. I wouldn't be hiking alone today. In April of this year a family friend, 6 foot 6 inches tall, strong, Black, Dr. Donald Smith, or Uncle Smitty as I knew him passed away. He went how he wanted to, he didn't let anyone take care of him, he didn't let us see him hurt. He just went. I knew almost right away that I wanted him to rest up on Longs and after going up the loft earlier this month I knew that was the perfect place. So I got some of his ashes from my dad and we set off. I started late, signed in at 5:30am and moved pretty quick. I got above the trees just in time to catch the alpenglow on the Diamond.
I made my way up to Chasm junction and arrived at the ranger station around 7:30-8. I had fun on the way up the loft and climbed my way up
rather than scrambling up the looser areas. I went to the left of the water that normally runs down the middle and topped out right on the exit ledges. They were pretty snow covered and as early as it was the snow was firm. I carefully made my way on the far left of the ledges close to the edge. This was probably the most interesting move of the day. If I had come up the exit ledges in the normal spot I could have stayed to the inside but since I started on the left of the snow I had to walk the line...
I proceeded onto the loft and turned left for Meeker. I hit the summit quickly and looked right past it at the east summit and the interesting ridge that separates the two.
I thought from reading route descriptions that to get to the real summit you needed to cross said ridge, so even though it looked lower I cruised right past the real summit and ventured across the ridge. I took the right/south side on the way down. On the way back I stuck to the other side and it was easier. There were quite a few fun moves on this exposed ridge and it is the first time in awhile that I had to face any fear of heights. I'm not generally scared of heights but when I feel that way it helps me to look at the drop, make sense of it and then move forward. Here are some more views of the ridge and the exposure.
This is looking back at both summits from the east summit of Meeker.
After getting to the much lower summit I chatted with another climber who was up there. He had decided that the ridge was a little more interesting than desired and had stopped here. Before too long I turned back and made a better stop on the true summit before descending back to the loft proper.
I got back to the loft around 10:30 and sat down for some lunch with Smitty. We listened to some music on my iPhone and thought about times spent together and words of wisdom he shared with me. Smitty was one of my first bosses, I mowed his lawn when I was very young. He would almost always make me the thickest and most delicious bacon when I would come over. I stole my first drink of peach Schnapps out of his fridge, I confessed this to him now. Then the wind that had been calm all day picked up and I knew it was time. I walked across the loft and let the wind take him, what a perfect place. I built a tiny cairn out of sight under the boulder that we sat at for lunch.
It was now about 11:40 and since the weather was perfect I set off for Longs, I figured it is another mile or two today or 14-15 miles to come touch the summit again so why not?
Earlier this month when MikeyC, Jessica and myself did this route the conditions were less than ideal, see here; http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=5004&parmuser=JB99&cpgm=tripuser
So today it felt like no problem. I was surprised that almost immediately after finishing the down climb to Clark's Arrow you can see people on the homestretch.
They are there, look closely.
I made quick work of the traverse over to there and walked/jogged up most of the homestretch, oh how different it is without water and ice running down it. I was on the summit of Longs around 12:30, almost alone. I took the time to walk around and enjoy the summit, I have not had the time or energy to do so on my past two summits.
Looking down at Chasm Lake.
Looking back at Meeker.
I also remembered to get a picture of my arm while I was there, nice resemblance, a little out of focus though.
I decided to avoid the standard keyhole route descent and went back toward Clark's Arrow. This was my first time going down this way and the climb up from Clark's Arrow convinced me that this section had at least two class 4 moves. You like that sentence? "going down this way and the climb up..." Anyway, I am a pretty decent rock climber so it wasn't terribly hard to get back up but I had to do a few full on rock climbing moves to get up some spots, this could also have to do with the fact that I am only 5 ft. 4, Smitty could have stepped up it.
Looking up the down climb.
The descent was mostly uneventful. I was so happy with my legs, they didn't even complain all day. The product of a busy summer I guess. When I saw the sign for Goblin's I started to jog and did so for the rest of the way. I was back at the trailhead in less than 12 hours around 5:15pm. It was a special day and I will be back to this route and Smitty's Loft many times in the years to come. My kids will visit this one of his many resting places with me and I will tell tales of my tall, Black Uncle Smitty. Not many short, Jewish, white kids get one of them and I know how lucky I am to have had mine. We can all look up to him now, on our drive, on our way to school, on our future hikes up Longs RIP Uncle Smitty.
All photos by Jesse Benn
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):