| Loft Route Solo
Route: Loft (with Ice variation) Keyhole descent
Date: January 29, 2011
The Longs Peak Project: #1
The plan is simple, twelve summits of Longs Peak in twelve months, each by a different route. The inspiration came from Bill Wright who completed his own Longs Peak Project a number of years ago. Staring this with a lower class climb was ideal. Winter ascents of Longs are extremely taxing and keeping it light and fast helps insure success. This not only would be the start of my Project but if I were successful it would be my 10th summit of Longs. Needless to say, I was very excited.
When I reached the Trailhead at 4:45am there were several other cars already there. By 5am I was on my way. My pack consisted of 64 ounces of agua, turkey sandwich, extra gloves, down jacket, goggles, shades, crampons and 2 ice tools (BD Venom, BD Fusion).
I was planning on doing the small ice variation at the top of the Loft snowfield, hence the ice tools.
Ice and Longs
Making good time I reached Chasm Junction at 6:30am and made my way towards the lake. I had to gear up to cross the snowfield that blocks access to the lake as the snow was very windblown and steep.(later, on my descent I ran into a dozen SAR members on their way to Peacock Pool where first responders were stabilizing a woman who slid down the said snowfield and was injured.)
Lower Loft route
I made my way up towards the Loft, staying on the left side of the slope. When I reached the ledges to the south of the falls I was surprised to see most of the ice had melted out. The main fall was very thin and thus un-climbable so I opted to ascend the smaller, gentler sloped ice directly to the right (north) of the main falls. The snow before the ice was good, nice foam great for kick steps, but very steep. Being solo I was nervous but remained focused on the task. The ice itself was short, maybe 20 or 30 feet of WI2 and just a few feet wide. At the top of the ice was a choke stone blocking access to the upper part of the ice. I made a few low fifth moves to the right of the rock, using my tools to hook the rock above. After I cleared the ice pitch it was just a quick jaunt to the Loft plateau.
Upper Loft Route
Ice section left un-marked
I made it to Clarks Arrow by 10am. The down climb went smoothly, very interesting in shanked boots and loose snow. Staying underneath the Palisades I worked up towards the Notch.
Looking back at Clarks Arrow section
Headwall under the Homestretch
From the top of Keplinger’s couloir one must traverse west over snow covered slabs. Under summer conditions this can be the crux of the entire route. The south facing slabs can be covered in ice all year round. Because of the recent warm temps and sunny days this area had ice covered in wet snow. The standard way up looked very icy and guarded by con-vexed snow features, so I opted to head strait to the headwall and traverse several hundred feet over steep snow, staying above the danger areas. I post holed through the traverse and was finally able to gain the Homestretch.
Traverse over slabs under the Homestretch
I ran into the first and only fellow climber of the day at the bottom of the Homestretch. It’s nice having a peak like Longs nearly to yourself. The final bit of climbing was frightfully exhausting. Beat up, I dragged my haggard ass to the summit block by noon precisely.
My 10th summit! And what a way to gain it!
I lingered on the summit for half an hour or so before heading down. When I reached the top of the trough I took quite a few photos of the West face. There are at least 6 low fifth class routes established on Longs’ west face. I’ve never seen or heard of any climbs of these routes and would love to put one on the board. Crossing the Ledges required a lot of side stepping as a trench was not in place. I reached the Keyhole by 2pm and worked my way back towards the car. At the Battle Mountain cut off I ran into the SAR members heading up to Peacock Pool. I thanked them for there noble work and ran down. I love Longs Peak in the winter, so many wonderful shortcuts! From the 2.5 mile sign to the car took just under 30 minutes! Anyway, good long day, stoked to have my Longs Peak Project underway.
Looming West face
A few pictures of the area. Let me know if any other info in needed
Martha Couloir M3, 5.5
Trough from mid way up
Glacier Gorge area
Keyhole Ridge 5.6
Upper Keyhole Ridge 5.6
Zumies Chimney 5.2(left) Mary's Ledges 5.6(right)
Cables Route. Snow covering lower part of the 5.4 pitch
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):