Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Date Posted: 
Date Climbed:   08/27/2005
Author:  SarahT

 8/27/05 The Loft w/Keyhole descent  

Longs Peak & Mount Meeker via The Loft with Keyhole descent

This was the first weekend in months that I did not climb a new 14er but I was not disappointed. My list of remaining 14ers is getting quite small and it looks like I'll have plenty of time to finish up next summer. My friend Estelle has been bugging me to climb Longs Peak with her and so I finally agreed on the condition that we take a route I hadn't done yet (The Loft) and summit Mt. Meeker along the way. The idea of sleeping in my nice bed this weekend instead of in a tent was strange but inviting.

We arrived at the Longs Peak Trailhead around 2am and it was completely full. I felt sick. We parked about a quarter mile down the road and quickly hit the trail. Walking through the woods with a train of hundreds of people was stressful and not in the least bit enjoyable. But I kept myself sane by reminding myself that we would be leaving most of the crowd at the junction to Chasm Lake after 3.5 miles. When we reached this point I breathed a sigh of relief as we left the circus behind. (We saw only a dozen or so hikers from that point on until we rejoined the Keyhole route for the Homestretch.) We reached the cabin below Chasm Lake around 4am and decided to wait around for sunrise so we could see the route up to the Loft.

Soon, a solo hiker stopped to talk to us and to make sure he knew where he was. He intended to take the Keyhole route but got off track at the Chasm Lake junction, probably because of all the people hanging around there and blocking the signs. I explained the difference between the two routes to him and he then asked whether he could join us instead of retracing his steps and rejoining the circus. I reluctantly agreed. I was a little nervous because he had just moved to Colorado and had only hiked Grays and Torreys and Longs Peak requires more than simple hiking, but I wanted to help him out. In the end it turned out that he made a great hiking partner and I was very glad that he joined us.

We got cold waiting for the sun to come up so we decided to try to find our way up The Loft slowly in the dark. This turned out to be pretty easy and there were several broken trails that we followed. I found the scrambling up to The Loft to be very easy and I was a little disappointed, but Estelle was a little bit challenged by it, probably because she is really short and doesn't have much experience. Our new partner, David, seemed to be a natural. We quickly arrived at the windy Loft and directed our attention to Mt. Meeker. The rock hop up to the summit did not require much effort at all and it seemed like we got there in no time (just stayed on top of the ridge the whole way). We signed the summit register which for some reason is not located on or even very close to the summit. I might have been fooled by it if I hadn't read Roach's description of a tough Class 3 move to the summit block. We then proceeded to the real summit. Estelle gave it a try and was having some problems so I gave her a big butt push to get her up there. Dave and I quickly joined her. Meeker's summit was very pleasing, with fairly sharp drop offs. We quickly got off the summit so we could hide from the wind and have some snacks. Once again, I aided Estelle, making my shoulders into some handholds for her and at the same time spotting her so she wouldn't fall if she slipped.

We retraced our steps down to The Loft and walked over to its northwest corner in search of the downclimb that would take us to Keplingers Couloir. It was marked by a few small cairns, but we were still a bit unsure at first whether it was the correct way. We did a fun downclimb for about 150 feet to reach the upper portion of the couloir and found ourselves right below the face of the beautiful Palisades. It was an easy and obvious scramble up the gully and we soon could see the circus of people on the upper reaches of the Trough and the Homestetch. We rejoined the Keyhole route around 13,900 ft and quickly scrambled up the Homestretch. It was so much easier for me than when I climbed it for the first time two years ago (my 3rd 14er). Pure fun! I passed a very scared girl who was coming down and she said to me, "I hate to tell you this, but it's just as bad coming down". I felt bad for her. We took a half hour break before making our way down the Keyhole route. There were several traffic jams along the way. At the point which Roach refers to as the crux I got pissed off because some girl was practically stepping on my head as I was starting the downclimb. Other than that incident though I must say that everyone else was very friendly and courteous. Storms were building when we reached the Keyhole and we were glad to be off the technical part of the descent. From this point the typical slog back to the trailhead began…..yuck! We arrived at the trailhead at 6pm after almost 16 hours of hiking! I think I was more tired from lack of sleep than from physical exertion. Despite my horrible experience with the crowds in the morning I had a great time. And met a new potential hiking partner. I can say that I like the Keyhole route better than The Loft but taking this alternate route was fun and it was definitely worth it to get away from the crowds. On the way home we went with our new friend David to Oskar Blues for dinner and a beer.


 Comments or Questions

Good Report
04/30/2008 19:18
Sarah, I‘m thinking about climbing Meeker and Longs via the Loft in early August. You say this route took you almost 16 hours. How long do you think it would take me solo? Is Estelle the same friend you climbed Princeton with (when I met you guys 3 years ago)? Are there any tricks on the ascent to the Loft, or the descent to Keplinger‘s, or are they pretty obvious? What if I decide to skip Longs - would it be relatively easy to find the trail and descend the Loft Route from the saddle?




Have fun!
04/30/2008 19:32
Hey Todd, this route would definately not take you anywhere close to 16 hours. Yes, Estelle was my hiking partner for Princeton. She is slower than average and I remember on the slog back to the TH on this trip she was going so slow that I walked as slow as I could and still had to sit and wait for her to catch up! I would guess you won‘t take longer than 10-12 hours tops. Ascending the Loft was straightforward. The only tricky part was finding where to descend to Keplingers to get to Longs. We followed Roach‘s directions and found some small cairns. They were hard to see until we had descended a little bit though. I‘m sure with a few minutes of poking around you‘ll find the way. If you just want to climb Meeker, finding the descent route back down from the Loft should be easy.


05/01/2008 16:18
Thank you for all the info, Sarah. Your trip reports are very detailed and helpful for a lot of us...

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