Meeker, Longs and Pagoda
The Radical Slam is a sick concoction publicized by Gerry Roach. The climb consists of all 7 peaks in the Longs Peak Massif region; Meeker, Longs, Pagoda, Storm, Lady Washington, Battle Mt, and Estes Cone (in that order). While the entire route is just under 20mi/10000ft elevation gain, the route is 75% cross country, and through some tough terrain at that. My friend Chris had attempted the Longs Grand Slam(same but without Battle Mt and Estes Cone) before, and really wanted to complete the route, as he’d been knocked off by weather on both prior attempts.
We only got 3 takers for the Sunday 3am start from the Longs Peak Trailhead. Myself, Chris Gerber, and Alan. After bivying just down the road, I met Alan at the trailhead at 240am, Chris arrived a little later at 250am. Heavy fog covered all the lower elevations, not a star in sight. This worried us, as there was a front coming in that evening, and we thought that maybe this was a prelude of what was to come. We left the trailhead at 320am and cruised up to Chasm Lake at a steady pace. As we hit treeline we broke out of the fog, and were greeted by a clear and starry sky, a welcome sight. It took us approximately an hour and a half to reach Chasm Lake, where our off trail adventure would begin. We climbed up through the dark toward the Loft and Mt Meeker(our first peak). As we climbed up the steep slabs toward the Loft, the sky began to brighten and we were able to switch off the headlamps. The climbing was nice solid class 3, though there were areas that were very wet due to the heavy rains.
We crossed the exit ledge and made a B-line for Meeker’s North ridge. We summited just as the sun was peaking above the clouds at 635am (3:15 from the TH). The wind was howling, but we managed to find a semi sheltered spot to grab some food and enjoy the view from high above the clouds, which formed a thick blanket over the valley below. We picked our way through the boulders to the opposite side of the Loft, dropped approximately 50ft and began searching for the mythical “Clark’s Arrow”. Between us we’d done the Loft route half a dozen times, never finding the arrow route in this direction. Our high line brought us to a broad class 3 gulley, where we dropped 100ft, then traversed around one rib to get back into the Clark’s Arrow route. As we rounded the rib we saw the faint white markings of Clark’s Arrow. We had actually taken the correct class 3 route and the slightly shorter class 4 route was just above us. We traversed into Keplinger’s and made quick work of the Homestretch, summiting Longs at 825am. It was already starting to get busy on the summit with a dozen people coming and going.
We hung around until 845am, then took off down the Homestretch, headed for the East ridge of Pagoda. From the base of the Homestretch, and just before the Narrows we dropped off the Keyhole route and headed down into the slab and talus that leads toward Pagoda. We side hilled toward the Keyboard of the Winds, aiming at the weakness in the cliffs, next to the dark rock band. We dropped into the broad grassy gulley from right to left, then traversed a rock bench back to the Keyboard of the Winds. From here the route is very trivial, follow the ridge to Pagoda’s summit, lots of class 2 with a little bit of class 3 mixed in if you want it. We summited Pagoda just an hour after leaving Longs, 945am. We had the craggy summit all to ourselves, and the summit log showed that only a few dozen people had visited the peak this year. The weather still looked wonderful, with a few wispy clouds in the sky, and no storms to speak of. After the requisite pictures and summit log signing, we headed down the boulder filled slopes of Pagoda.
Storm, Lady Washington, Battle, and Estes ConeThis was the part of the route we were most unsure of, how to get from Pagoda, back to the Keyhole without regaining/losing too much elevation. On Alan’s suggestion we dropped into the last large class 2-3 gulley just below the cliff bands. After descending the gulley for 200ft we were able to traverse right below the large pinnacles of the Keyboard of the Winds (12800ft). We followed an ascending traverse around two large buttresses, finally popping out 100ft below the Keyhole route. While the route was lose it was not technical, nor did we have to lose and regain a large amount of elevation, by far the best way. The wind was still howling, and was extra strong in the Keyhole as always. Otherwise the weather was perfect; clear, cool, and sunny. We dropped 100ft and began our long boulder hope up toward Storm Peak, summiting just before noon. A few clouds had begun to build just North of us, though they were small and non-threatening.
When we reached the Boulder Field a brief snow flurry blew overhead, dropping the temp 5 degrees and throwing a few flakes at us, it soon passed and the sun came back out. Mt Lady Washington was another class 2-3 slog through endless piles of boulders. I made the mistake of first climbing the lower North summit, before heading over to the higher South summit. We reached the summit of Lady Washington just before 1pm, 5 peaks down and 2 to go. From Lady Washington one has an awesome view of the Diamond and the North Face. Lambslide is in horrid shape(ice and debris), The Flying Dutchman is completely melted out, and the faces appeared to have some water trickling down them. After admiring the magnificents of Longs we plodded on down Lady Washington’s ridge straight at Granite Pass. From Granite Pass Battle Mt is a 5-10min jaunt. The summit of Battle Mt consists of a large pile of rocks right next to Granite Pass. There is no true high point, just a narrow rib of rock, which houses the high point, somewhere.
From Battle Mt we traversed around the left side of two more piles of talus then headed around the right side of the final mounds of the Battle Mt plateau toward Estes Cone. We side hilled around the final mound back to a broad saddle on the ridgeline. The traverse had been mostly easy grass to this point, but now willows and low brush choked the hillside. We wound our way through the brush on game trails, finally breaking into a clearing along the ridge, which would take us down into the forest. In retrospect we should have climbed directly over the last bump along the Battle Mt plateau. It began to sprinkle as we picked our way through the forest, which was surprisingly open. A few fallen trees, minimal brush, and massive mushrooms littered this area. Which would have been quite pleasant, had we not been traveling cross country for almost 10hours.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so elated to see a trail in my life, as we stepped on to the Estes Cone trail at Storm Pass we all felt relieved. One more peak, all on trail. We climbed steadily uphill, and as we did the trail became worse and worse, finally disappearing into boulder hopping and rock cairns, wait a sec? After a short scramble we stood on top of Estes Cone, just after 330pm, 12h after starting our journey, and 7 peaks later. The fog was creeping up from below, while clouds continued to roll overhead. Nothing was overly threatening, but it was time to get a move on. From Storm Pass we took off at a brisk jog, finally on good trail. We jogged most of the way down, walking the occasional short uphills. Alan and I finally popped out at the Longs Peak trailhead at 440pm, 13h and 20min after setting out.
There was one final order of business, Roach states that in order to fully complete the Radical Slam one must complete 50 pushups AFTER climbing all 7 peaks. I took a swig of water and set out to complete this task, hammering through all 50 in one shot. Next it was Chris and Alan’s turn, it took them a few sets, but we all finished and congratulated one another(Photo 10). It had been a longggggg day; 7 peaks, 9800ft gain, class 1,2,3,4 terrain, some wind, snow and rain, and finally 50 pushups. Chris had knocked off his White Whale that had eluded twice before. We were all tired from the long day and lack of sleep, but not overly beaten down. I was mostly surprised by the amount of route finding and tough cross country hiking this climb contained. We chatted, ate and stretched for a few minutes as we recounted our journey. Then it was time for everyone to head home for a shower and lots of good rest. Another wonderful day in the mountains.