Longs - Loft Trip Report
After reading the excellent report posted by Aaron Johnson we felt quite prepared for this adventure.
After entering the drainage basin above Peacock Pool, perhaps we strayed a bit from the easiest route getting around the corner of Ship's Prow. We saw the trail sign pointing to Chasm and decided to leave the trail at this point and head directly on the line toward the left side of the first snow field. I’m not sure, but there is some indication that we could have proceeded up the Chasm trail a bit more and then cut across with less effort. Not a big deal either way; it is obvious where to go...to the narrow neck of the "cliff bands", just below the large snowfield below the loft, bypassing the snow fields on the way up.
There is some class 3 climbing to get up to the neck of the bands. Some of the slabs could make one a bit nervous about the possible prospect of having to descend them. Eventually we saw the wide ledge heading left. Indeed it looked like there were 2 ledges, but the upper one is the intended one. We joined it about half way to the left, which was more work, so we advise staying more to the right while looking for it. This ledge does not feel exposed at all and makes for a nice break from the climbing. You reach a large boulder that almost blocks the way. Climb on it and then you see the way is easier as you continue on the same direction. Perhaps only 100 yds further on (a guess), you can see the narrower ledge heading right. I was a bit worried when I read about this because of the description of it being grassy and narrow. But the terrain is not very steep here and the rock/dirt provides reasonable footing. So it is no big deal at all. It is nothing like the face of Eolus which is what I had feared. Then it is about 10 minutes of easy walking to the loft.
We did not feel we had the time to go over to Meeker, but it appears that it would take only about 30 minutes to get there. This is certainly a better way up Meeker than what I did long ago from the east side.
We exited the loft near the NW corner. We did find some cairns at some point, but it is very clear where you are headed...to the end of the Palisades. Our GPS showed the descent from the loft to be 350 ft (instead of 150-200), but it of course depends on which point of the loft you measure from.
Going around the Palisades is obvious and not difficult. What an awesome looking rock! Walking around this formation is worth the effort even if you don’t reach the summit! It looks to be about 1000' tall! We stayed close to the wall on the ascent just because it looked cool. In particular, the view from the NW side is awesome.
On the ascent on the north side of Palisades, when we got to the first snowfield we chose the left/lower side to skirt it which was no problem. The gully does have some places with loose rock and so it is indeed good to spread out your team. At the top of the gully you see a west-facing wall of Longs. At about this time you can see the distant throng on the homestretch from the Keyhole route. There were a few places where the rock slabs were wet on the "ascending traverse" from the gully to the homestretch; this could make one a bit nervous. But there are lots of paths to try and it is not too steep or exposed.
Then you join "lemming lane", as I call the Homestretch. Most of the throng looks weary and a bit nervous, as indeed they should be. If it were not for the line of people in front and behind them most would probably not go up this part; but mass hysteria drives them on. Thankfully there is practically no loose rock, the slabs have a good surface for friction (not slick), and it is not too steep and so no one is slipping. But if you get nervous with someone 3 feet behind you and 3 feet in front, then this will be misery. Keep in mind that there are actually several seams you can use within the 10' wide general line. Most people tend to use the left-most one. On the descent we used the lower one and it was much better because it had no one on it.
On top, be sure to walk to the south end to look down at Chasm and the Loft. Also go to the north end to look down at the trough and the south west side to look at Pagoda and Chiefs head. I've tried to get to the east edge to get a peek down the face, but never went far enough.
On the descent of the homestretch, when/if you get nervous then by all means use you backside! Descending by way of the Keyhole is cool if you've never been on that side. Remember to keep looking up at the various awesome west faces above you. If you’ve never been on a steep mountainside then you will be surprised at the rugged traverse across the narrows. But as usual, don’t worry too much except for the few feet in front of you. Keep a look out for an awesome view of the Keyboard of the Winds. The narrows is a great opportunity to experience exposure with no risk. Be prepared for the traffic jam at the end of it as people slowly go down into the trough over one particular move that takes a stretch.
The trough is not fun going up or down because it is long and crowded. There are many places you can go around slower hikers but it is not graceful as you are risking knocking down rock. But still, I've never been willing to give up 30 minutes following slower hikers.
Crossing the west side after the trough is no problem and the route is interesting, but still crowded. At one point it is actually possible to get off trail and accidentally ascend to what you think might be the keyhole. But the freshly painted bull’s-eye’s and the crowds make this unlikely. After the keyhole it is just the long slog home. Have a friend along and plenty of conversation topics to make the time pass.
One more suggestion about this area. Go up Mt. Lady Washington some time. The view of the east face is spectacular. If you look carefully you can spot climbers on the face though they look smaller than you would guess (look for colored helmets). The ascent of Lady Washington from the Chasm Lake trail junction is a bit of effort, perhaps 40 minutes for a strong hiker, and there is no trail, but no exposure.