This was my first 14'er a few years ago and I have been back many times since. The view of the Meeker/Long's cirque at sunrise is one of the most inspiring sights I have ever seen.
I grew up in Estes Park, and have made yearly pilgramages to the mountain several times each year. Many of them solo, and always a great time. This trip was a little different. I left for the mountain in Mid afternoon, planing a biovauc near Chasm Lake, that part of the trip went as planned. I didn't even need my snowshoes to get there as most of the snow was less then two feet deep, and 90 percent of it had a wind crust hard enough to support me even into the late afternoon. I set up my biovauc around 5:00pm and settled in for what would be a cold but comfortable night. At first light I was awakened by a howling wind and an unplesant ground blizard from the spindrift being generated off the snowfield of nearby Mt.Meeker I ate a hasty breakfast, strapped on my crampons, pulled out my only ice axe, and broke camp. I decided to have a go up to the loft, and scramble over the final hurdle to the summit proper, I was miserably defeated half way to the loft in grainy 3 foot deep snow that hissed around me like fluid as I worked upward. After 3 hours of slogging, I turned back, not wanting to become another statistic in Colorado climbing. I made it back past my previous camp in less then 45 minutes, and headed around to the old cable route. The conditions were vastly better. It was a combination of good hard ice, a little wind deposited snow, and some clean rock. I made very quick progress, until about 500 feet below the summit. Where the route usually is at its easiest, the snow was piled deep and loose again. I carfully made my way across it, over the finial ledge, and onto the summit itself. It was 230 in the afternoon, with beautiful clear skies, and a stiff wind kicking off spindrift plumes from most of the nearby peaks. A picture perfect winter ascent. I traversed the peak over to the South east side, made my way down to "Lambs Slide" and glissaded down as far as I could. This is where it got a little ugly. I found myself back in the vicinity of the same snow conditions that had defeated me on the way up, This time my fears were slightly different. The snow was no longer sandy and fluid, it had warmed enough that as I moved it began to "sluff" off the mountain. 200 feet shy of the snow shoot leading to the loft route (and back to Chasm Lake) I set off a small avalanche, it had little volume when it reached me, but hearing it pour over the sheer face to my left unnerved me enough that I had to sit down to collect myself. Back on my feet a few minutes later I gained the final snow shoot and glissaded back to the smooth runout above the lake. It was begining to turn dusk, and I raced out past the Rangers cabin, up the slope around Mt Lady Washington, and back to the trail proper. By the time I hit treeline on the way down it was dark, and I was alone. It was a beautiful walk back in the glow of my headlamp. Not a soul around, little wind, and my breath streaming out behind me. I'd finialy done it, Longs Peak, Technical, Winter, Solo. What a trip.
Trail was dry all the way up to just under the start of the route. Ice from cloud cover in the morning with sub-zero temps left the route a little slippery. Single ice tool used. Soloed up from boulder field.
Climbed Longs after a Rockies game one night. Didn't get much sleep that week.
After 5 other tries (mostly in the winter/ late fall) I finaly made it to the top. I started around 1am (not many people on the trail at that time) got to the leges around day break and reached the summit around 8 ?. The loft was too windy so I never made it to the very top of meeker, did get battle, Lady washington, and storm peak in though.
Ah, Longs...the only mountain I ever looked at and said, "I am going to climb that someday!" My sister and I left the trailhead just after 3:00 A.M. We reached the campsites on the Boulderfield around 6:00. Gaining altutude seems to be easier in the dark! The route was well populated, but wasn't too crowded. We summited around 9:00. By the time we got back to the Keyhole, the up-to-then great weather was deteriorating with dark clouds gathering above the summit. Near the bottom of the Boulderfield I noticed that my sister's hair was standing up. Needless to say, we tore off down the trail toward timberline.
Our timing was impeccable, the weather was perfect (not a single cloud the entire day!), but the route was a complete mess. We ascended the entire route only to find that the wall below the loft was frozen over by an inpenetrable shield of ice making the remainder of the route to the loft a much more difficult experience.
This was our 4th attempt on this route and we finally summited! We were slowed down a bit and eventually had to bivy on the Diamond because of nasty weather on the 30th - outside of that it was a GREAT climb! Descended Keyhole
My first 14er!!!!!
Very crowded on Labor Day, but it was a scenic peak.
A great, albeit very long day. I summited with my wonderful girlfriend and fellow SPer, Virginia (aka Vannibell).
A snowstorm at 8am in August? You gotta be kidding! But this is just what we were rewarded with despite a start time of shortly after 1am. Made it halfway up the trough when it started coming down pretty hard. We had to make a difficult decision to turn back after all that work but it was the right one. Longs is far too formidable to mess with under these poor conditions, and believe me negotiating the slick wet ledges on the way back was more than enough of a challenge for one day. I'll be back...
A great climb.
I left the trailhead at 5:30am and so had to keep a steady pace to make it before the clouds did. I happened to be wearing a new pair of Salomon XA Pros and found they gave great traction going up, but the stability coming back down lacked a little. But I would wear them again. Lekki Trekking poles gave great stability and much needed support in the varying terrain. Summit reached at 11:30am. WOW, what a view. It seemed like an interstate though with all the people on the trail.
Beware to the older set such as myself, the boulders and trough are rough on the hips and knees. Braces would be a great addition next time.
Thanks to MIZTFLIP for his separate email correspondence and route description!
Our team of 4 left the Longs Ranger Station at 1:30 a.m. By 4:00 we were in the gully leading up to the Loft. Within that gully we scrambled up a hard-packed snowfield that could have been avoided by moving more towards the center of the gully, (something you could observe during daylight, from a distance). As it was we kicked and clawed our way up the snowfield until we came out on dry boulders at the top.
Ultimately we reached the top of the Loft by 6:00 a.m. and after crossing diagonally to the northwest we found several small cairns and began our descent off the Loft.
As we worked our way into Keplinger's Couloir beneath the Palisades we continued to spot small cairns along the way as we ascended towards the Notch. We never spotted Clark's Arrow but still feel we were on the correct route. The summit was reached at 9:00 a.m.
The Loft Route is awesome (especially if you "enjoy" scrambling) but it's more work than the Keyhole Route so be prepared! Triple or quadruple the Trough and you'll have an idea of how much boulder scrambling is involved in climbing via the Loft Route...
On this day we didn't see any other climbers until we got close to the Home Stretch. This is definitely the way to go if you enjoy a break from the crowded Keyhole Route and feel confident in your route finding abilities.
On my prior trip up Longs from the Loft we missed Clarks Arrow and descended 200-300 feet too low before getting into Keplinger's Couloir. This time I found the right spot, the system of small ledges, and the short down climb. The elusive Arrow exists!
Interestingly two parties, one a group of two, the other a group of six, had turned back from the exact spot as were heading to it. They were convinced it was not the way. So our group of three and one solo climber we met had this side of mountain to ourselves this Saturday.
Back at the trailhead we stopped to chat with Chief Ranger Jim Detterline, who told us Clark's Arrow was painted in 1960 by Ranger Roy (?) Clark. It is now fading away and often missed. Clark's photo is in the station, rapelling with a dangling water bottle clipped to his harness. Detterline wondered how often the bottle would get hung up in the ropes.
Jim also said that he hasn't been getting out much, he'd not been up Longs yet this month, and its already the second day! He just did a new 5.11a route on the Trough side, and is up to 214 summits, a mere 207 ahead of me.
This was an excellent alternative to the keyhole route. You most likely will not see anyone else on this climb until the last 300 feet to the summit.
It presents more challenging route finding and climbing and allows you to also climb Mount Meeker with only an additional 450 vertical feet in about .5 miles.
The Keyhole route is a wonderful social experience :-). Among the dozens of people I met were a couple from the Netherlands, a guy from Oregon, and a lawyer from D.C. My trip report is at http://www.masoner.net/TR/longs.html
Went solo and enjoyed a truly beautiful day on Longs. Despite warnings of "technical conditions" and snow and ice by the rangers, I found that any snow in the trough was easily bypassed by staying on rocks to the north (left). I actually found the route to be easier than I had expected. The exposure wasn't too bad, and the climb from the Boulder Field to the Keyhole was shorter than it looked. The trough was a bit tedious, though.
This was a mid-week climb before the rangers deemed the climb "non-technical," but I stil encountered about 15-20 climbers on the route. I can't imagine how crowded Longs must be on a weeked after the Rangers have declared it non-technical!
Nice and quite summit, mild ice and snow.
Tried kieners route two weeks prior but got snowed out.
An excellent climb as always. Little bit of snow in the trough made for a couple tricky spots, but nothing impossible.