Intro/StatsMt Meeker (13911')- CO Rank 68
Meeker Ridge (13860')- unranked
"SE Longs" (14060')- unranked
Longs Pk (14255')- CO Rank 15
Sept 8, 2007
13.6 miles RT, 6570' gain
up Loft/traverse to Longs via Clark's Arrow/descend Keyhole
Participants: Jim and Karen Ohl, Kevin Baker
I have been wanting to climb Meeker's classic Loft route for a long time and for some reason it has always been put on the backburner. Jim and Karen were interested in joining me for Meeker, now I just needed to talk them into doing the traverse over to Longs via the Clark's Arrow route! They were coming off a tiring backpack on Snowmass last weekend, so they weren't exactly up for another big day at first.
We camped Friday night at the Mills Moraine campground in RMNP and got a few hours of sleep. Other than the wind, the forecast was looking great as is often the case in Sept, so we got off to a fairly late start of 4:15am for such a long day on exposed terrain. At the minimum, I wanted to do Meeker, Meeker's false summit Meeker Ridge, and "SE Longs", an overlooked unranked 14er that nobody knows about.
The Road Less Traveled to Meeker
As expected we had to park the car quite a ways below the Longs trailhead parking lot as it was full. Karen set a nice, brisk pace by headlamp as we passed 25 people on the way up to where we broke off the Keyhole route at the Chasm Lake junction. There were quite a few folks already turning around, so we feared the winds were worse higher up. The wind picked up as we made it to treeline, but it wasn't too bad so far. We parted ways with the headlamp parade heading for Granite Pass and headed up the Chasm Lake trail. A group began to follow us and we yelled back so they wouldn't head up our route! Dawn finally broke as we arrived at the ranger station below the headwall to Chasm Lake, where the route breaks from the trail to Chasm Lake.
From here, we rounded the great walls of the Ship's Prow and followed a decent climbers trail to the base of the cliff bands guarding easy access to the Loft, the broad saddle between Meeker and Longs.
Alpenglow on our route to the Loft.
For some reason I wasn't feeling very good today, presumably from being in KS for 3 days over Labor Day weekend. We were able to follow the cairns initially, but I missed the cairn marking the first broad ledge to the left. We ended up climbing steep, grassy ledges mixed with class 3/4 steps that were a reasonable, fun variation to the trail that I missed. My friend Patrick calls this "Baker Direct." I could see the terrain mellow out above, so I knew we wouldn't get cliffed out.
Here we are on the last ledge before we clear the cliffs below the loft. Pic courtesy of George Barnes.
There was also a fair amount of ice in spots that we had to avoid, which limited where we could go. This route would be a nice snow climb in the spring, but it would be a pretty spicy mixed climb! We yelled down to a group following us below to look for the cairn to the left, and they almost caught up with us as the cairned route was much easier. We finally made it to the Loft, and the wind wasn't as bad as we feared. We followed the trail to the ridge crest, and topped out on Meeker's airy summit boulder at 8:25. The register is actually on a lower bump to the west. The boulder is big enough for about 3 people to sit on. On the summit I discovered I left my food bag in the car other than a bag of gummy worms, so I had to bum food off Jim and Karen all day.
Jim & Karen Ohl on the airy summit perch of centennial Meeker.
The Mini-Knife Edge to Meeker Ridge
After a short stay, it was time to head over to Meeker Ridge, the eastern false summit of Meeker. The only reason I wanted to climb this is because it is on 14erworld's Climbers Corner (not sure why w/ only 40' of prominence), but the ridge over to it proved to be the funnest scrambling of the day. As I left the summit, a gust came up and blew my hat over the south face. Great! This ridge offers a mini-knife edge that is enough to get your attention, but not as exposed as Capitol.
Yours truly traversing the mini-knife edge to Meeker's western summit.
I stayed on the crest or skirted on the north side. The summit offers great views of Longs and Meeker. On the return, I stayed on the ridge crest as much as I could. This was an awesome 30 minute roundtrip bonus bump that I would highly recommend. I joined Jim and Karen again on Meeker at 9:30 and they were up for joining me on the traverse to Longs!
Traverse to SE Longs & Longs
We turned on the radios back at the Loft and we would meet at the top of the gully descending to Keplinger's Couloir at the nw corner of the Loft. I told them 25 minutes RT up and down SE Longs. Wishful thinking!
The terrain was a little more tedious than it looks amidst a maze of boulders and I was quickly hitting the wall as I wasn't eating enough. I was gassed when I topped out on the amazing perch of SE Longs at 10:30.
Dramatic SE Longs from Keplinger's Couloir.
The drop down to the Notch below was jaw dropping. I could see the conga line of hikers on the Narrows and gave out a yell.
Rarely seen view of hikers below the Homestretch on Longs from SE Longs.
This summit has 240' of interpolated prominence, but it get's no respect since it's unnamed and so close to Longs. It's worth the visit! After a side trip of 45 minutes to SE Longs, I met back up with Jim and Karen who were patiently waiting for me. The weather was looking like it would hold all day. Cairns ended up leading us to the spicier variation of the descent to Clark's Arrow and Keplinger's Couloir. I spotted an easier gully to the south that drops down lower after we had descended a little, but the route we found worked out fine with only a couple class 4 downclimbs. Now it was time for the 1100' grind to the summit of Longs!
We could see and hear hikers above us on the Homestetch, but it would take us awhile to reach them as we were all dragging. The rest of the way is easy to follow traversing into Keplinger's Couloir. It then zigs to the left on a ramp near the head of the Notch and then it's a fun climb on low angle slabs to the base of the Homestretch. Jim found a rope in this area and it was only class 3! The Homestretch was not as busy this late in the day, and we topped out at 12:10.
Homestretch view from the top of Keplingers Couloir.
I was pretty zapped and felt much better after a snack and finishing off the rest of my Gatorade. We only hung around for 25 minutes, as a long descent down the Keyhole route awaited us.
Meeker's twin summits from Longs.
We all had a fun time descending the various sections of Longs down to the Keyhole. It's funny how your perspective of the Homestretch and the Narrows changes in the course of the 2 years since I have climbed it.
Jim traversing the Narrows, not as bad as it looks!
I remember having to crab walk a good portion of the Homestretch, but I didn't have to this time!
After an entertaining downclimb of the chockstone by Karen, it was pretty much smooth sailing back to the Keyhole. We did get a little too high at one point near the stakes, but no worries. The hike out was uneventful and the weather held for us. We all felt a little better than expected upon our arrival back at the trailhead at 5pm, an excellent loop-de-loop on Meeker and Longs!