Peaks: Meeker, Longs, Pagoda, and Storm (Front Range)
Date Climbed: Sunday July 29, 2007
Route: Loft to Meeker, Clarks Arrow to Longs, Longs to Pagoda, Trough to Keyhole to Storm and out
With my hiking partner Stu on a vacation in Yellowstone, I found myself sitting in Boulder, bored and anxious to do some hiking. I was flipping through the Longs Peak section of Roach‘s book and noticed the “Longs Grand Slam” which collects Longs and its four surrounding thirteeners. I have always wanted to summit Longs via the Loft route and I figured I could get some thirteeners along the way. I left Boulder at 3:00am on Sunday and arrived at the Longs Peak Ranger Station at 3:45, the parking lot was completely full as expected, I parked along the road and left the trailhead at 4:00am. The trail to the Chasm Lake turnoff was heavily populated, I passed probably fifty people along the three mile hike to the turnoff. I headed towards Chasm Lake and reached the bottom of the Loft couloir after maybe a half mile or so, once off the Keyhole route the crowds completely disappeared. About halfway up the couloir the terrain turned to rock and steepened, I found the exit ledge pretty easily, traversed southeast (left), and switched back across the second ledge to gain the Loft.
There wasn‘t any noticeable exposure on either of these ledges, there is a large cairn marking the switchback where the route cuts north to bypass the cliffs just below the Loft. Once across the second ledge, the Loft is another hundred yards away.
From the Loft I began the ascent of Mt. Meeker‘s northwest slope, summiting at 6:30am. On the summit I ran into Wes Bradshaw, a member of 14ers.com We exchanged some route information and headed for Longs.
After descending from the Loft, I looked for Clarks Arrow for a few minutes (to no avail) and began the ascent up Keplinger‘s Couloir (or maybe one couloir over I‘m not really sure). After about a thousand feet of elevation the route cuts west (left) and joins the Keyhole route at the base of the homestretch.
There were about forty people on the narrows and homestretch, I had almost forgotten I was on Longs Peak until rejoining the Keyhole route.
I summited Longs at 8:00am and spent ten minutes taking in the views.
After taking some pics I headed down the homestretch and said goodbye to the Keyhole route again. The route to Pagoda Mountain leaves the Keyhole route at the bottom of the homestretch and traverses below the narrows towards the Keyboard of the Winds.
Although impossible to see from the homestretch, there is a one hundred foot cliff blocking easy passage to the Longs/Pagoda saddle. I never really found any good information about traversing to Pagoda from Longs so I was a little suprised to come across this cliff. After searching around a bit there still did not seem to be a good way down so I decided to down climb to a ledge I could see about ten feet below me. I ended up getting into some terrain I was pretty uncomfortable on and had to traverse across some exposed ledges to another downclimb. I repeated this several times and somehow found my way to the bottom. From the Longs/Pagoda saddle it was about a twenty minute hike to the summit of Pagoda. After looking at the cliff from Pagoda I was able to find a much easier return route which ascends a gulley to the top of the cliff band.
From Pagoda‘s summit I descended back to the saddle and ascended back to the bottom of the narrows. Not seeing a good way to regain the Keyhole route I decided to climb up the narrows, finding a fairly easy Class IV route to the top. Once on the narrows, I descended the trough and traversed to the Keyhole, at which point I noticed that the weather was beginning to turn ugly. I quickly ascended Storm Peak from the Keyhole and took a look at the weather again, large thunderheads were gaining strength on the other side of Mt. Lady Washington and the summit of Longs was quickly engulfed in clouds.
At this point I abandoned the idea of going for Lady Washington, it just didn‘t seem worth the risk and I was very happy with what I had already accomplished. I descended to the Chasm Lake turnoff and took another look at Longs which was barely visable through the clouds.
The thunder heads continued to build while I descended underneath the treeline. It was crazy to think that there were still maybe a hundred people on Longs Peak, there were even some still heading up when I left the boulder field. I arrived at the trailhead at 1:00pm, making the trip in nine hours. This was a really cool hike although grueling at times, the best part was getting multiple views of Longs from every side as I worked my way around the mountain. After this hike I feel very familiar with the Longs Peak area.