From: ajs@hpfcdt.HP.COM (Alan Silverstein)Date: Sun, 28 Jun 87 22:10:49 MDT
Subject: Trip report: The Loft, and SE Longs Peak
Saturday, June 27:
Three of us, all HPites, climbed to the Loft between Mount Meeker and Longs Peak -- and beyond. The Loft is a huge, barren, rocky flat. At 13440', it is nestled at "top of the world" high in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Chuck Reese, Mike Stroyan, and I left town at 0635 and were on the trail from the Longs Peak Ranger Station, 9405', at 0800. The hike up from there to Mills Moraine above timberline is pleasant, but once you've been on it, oh, seven or eight times, like I have, it gets old. Every year this popular trail is just a bit more eroded and rocky, too.
Well we made great time up to the Chasm Lake turnoff at 11550'. Chuck was strong and led the way. We turned left to the lake at 0940 under skies clear except for high cirrus; a pretty morning.
By 1000 we were well on our way up the deep cleft left of Chasm Lake, between Meeker (on the left) and Longs. There was still a good bit of deep, soft snow in it. In fact, you can see this snow from Fort Collins as a vertical stripe topped by a triangular blob just below the Loft, sort of an inverted exclamation point. What's hard to appreciate is just how deep and surrounded the gully is... You can't see that snow from much north or south of town.
We found it reasonably easy going to boulder, scree, or scramble up progressively steeper rocks on the left of the snow. Chuck was still feeling great. For some reason Mike and I found ourselves lagging. We inched up to the cliffs at the top of the long strip of snow. Here there is a choice, either a long cairn-marked ledge up to the left, or a couple of narrow, goat-trail ledges switchbacking to the right. We chose the "highway" to the left.
Taking a break at the top of it, perhaps 200' below the Loft at about 1210, we watched dark cumulus clouds ominously appear from the NW, blowing over Longs Peak. We considered returning immediately, but I talked the others into watching the weather for a while. There was nothing but low scud in every other direction, nothing threatening.
After a time it cleared a little. Chuck and I scrambled on up to the Loft. He wasn't impressed, and I don't blame him. It's huge, it's high up, but it's bare and flat. Still, it's pretty neat being up there with Meeker on one side, 500' above, and Longs a "mere" but tough 800' up in the other direction.
I was tired and the weather didn't look great, but I really wanted to press on. Chuck headed back while I dropped my pack in a spot easy to find again, and crossed the Loft NW towards Longs. The next 35 minutes, from 1235 to 1310, I laboriously and nervously pushed on up the slope towards SE Longs Peak, 14040'+. It is the nose of "Michener's Beaver", and forms the left side of the Notch, the prominent U-cut visible from Fort Collins. The peak is a little-known 14000'-sub-peak. It's the pinnacle of a huge wedge-shaped hunk of real estate that rises from the Loft, edged by sheer, glacier-cut cliffs.
The slope is covered with huge boulders. I judged myself to be reasonably protected from lightening. The clouds coming over were ugly but not real thunderheads yet. About 100' from the top the second of two dark masses blew by and miraculously the way was clear. I could see to the NW that nothing but low scud was coming for a while. So I raced to the summit.
What a strange peak. Just across the way a massive wall of stone, rising much higher, blocks the summit of Longs and makes the pinnacle feel quite insignificant. Through cracks in huge, precariously perched granite boulders you can look straight down about 100' to the snow in the bottom of the Notch. I inched out over a couple of edges to peer down here and there. To the left I saw a couple of pairs of people ascending Longs, probably at the bottom of Homestretch. To the right a couple of people were within shouting distance, working up Kieners Route above the Diamond. Stretching around obstacles I found Chasm Lake far, far below, about 1/3 still frozen over.
The weather remained good, partly cloudy, cool and breezy. I moseyed down the north edge of the "ramp", looking over the precipice. Not far down from the top I could see, and exchange yells with, several people sitting below the top of Longs. They were about 300' higher, but surprisingly close. Of course there was no way I could get from "here" to "there" in less than two hours. It's a long way around too!
At 1405 I was back on the Loft. Getting through the cliffs to the long skinny snowfields was harder than I thought -- I cut too far left and had to backtrack. Once on the snow, with gators, gloves, and ice-axe, I rode down to the Chasm Lake shelter cabin in mere minutes. What a thrill! A painless way to drop over 1000' of hard-won elevation.
Here I met Chuck and Mike, who'd spent a pleasant hour and more at the lake. I, of course, had pushed myself to the limit and beyond. "Climb now, pay later." Tired but happy, I slogged down the well-worn trail with them from 1515 to 1710. Several large thunderstorms rolled out to the plains before us. But we hardly even got any shade. After a bit of time collapsing at the trailhead we drove home, with a pizza break in Estes Park.
Our total time on trail was 9:10, a long day. I figure in all I must have gained 4840'... I sure was wasted afterwards. Too exhausted to think straight and too sore to sleep well. But it was worth every bit of it!
By Alan Silverstein