Desert Vibes

Desert Vibes
Photo: Ben Clark

Friday, February 19, 2016

Longs Peak Project (January) -- The Loft


January 6th with Cordis Hall
Up/Down The Loft and Clark's Arrow
Lower portion of our route in blue, but covered in snow (Photo from 14ers.com)

Upper portion of our route. The yellow line joining with the red line. (Photo: Mountain Jim)
Cordis and I caught word that Peter Bakwin and Tina Lewis just went up Longs via the Loft and down the Keyhole on the 5th. So, we decided since the trail was already broken we might as well give it a go. I had been back in Boulder for all of two days after spending two weeks in Missouri. Prior to the two weeks in Missouri I spent a little over two months in the desert primarily climbing. With little-to-no running in nearly three months and a lack of altitude acclimation keeping up with Cordis proved to be impossible. 
Cordis making his way across the snowy slope just above Chasm Junction
We hit the trail at 5:15am and hiked every step of the ascent. Around day break we reached to snow slope just past Chasm Junction and started getting some amazing views. Ascending the Loft proved to be more of a slog than anything. The snow was pretty good, though deep in a few places. I only had one of my BD Z-poles since I snapped the other one in half last summer during my Elks Traverse. So, when the snow got a little deeper I busted out my mountaineering ax to supplement the one pole. Near the exit ramp for the Loft Couloir I spotted Tina Lewis’ trekking poles that she left the day before. I decided to leave them and pick them up on the descent. 
Looking back towards chasm Juntion at sunrise

Approaching the base of the Loft Couloir
Conditions were perfect on the Loft—no wind, no problems. We made our way across the Loft, found some exposed rock, and downclimbed to Clark’s Arrow—maybe 4th/5.easy’ish with slight exposure for a move. The route we took was a little harder than the usual downclimb because we wanted to avoid snow. Neither of us is very competent on snow. 
Making my way to the Loft exit ramp (Photo: Cordis Hall)

Nearing the Loft with Longs in the distance
From here, the hardest part was the ramp taking us from Keplinger’s to the Homestretch, but calling it hard would be pushing it. The snow was sort of hard, but I was still getting by in my Microspikes.  The Homestretch was a mix of snow and rock, which made it pretty cruiser. It ended up taking up a sloth-like 6 hours 11 minutes to reach the summit. I was hurting pretty bad both from lack of fitness and lack of acclimation. 

We decided to listen to the advice of Tina and avoid descending the Keyhole. So, we retraced our steps back down the mountain. Downclimbing the ramp from the Homestretch to Keplinger’s in Microspikes proved to be a bit trickier than ascending it. When we reached Tina’s poles I stowed my ax and started using those. Cordis flew down the Loft Couloir, while I trudged along. I probably weigh 20+ pounds more than Cordis. So, he would barely make a print on the snow and I would fall through to the thigh. The entire descent proved to be frustrating for me. 
Cordis enjoying the views and good weather on the Loft
When we eventually reached treeline we were treated to well-packed snow on all the trails. I finally quit punching through and we were able to cruise back down to the trailhead. All said and done, this day took a ridiculous 10 hours 18 minutes. I can’t wait to get fit and acclimated again to shave a few hours off these winter ascents. 


While descending we began discussing the Longs Peak Project that Bill Wright and Charlie Nuttleman had completed in 2015. The conclusion was that we might as well keep ascending Longs every month until we either complete the project or run out of routes that are within our capabilities. Bill has been an amazing source of inspiration for mountain endeavors. So, attempting to follow in his and Charlie’s footsteps will be an amazing experience. Let’s see how this goes…

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