PART 2.THE PEAKS AND HOW TO REACH THEMMETHODS OF APPROACH, TRAILS AND REPORTS OF CLIMBS, GIVING STARTING POINT, ROUTE FOLLOWED, TIME REQUIRED, AND OTHER DATA.
ARRANGEMENTS OF REPORTS.
The mountain area under consideration in this book may be approached from several directions. The data on how to reach the peaks and the reports of trips to the principal peaks are grouped according to the starting point that one may select. Reference to a peak may be found in two or more places, but all trips from the same starting point are grouped together, and it is believed that this is the most useful and convenient arrangement.
The data regarding peaks on the eastern side of the range are placed first and grouped under locality headings, such as Estes Park (including Longs Peak, the Mummy Range, etc.), Wild Basin, Middle St. Vrain Creek, Ward, and North Boulder Creek.
The data regarding peaks on the western side are also grouped under locality headings such as the Medicine Bow Range, Grand Lake, and Monarch Lake.
The data and reports on peaks are grouped according to the following outline:
Peaks accessible from the eastern or Atlantic slope:
[Altitude, 14,255 feet.]
Longs Peak is the king of the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is more than a hundred feet higher than Pikes Peak. Mount Meeker, Mount Lady Washington, and Longs Peak form an encircling ring of granite cliffs that nearly surround Chasm Lake and produce one of the wildest and most impressive spots in the Colorado mountains. It stands well out from the Continental Divide, with which it is connected by a short spur of bristling peaks. The alcove of deep canyons north of it is called the Wild Gardens; the similar alcove south of it is called the Wild Basin.
Among Colorado peaks, Longs Peak ranks thirteenth in order of height. It is the highest peak in the northern part of the State, Grays and Torreys Peaks being its nearest rivals. It dominates the Rocky Mountain National Park and can be seen from a great distance in every directionfor example, from Pikes Peak, 103 miles distant. Longs Peak is on the eastern slope, 2 miles east of the Continental Divide. By reason of its accessibility it is probably climbed more frequently than any other 14,000-foot peak in the State, with the possible exception of Pikes Peak. It is an unusually interesting climb by reason of the wide variety of views, its rugged character, and the different points of interest along the trail. The climb is not a dangerous one, but there is no very easy route to the top, as is the case with so many peaks.
The first ascent was made on August 23, 1868, by a party consisting of Wm. N. Byers, Maj. W. J. Powell, and five other men. They climbed the peak from the south side.
Approach.There is an automobile road from Estes Park village (elevation 7,547 feet) to the settlement known as Longs Peak (elevation 9,000 feet). The distance is 9 miles. An auto stage is run in connection with the hotels. The hotels located nearest to the peak are Long Peak Inn, the Columbines Hotel, and Hewes-Kirkwood Inn. These hotels are on the east side of the peak at an elevation of from 8,900 to 9,100 feet. They are within 5 miles of the top of the peak, in an air-line or about 7 miles by trail. A road recently built runs up from the Hewes-Kirkwood Inn for half a mile or so toward the peak, and if one takes an auto to the upper end of this road (elevation about 9,300 feet), which is the nearest approach to the peak by road, it will shorten the climb to the peak in time, distance, and elevation.
Sprague's Hotel, in Bartholf Park, is on the north side of the peak at an elevation of about 8,600 feet. The peak can be climbed from this point, but the trail is not as much traveled.
The trail on the east side of the peak is clearly marked. It is very desirable to have a guide on one's first ascent of the peak, as the trail beyond the Keyhole is difficult to follow. Guides can be obtained at Longs Peak Inn, Hewes-Kirkwood Inn and from The Columbines.
The climb may be made in one day or in a day and a half. For those who are not sure of their endurance the easiest way is to take horses at one of the hotels and ride to the edge of the Boulder Field, at an elevation of about 12,300 feet, and about 5 or 5-1/2 miles from the hotels. Horses may be tied here (though there is no fodder), and the remainder of the trip taken on foot. This reduces the elevation to be climbed to about 2,000 feet. The distance to the top is about 2 miles. Horses may be obtained at Estes Park or at either Longs Peak Inn or Hewes-Kirkwood Inn.
The climb is frequently made from the hotels on foot in one day, but the elevation to be climbed is about 5,200 feet, which is a long, hard day's work, and one is apt to be tired when the most interesting part of the climb is reached. Therefore, the one-day trip on foot is not recommended for one's first trip up the peak, unless the climber knows that his energy is equal to the task.
A very good way to make the climb on foot is to allow a day and a half. The start can be made in the afternoon from one of the hotels above mentioned and the night spent at Timberline Cabin. This is a mountain shelter under the same management as Longs Peak Inn, and is located at an elevation of about 11,050 feet. It contains a kitchen and two sleeping rooms with bunks, in tiers, and in midsummer tents furnish additional accommodations. The shelter is kept open through the summer months and is closed some time in September, depending upon the season. A cook is in attendance to care for the wants of travelers.
As the accommodations are limited, reservations should be made in advance. There is a telephone connection between Timberline Cabin and Longs Peak Inn. Owing to the location of this shelter and the fact that all supplies must be taken up by pack horse, one should not expect anything but the simplest accommodations; however, a roof, a stove, and warm food are as welcome as they are infrequent at timber line.
The trip from one of the hotels to Timberline Cabin may easily be made in two or three hours. Fast climbers may require only an hour and a half. The trail goes up the well timbered mountain side and for a short distance runs along Alpine Brook, a picturesque, as well as refreshing, stream. Firewood is abundant all the way along the trail, as far as timber line.
From Timberline Cabin the trail winds upward, crossing the ridge, known as the Wall of China, at Granite Pass, between Battle Mountain and Mount Lady Washington, and reaches the edge of the Boulder Field. Drinking water is found at the lower edge of the Boulder Field. In midsummer this is the last water that will be found on the peak, but either early or late in the season, if snow is present and the weather is warm enough for it to melt, small streams will be found trickling across the trail at the Ledge or on the Narrows. From the edge of the Boulder Field to the Keyhole the route lies across a tumbled mass of bowlders, large and small.
The Keyhole is an irregular gap in the ridge leading from Longs Peak to Storm Peak, an overhanging mass of rocks on one side of the gap entitles it to the descriptive name. The trail presents no difficulties whatever as far as the Keyhole and makes an enjoyable trip to this point, even if one goes no farther. From the climber's standpoint, however, the most interesting part of the trip begins here. The view from the Keyhole, looking down into Glacier Gorge, is very fine. If the day is at all breezy, there is apt to be a strong wind at the Keyhole.
From the Keyhole the trail leads in a fairly horizontal line across the Ledge or Shelf. Above, the rock face of the peak rises toward the summit with increasing steepness, and below it slopes quite steeply into Glacier Gorge. The trail from the Keyhole to the foot of the Trough is partly over solid rock, which gives but little sign of the route to be followed; particularly on the return trip one must be careful not to get either above or below the trail, for to do so might lead one into difficulty. For this, reason a guide can be of great help in following the route, and even on one's second or third trip, careful observations should be made on the way up, in order to locate the trail upon the return trip.
The Trough is a steep ravine filled with loose rock. Climbers should be careful not to dislodge any rocks which might be disastrous to those on the trail below. Early or late in the season the Trough will probably be partly filled with snow and ice and one should watch his footing to avoid a fall. At the top of the Trough there is a steep scramble to get up a rocky wall some 10 or 15 feet high. One is usually so much occupied in this portion of the climb that the view down into Wild Basin comes with an abruptness that is startling. One is now on a sharp ridge, with Glacier Gorge, temporarily forgotten, in the rear, while ahead the cliffs fall abruptly and then merge into the vast valley of Wild Basin.
The next 200 or 300 feet of the trail is called the Narrows. It is a shelf 3 or 4 feet wide at the narrowest point. Above, the cliff rises steeply toward the top of the peak, and below it falls abruptly for 100 or 200 feet and then slopes steeply into the rocky gorge below. Looking at the Narrows from the head of the Trough often gives one a dizzy feeling, but this sensation does not last long. The footing is firm and there is no danger. This part of the trail is on the south side of the peak and is usually free from snow and ice. If not accompanied by a guide, one should watch the trail carefully at the end of the Narrows so as to be able to find the best path on the return, for the rocks leave little trace of the trail, and on either side one might get into trouble.
The Home Stretch starts at the end of the Narrows. Here the trail leads up the sloping slabs of rock to the top of the peak. One uses both hands and feet in this last scramble, but the rock face is seamed by cracks and the footing is good, so that it is not difficult under ordinary weather conditions.
The top of the peak is practically level, and has an area of 10 or 15 acres. It is covered with rocks of all sizes, similar to those on the Boulder Field. The cairn is at the northeast corner of the flat top of the peak, and from it a splendid view is obtained over a vast area. To the south the mountains are crowded one behind another; several ranges are visible. Pikes Peak, 103 miles away, is one of the more distant visible peaks; all the prominent intervening peaks can be distinguished. To the west, the Continental Divide is near, and its peaks are prominent, while further away is Medicine Bow Range. Fifteen miles to the north is the Mummy Range, beyond which the mountains decrease in size and fade away toward the Wyoming horizon. To the east lie the plains, dotted with innumerable reservoirs and blending with the sky in the distant horizon. One can see into Wyoming, 52 miles distant. Other States are not visible, as Nebraska and Kansas are 188 miles distant, and Utah is 181 miles away.
The Colorado Mountain Club has placed a bronze weatherproof cylinder on top of Longs Peak containing a small register book. Here several hundred visitors record their names each year.
Upon starting down, the Home Stretch appears more steep and difficult than it did on the way up, for a slope usually looks steeper when viewed from the top than from the bottom. However, it is not dangerous, and a little care is all that is needed.
The return trip need not be described, for the same route is followed. It is important to carefully watch the trail down the Home Stretch and to the Narrows, and again watch for the right place to leave the Trough, and stay close to the trail across the Ledge. The Keyhole is not visible from either the Trough or the Ledge, and it frequently happens that on the return trip parties mistake a notch higher up on the ridge known as the False Keyhole for the genuine one.
Most parties continue their descent to their hotel in the valley, but if the climb has proved to be exhausting, one can spend the night at Timberline Cabin, and complete the return trip on the following day.
Time.The time required from Longs Peak Inn, Hewes-Kirkwood Inn, or The Columbines is practically the same, though the latter two are a fraction of a mile closer to the peak. The usual time may be put at 1-1/2 to 2 hours to Timberline Cabin, 1 to 2 hours more to the end of the horse trail at the Boulder Field, 45 minutes to 1-1/4 hours more to the Keyhole, 1 to 2 hours more to the Narrows at the head of the Trough, and three-fourths to 1-1/2 hours from there to the top. At least half an hour and preferably 1 hour should be allowed for the stay on top in order to rest and enjoy the magnificent view. The return to Timberline Cabin will take from 2 to 4-1/2 hours and from there to any of the three hotels will take from 1 to 2 hours. The total trip from Longs Peak Inn or either of the other hotels, to the top of the peak and return, takes from 8 hours, for a fast trip, to 18 hours, for a slow trip, depending upon the party. Twelve hours may be considered average time. If one starts from Timberline Cabin in the morning, and returns to one of the hotels at night, the trip will be reduced by 2 or 3 hours. Nine or 10 hours may be considered average time for this trip.
The shortest time for climbing the peak, of which record is available, is Willard T. Day's trip, via the north face. He reached the top in 3 hours and 15 minutes after leaving Longs Peak Inn. The total climb of 5,255 feet was accomplished at a rate of 1,617 feet per hour, which is unusually fast climbing. Shep N. Husted has made the round trip, via the usual trail, in a little less than 6 hours from Longs Peak Inn. Shep Husted has climbed Longs Peak more than 200 times.
The following reports of various trips by large parties and small ones, and under various weather conditions, and at different rates of speed, will be of interest for purposes of comparison.
CLIMBING LONGS PEAK BY MOONLIGHT.
[Report furnished by Robert Collier, jr. (Aug. 17 and 18, 1916).]
Number in party, 27; 15 women, 12 men, and a dog.
After supper near Timberline Cabin at 6.30, we slept in the open, as best we could until the moon came up at 10 o'clock. The moon was in the last quarter and consequently not very bright, but it was enough to make climbing practicable. The pace was very slow, just enough to keep the party moving and warm. The usual trail was followed. Reached Boulder Field at 1 a. m. and Keyhole at 2.30 a. m. The Trough was in good condition for climbing. The views obtained on the way were very fine. The lights of Denver, Estes Park, and many small towns in the valley were seen. We arrived at the Narrows at 3.30 a. m. and the summit was reached at 4.30 a. m., just as the sky was beginning to be tinted by the coming sun. Soon a high wind came up, that, coupled with the freezing temperature of the night, chilled us through, in spite of all that we could do to keep warm.
After watching the sunrise and signing the register book the party started down at 6.30 a. m., arriving at Keyhole at 8.30 a. m. Here some ate breakfast, and then all drifted along, reaching camp at timber line at 9.30 a. m., where hot coffee and chocolate helped make out more of a breakfast.
This party of 27 is unusually large for a moonlight trip, and it is worthy of note that no one gave out, though some were not experienced climbers.
Our advice is: In order to keep warm on a moonlight climb on Longs Peak always take five times too much clothing, and then take some more.
A FAST CLIMB UP LONGS PEAK.
[Report furnished by George C. Barnard.]
In the middle of July, 1915, three of us made the ascent of Longs Peak in the actual going time of 8 hours and 10 minutes from Denver. Of course conditions of road and weather were favorable, and we were in the pink of condition, or we could not have made that record. However, we did not start with the idea of making an unusually fast trip, and spent a little time in taking pictures on the way to the summit.
For pure enjoyment I should never advise a fast trip up any mountain, for the greatest pleasure lies in drinking in the marvelous views that greet one in every direction, stopping to enjoy the flowers and to watch the birds, photographing the cloud effects, the waterfalls, and the distant ranges, and in a general way becoming familiar not only with the immediate surroundings, but the geography and topography of the region.
Where one's time is limited the best way to make the trip up Longs Peak is to leave Denver in the early afternoon by automobile, and go direct to Longs Peak Inn. Here the machine must be left, and the 4-mile trail to Timberline Cabin covered either on foot or on horseback. Spend the night there, and after a good breakfast at 5 in the morning start for the summit not later than 6 o'clock. From three to five hours under ordinary conditions is ample time for the average climber to reach the summit
In good weather it is always worth while to spend at least an hour on top and a busy hour it may be if one tries to study the topography of the surrounding ranges. The return trip to timberline will be made in about half the time required for the ascent, and from timberline another hour on the trail brings one back to the Inn and the automobile.
I have climbed Longs Peak a number of times, under widely varying weather conditions. I shall never forget the first trip. We had gone to Longs Peak Inn, planning to go to timber line on the following day and climb the peak on the third day. All the second day it rained in the valleys and snowed on the peak, so we remained at the Inn.
The following morning (July 3) looked threatening. We parleyed as to whether we should start. The sun tried to come out and shine about 8 o'clock and we decided to attempt the trip and chance the weather. We were not in good condition and the walk to timber line seemed like a good day's work. Again the weather threatened and there were flurries of snow and rain. We hated to turn back, so pushed on across the Boulder Field to the Keyhole.
When we reached the Trough we found it nearly full of snow and our progress was slow indeed. However, I shall never forget the wonderful cloud effects below us in Glacier Gorge and out across the Continental Divide as the scurrying rain clouds were whipped by the wind around Pagoda, Chiefs Head, McHenrys Peak and Taylor Peak. At the top of the Trough we paused in awe to gaze Into the cloud-filled depths of Wild Basin. The sun came out, to the south we could discern the Arapaho Peaks and the jagged pinnacles of the Arikaree group.
We passed on across the Narrows and in a few minutes found ourselves at the foot of the Home Stretch. Here was a graver situation. The big broken seams in the granite, that give such excellent toeholds and handholds when one climbs this steep incline (slanting in two directions) in dry weather, were filled with snow and ice and I began to feel that our judgment had been faulty in attempting the ascent on such a day.
However, a little care and perseverance brought us safely to the summit a few minutes before 5 o'clock in the afternoon. It was cold and the clouds were beginning to drift in about us again, so we only tarried long enough to leave our names in a tin can which we found in the cairn on top, and then began the downward journey.
The trip down was in many ways more spectacular than the ascent. While passing along the Narrows our faces were cut by sharp sleet and snow, while clouds filled the depths below, giving a feeling of insecurity hard to describe, and before we had finished the descent of the Trough we were thoroughly soaked. Just as we reached the Keyhole the storm ceased and the clouds lifted in the west, treating us to one of the grandest sunsets I have ever seen. Heavy mist filled Glacier Gorge, partly obscuring the lakes in its depths, while through a rift in the clouds the peaks along the Continental Divide were seen and away in the distance the Medicine Bow Mountains stood out sharply in the sunset glow.
It was getting cold and we lost no time in crossing the Boulder Field and descending to Timberline Cabin, where we arrived wet, tired, and cold, with the thermometer just 32° above zero.
Longs Peak appeals to the average mountaineer because of the absolute lack of any uninteresting climbing. The trail to timberline on either the north or east sides of the peak lies through beautiful timber and the distant views are fine enough to keep one's mind from dwelling on the difficulties of the ascent. Once Boulder Field is reached the view broadens until it comprises distant ranges, wild cirques, and numberless lakes, so that here, too, there is little time to dwell on the difficulties of the ascent.
Shelf Trail, along the west side of the peak, is not difficult in dry weather and gives an opportunity for a more extended study of Glacier Gorge and the peaks that surround itPagoda, Chiefs Head, McHenrys Peak, Taylor Peak, and Thatchtop Mountain. Once across the Shelf Trail, the most arduous task of the trip confronts us in climbing the Trough. But here again the scenery is superb. As one climbs higher in the Trough the almost perpendicular cliffs, seamed and broken, that form the west face of the peak stand out to the left in sharp outline against the northern sky, and each hundred feet of ascent rewards the climber with more distant views across the Continental Divide to the Medicine Bow Range, Middle Park, and the Gore Range.
At last the top of the Trough is attained. As suddenly as the view of Glacier Gorge bursts on the eye at Keyhole the indescribable view across Wild Basin to the summits of Mount Copeland, Mount Audubon, Arikaree and Arapaho Peaks greets you at the top of the Trough. No matter how enthusiastic an admirer of mountain scenery you may be, the spirit of "get to the top" is now in your veins and you push along the Narrows for 150 yards to the face of the Home Stretch. Here again is a steep climb that offers, however, no difficulties in dry weather, but where greatest caution must be exercised when the steep granite surface is covered with ice or snow. In July, 1915, we found it necessary to cut steps across the field of ice and snow on the Home Stretch for 150 yards. and when one considers that the granite face slants on an angle about equal to the average house roof, it is easy to understand that care and deliberation and a level head are necessary.
Perhaps the most impressive sight that I have ever seen from Longs Peak was on a trip in 1914, when clouds at an elevation of approximately 10,500 feet covered the plains from Wyoming to Colorado Springs, and as far east as the eye could reach. An east wind had driven the mist up into the valleys of the foothills, and, indeed, clear into the cirques that line the Continental Divide. Peaks and high ridges stood out like islands in the sea, and below us Twin Sisters Peak bore a striking resemblance to a huge battleship plowing through the surf; its two summits were like gun turrets, and mist, driven by the wind, whirled upward at the southern end of the peak like spray thrown into the air from the bow of a ship. We were amazed at the uniform height of the cloud mass, which for several hours was almost unbroken and quite level, save where the surface was ruffled here and there by rolling waves of mist.
If you never have climbed a mountain of 14,000 feet, start by making the ascent of Longs Peak, where every half hour will change the view and every hour will change the character of your climbing.
LONGS PEAK BY VARIOUS ROUTES.
(Report furnished by Enos A. Mills.]
About June, 1903, I made a trip down the east side of the peak to Chasm Lake. I went from the very summit to the Little Notch in the top and then descended almost vertically about 200 feet. I do not think anyone had ever been down this way before, but I believe that Rev. E. J. Lamb many years earlier went down from the bottom of the Big Notch some distance farther to the south. A more complete account of this trip is to be found in Outing for July, 1904.
One of the most striking climbs that I ever made to the top, I made on an extremely windy day in winter.
The easiest trip that I have made to the top of the peak was made during January. I reached the summit without touching any snow. The loose rocks in the Trough were frozen solid. The day was warm and windless. I made the round trip from the inn in nine hours and did it easily.
An interesting climb was made the first week in May one year immediately following a heavy fall of snow on the summit. This snow had slipped or blown from the rocks from Keyhole to the bottom of the Trough, but all the way up the Trough it was 2 feet deep. However, I waded up through it with out starting a slide and on the way down the Trough I simply sat down in the soft snow and slid from the top of the Trough to the bottom in about a minute.
A good climber will find it interesting at the top of the Trough to climb onto the summit on the southwest corner of the peak without going around on the Narrows or the Home Stretch.
In July, 1896, I was climbing Longs Peak with an adventurous young man from Pittsburgh. Just after we passed through the Keyhole I told him of the possibility of getting to the summit by a shorter though more difficult route than that of the regular trail. This appealed to him. After we passed the high point on the trail, about midway between the Keyhole and the Trough, we turned to the left, east, and climbed up a gully. In the upper end of it for about 200 feet we had interesting ledge work, but by helping each other we reached the summit without great difficulty and did not use either ropes or Alpine stocks. But some one had been over this route before. This way is one which I would commend to all who are looking for an interesting climb and one not too dangerous nor difficult.
Two or three years earlier than this I had traveled from the summit of Mount Meeker through the Notch, scaling the peak from that quarter. This is an interesting climb, but one not to be commended to the average climber because of the danger element, nor to anyone who is short on time.
I twice made the summit of the peak from Boulder Field. Once, from a point about 200 feet east of Keyhole and with much zigzag climbing I at last reached the summit. The other time I climbed up quite close to the northeast corner and not far from the precipice. I did a little zigzagging but conditions were favorable and I made this climb all alone and without rope or Alpine stock.
Both these are excellent rock climbs, but the danger is a little too great for the inexperienced climber. I have not yet climbed down this north side. Once I attempted to do so but after spending 2 hours and getting caught in a high wind I deemed it wise to return to the summit and come down the regular way.
LONGS PEAK FROM THE NORTH SIDE.
[Report furnished by Willard T. Day, July 1, 1916.]
The party of nine left the Young Men's Christian Association in a car at 6.00 a. m., arriving at Longs Peak Inn at 6.35, and leaving for the peak immediately. Our party split up into three groups, three others and myself being in the lead. We reached Boulder Field without incident at 8.50 a. m., and a little later I decided to leave the party and attempt to scale the north side of the peak. The others went on through the Keyhole. My route lay along the east side of the snow patch to the edge of the chasm, which I reached at 9.00 a. m., thence up the shortest stretch of cliff, directly above the end of the big cliff (9.15 a. m.). Ice was melting and made the rocks and moss very slippery. In many places there were handholes only. I worked my way up the rock by aid of a 4-inch crack in the rocks, running upward for several hundred feet, and then reached loose bowlders about 150 yards above the chasm edge. From there on the trip was fairly easy. Arrived on summit about 9.50 a. m. Three of my party arrived by way of the usual trail about an hour later and the rest of the party strung out, the last reaching the top four hours after my arrival.
This route is hard and perilous. One hundred yards is very hard climbing over smooth rock. Would not recommend it for anyone who gets dizzy when looking over a cliff. It is strenuous and should not be attempted unless one is in good condition, physically and mentally, and willing to take a chance.
ANOTHER TRIP UP LONGS PEAK FROM THE NORTH SIDE.
[Report furnished by Roger W. Toll, Sept. 23, 1917.]
The regular trail is well known. There are a few other possible routes by which the peak may be climbed, but they are seldom used because they are either indirect or difficult. The north side of the peak would make the most direct route and the object of our trip was to see if this side of the peak could be made suitable for parties by placing ropes in the most difficult places. The decision was not favorable.
Three of us left Longs Peak Inn at 9.30 in the evening, reaching Timberline Cabin at 11.25 p. m., and climbed into our bunks about midnight. We got up at 4.30 in the morning and started at 5.30 a. m. We did not follow the usual trail, but went to the ridge overlooking Roaring Fork, the outlet of Chasm Lake. We followed this ridge, reaching the top of Mount Lady Washington at 8.10 a. m., and continued along the ridge at the edge of the chasm, descending about 300 feet, reaching the low point of the saddle at 9 a. m. and the last notch (at the end of the large snow bank) at 9.55 a. m. Up to this point we had made about average time, as the route was all easy. The next 300 or 400 feet is the most difficult.
We had hoped to find the north side of the peak free from ice, but a few early snows had melted and left a glaze of ice over the rocks, while the last powdering of snow still remained and made things bad.
We crossed a small steep snow patch, cutting good steps in the ice with an ice axe, and then started up an angle of the rock face. The handholds were filled with ice and it was difficult to secure footholds even by cutting, as the ice coating was thin and shell-like. We used our rope once. The footing kept getting more precarious and handholes were lacking, but, with the aid of the axe and using the pick point to wedge in the crevice, I worked up the angle, intending to use the rope as soon as I got to a safe footing or a knob of rock about which to wrap the rope. When I got to a fairly good place, it was beyond the reach of our rope. Without the axe it was impossible for the other two men to get up, though they are excellent climbers, and it was also impossible for me to go back over the steep ice-coated rock face, so they reluctantly turned back, carefully retraced their steps and went around to the Keyhole, while I had to go on alone. We had spent two hours and a half on this stretch which was only about 200 feet long, but each step had to be carefully selected.
I had discarded my pack sack on this stretch and it lay below out of reach. It was dislodged by throwing a rock at it and then it rolled and fell some 300 feet below to a point where it was later recovered.
From this point on I found the footing better and went up, intending to avoid the part of the slope directly above the chasm, but the rocks became smooth again, and I had to work to the left for better footing. This steep slope terminates at the lower end in a sheer cliff varying from 1,000 to 1,500 feet or more in height. The flat top of the peak was reached some 200 feet from the cairn. The upper slope of the peak was less easy than I had expected. It was something like the Home Stretch. There were many possible routes hut the footing had to be carefully chosen on any of them, and the ice axe was very useful at two or three ice runs. Reached the top at 1.35 p. m. and rested 10 minutes. Went down the regular trail to the Keyhole, where the other men were waiting. There was very little snow or ice on the south side of the peak or in the Trough. Reached the Keyhole at 3 p. m., going slowly, as I was tired. Crossed the Boulder Field and went down Wind River, reaching Sprague's in Bartholf Park, at 7.20 p. m.
We decided, that the north side of the peak is too steep and too frequently icy to make a safe or practical route. This route would be less dangerous in July and August, but it should never be attempted when there is ice on the rocks, and it is always unsafe.
The sheer cliff on the north side of Longs Peak has few, if any, equals in the State. On a trip up the peak some 16 years ago, I worked down the slope from the summit to the edge of the cliff. Lying full length and braced with one hand, I dropped several rocks over the edge, and they fell straight down for 10 or 12 seconds before striking at the base of the cliff. The edge of this cliff is a good place to stay away from. It is 2,400 feet from the top of the peak to Chasm Lake, and most of the distance is perpendicular cliff.
Mount Meeker (13,911 feet) is about one mile southeast of Longs Peak and is the second highest peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The ridge between the two peaks can not be followed because the Notch is practically impassable, but Mount Meeker can be reached from the top of Longs Peak by following a somewhat indirect route. To make this trip, descend to the foot of the Home Stretch, almost to the point where the Narrows begin, then turn to the left and descend to the draw that slopes down from the Big Notch. One should be careful not to try to leave the Home Stretch trail too soon, as the route above described will be found to be easier. Follow the main draw down until you find a practicable route along the base of the cliffs and this will lead you up to the saddle between Mount Meeker and Longs Peak.
If one descends the main draw, going down further toward Wild Basin, an easier route will be found, but the climb to gain the saddle will be increased several hundred feet.
After reaching the saddle northwest of Mount Meeker, there are no difficulties. When seen from the south or east, Mount Meeker appears so smoothly rounded that one is surprised to find that the summit is a sharp ridge several hundred feet long, and that much of the north slope is steep and precipitous. Two points on the ridge are of nearly equal elevation.
Mount Meeker may be reached from Longs Peak post office without difficulty, by following the ridge to the peak leading up from the northeast side. It may also be reached from Chasm Lake, though less easily, as the route must be carefully selected.
Battle Mountain (11,930 feet) may be reached from the usual Longs Peak trail, by leaving the trail shortly before it reaches the Boulder Field and following the ridge northerly for about a mile. It may easily be reached from Timberline Cabin in about one hour. It is more of a ridge than a mountain, but looks quite like an isolated peak when seen from Bartholf Park or other points to the north.
Estes Cone (11,017 feet) is easily reached from Longs Peak post office. The time required is two or three hours from the post office to the top.
There is a trail from Longs Peak post office to Bartholf Park, going over Storm Pass (10,300 to 10,400 feet elevation).
The Twin Sisters (11,436 feet and 11,384 feet, respectively) may be reached by a good trail starting at Longs Peak post office and leading to the North peak, which is the higher of the two. The United States Forest Service maintains a fire-lookout station on the top of the peak, with facilities for observation and communication. The view is unusually good for a peak of this elevation, because it is comparatively isolated from the main range and presents a wide panorama of peaks to the west, plains to the east, Estes Park to the north and Allens Park to the south.
MOUNT MEEKER (13,911 FEET).
(Report furnished by Dean Babcock.]
Mount Meeker has the general form of a three-sided pyramid. One side, the southeast, is a long, even slope covered with fine rocky débris. The other two faces are more precipitous and irregular. The apex consists of two very sharp peaks of equal altitude, about 600 feet apart, connected by a thin, broken arrete which narrows in places to a mere knife-edge with a precipice on one hand and on the other a slope impassably steep. This unusual summit formation is one of the features of special interest; another feature is the north precipice, with its grandly sculptured buttresses, which form one wall of the double glacial cirque at the head of the East Gorge; and still another, the peculiar Loft, described later. In fact, the peak is remarkable, even unique, in many ways, and would long ago have become more popular with mountain climbers were it not somewhat overshadowed by its slightly higher and far more famous companion, Longs Peak.
Mount Meeker is in some way accessible from every side. Until recently, the occasional parties who gained the summit usually made the entire ascent either by the long, gradual south ridge, or by the east ridge. But either of these routes is long and indirect, and demand hours of tedious climbing over fallen timber and monotonous débris slopes. Undoubtedly the most direct and interesting routes are by way of the East Gorge and the small glacial meadow just below Chasm Lake, both of which approach the peak on the side which appears the most difficult, namely the north or northeast.
To reach the little meadow, one may take the regular Longs Peak trail to timberline, and there, at a point near the Timberline Cabin, branch off on the rough foot trail, well marked with cairns, that leads to Chasm Lake. Traveling this for about a mile and a half, over the moraine, along the south base of Mount Lady Washington and past the top of Columbine Falls, one arrives at the meadow. Just beyond, towers the end of that great bastion which thrusts down into the head of the East Gorge, dividing the Meeker cirque from the Longs Peak chasm. Here leaving the trail and ascending to the left of the bastion, a climb of perhaps a quarter mile brings one well up into the Meeker amphitheater. High on the rim to the westward may be seen that large pocket of permanent snow, shaped like an inverted apron and called by this name, which appears so conspicuously in the saddle between Longs and Meeker as the peaks are viewed from the northeast. One should now ascend directly toward the Apron for perhaps 1,000 feet over smooth rock slopes which, though steep, offer ample foothold, coming at length into a trough in the mountain wall. This trough is ordinarily filled with snow, which may require step-cutting; but at some seasons it is entirely bare and easy of access up to a point about 100 feet below the edge of the Apron, where it narrows up and ends in a vertical and apparently inaccessible chimney. Here, however, one may leave the trough by a ledge or shelf which will be seen leading up and out to the left around the face of the cliff. This ledge, which is several hundred feet long, is steep, uneven and rather narrow in places, but unless covered with ice is not dangerous. It ends in an easy rock slope, over which, turning again up to the right or westward, one soon emerges in the saddle, at the upper edge of the Apron.
Here one finds instead of a rounded ridge a perfectly level platform called the Loft, a name strongly suggested both by the form and location of the place and by the mode of access to it. Here a short and interesting side trip, with no climbing, may be made by going to the northeast edge of the Loft to a point from which there is an impressive view of the Longs Peak precipice and chasm. Returning then to the south, a short climb over an easy débris slope brings one to the summitthat is, the western apex of Mount Meeker.
This route is by no means easy, and may be a little dangerous. In bad weather or at any time of year when there is much snow. Safer and more practical, regardless of season or weather, and hardly less interesting is the second route. For this one should go as before to the little meadow and up about a quarter mile into the Meeker cirque. Now, instead of continuing toward the Apron turn to the left, and high up against the south rim of the cirque will be seen two rounded rock buttresses, appearing from below like detached pillars with a steep passage, a sort of chimney, between them. Climbing now to the base of these buttresses, by any route that seems easiest over the slide rock and ascending the chimney which is filled with broken rock and offers no difficulties, one comes out suddenly on the sharp eastern ridge of the peak at a point about half a mile from the summit, which from here is in sight most of the time. The course is now obviously up along the ridge, keeping as near the crest as possible, but a little on the south side, for the north side is here a sheer precipice. This route leads to the eastern apex of the mountain.
Starting from the Longs Peak Inn or vicinity the round trip to Mount Meeker by either route will require a full day or at least seven or eight hours.
For a trip which is second to none for interest and variety one may ascend the peak by the first route and descend by the second. Evidently, to do this it will be necessary to cross the acute summit ridge from one apex to the other; and, therefore, this trip, as well as the trip by route first described, is recommended only for experienced mountaineers well equipped with ropes and climbing sticks. The other route is suitable at any time for ordinary parties and requires no special equipment.
Last Updated: 5-Jan-2007