Start at 2 a.m. at the Longs Peak trailhead and hike 4.5 miles to Chasm Lake, beneath the gigantic East Face Diamond. From Chasm, scramble steep slabs, then a straightforward but very narrow ramp (class 3) that leads south across cliffs to The Loft, a wide saddle between Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker. Cross the broad, flat Loft and drop down a steep, loose gully until you reach the base of the Palisade Cliffs.
Find the faded paint splotch called Clark's Arrow, then begin a 1,500-foot, class 3 scramble up Keplinger's Couloir, until you intersect the Homestretch, the upper section of the standard route. Ascend the final 350 feet to the broad summit. Complete the loop by returning on the Keyhole Route, which rejoins your inbound trail at Chasm Lake Junction. Caution: Snow, ice, rain-wet rock, and thunderstorms can complicate any climb on Longs.
INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm
PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season). nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcntry_guide.htm
CONTACT Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206; nps.gov/romo
-Text by Steve Howe, howephoto.us
Trailhead: Longs Peak trailhead is 9 miles south of Estes Park, off CO 7.