Peak(s):  Chiefs Head Peak  -  13,579 feet
Date Posted:  09/11/2009
Date Climbed:   09/07/2009
Author:  ronbco
 Chiefs Head - Wild Basin / Sandbeach Lack   

I've been longing to climb this ever since someone pointed it out to me and mentioned that the shape matches the profile of a face (facing up).

But I was always discouraged by the prospect of a 15+ mile hike. And I admit some trepidation of the prospect of perhaps Longs homestretch-like slabs (I was imagining that to be the case).

Finally I took it on last week and it was awesome. I agree with one post I read that the overall terrain of the west side of Longs, seen from Chief's Head is even more impressive than the east side of Longs.

My main motivation for posting this report is to encourage others to hike the entire length of the ridge between the peak and the saddle with Pagoda. But I'd do the ridge on the descent so you can enjoy it more. Also, in case anyone else has a bit of trepidation about the terrain on the ridge, rest easy it is class 2. You can get exposure if you want on the very north edge of it but you don't have to.


From first looks at the south side of Meeker from Sandbeach lake to the stunning views of Pagoda that start on Mt Orton, this hike is perhaps one of my memorable. I never imagined being awed by something in the CO Rockies more than Chicago Basin...but indeed I was.
Ironically the view of the peak and it's ridge from the SW approach on the Orton ridge is very unimpressive. But once on the peak ridge itself the views are stunning.

Meeker from Sandbeach

Meeker, Longs, Pagota from Orton

Route Notes for Orton:
obviously no trail from sandbeach, we took off almost directly up to the first and only visible knob of Orton and had no problems, there is no need to keep going south...head WNW from the lake
above tree line you can get to the Orton ridge by going on either the north or south side of the modest peak. The north side will get you to the views quicker, but the south side is a bit faster with less boulder field traveling.
On the return, once around the Orton peak then bear east off the ridge to get to need to stay on the shoulder that is heading south.

From the Orton ridge the peak and it's ridge seems very far away. And it is! 2+ miles and 2k vert! But it looks and is broad and gentle. Indeed if my hiking partner had not been up it before I would have thought it could not be what we were looking at. You can't tell the face profile from here.

The wall/fin on the south of Pagoda, above Keplinger Lake is positively mesmerizing.

below taken below the east end of Chiefs Head ridge

It really doesn't matter which line to take to the EW ridge which has the peak. We choose a pretty direct line to what looked to be but of course was not the real summit, near the west end. On the return we traveled the entire length of the peak ridge (1 mile) trod on the Chief's nose, lips and chin.

On top after 5 hrs, 8 miles, 5400' vert the reward is great!


You now have a view of Longs that few see. The summit register shows about 100 names for the past year. It seems impossible that so many summit Longs when you look at it from this view. It looks like complete slab at way too steep an angle. The route from the Loft around the Pallisades also looks impossible. So don't take someone to this view if they have not already climbed Longs and are thinking about it.

And that is taking nothing away from the views of Pagoda, Speerhead, McHenry's, Arrowhead and Speerhead.

If you look carefully down the NW ridge toward McHenry's you can pick out Stone Man.

Perhaps the most memorable views are from the east end of the ridge, just above the saddle with Pagoda. That west ridge of Pagoda is rugged!
Now I will be stuck dreaming of that mountain!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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