Longs Peak: Keyhole Route

Allison’s dad and I made the summit of Longs Peak (14,259′) via the Keyhole Route on 7/24/15.

Allison dropped us off at the TH.

Allison dropped us off at the TH.

The vast majority of people who summit Longs in a single day utilize a 2:00-3:00 am start time…so the trailhead parking lot was already filled to overflowing when we arrived a little before 5:00 am. The forecast only showed a 10-20% chance of afternoon precipitation, so we decided to take a small gamble on the weather in exchange for an extra few hours of sleep.

Sunrise at treeline.

Sunrise at treeline.

We also made pretty good time en route to the Boulderfield. Got passed by two or three fast-moving guys, but we overtook a dozen or so others.

Looking up at Longs from the Chasm Lake turnoff.

Looking up at Longs from the Chasm Lake turnoff.

Heading across Boulderfield toward the Keyhole (arrow).

Heading across Boulderfield toward the Keyhole (arrow).

We took a 20 minute break at the Boulderfield for some food and water, then continued up to the Keyhole. We arrived there sometime around 8:15-8:30.

For those who have never made the climb before, the general outline is as follows. I tried to estimate about how long each section took us, without accounting for some of our longer breaks.

1. Trailhead to Boulderfield (~3 hours on trail, then the trail ends)

2. Boulderfield to Keyhole (20-30 minutes)

3. Ledges section (20 minutes)

4. The Trough (~60 minutes, mainly due to the ice & snow)

5. The Narrows (10-15 minutes)

6. The Homestretch (20-25 minutes)

Warning sign.

Warning sign.

Approaching the Keyhole.

Approaching the Keyhole.

The wind was pretty intense near the Keyhole, but calmed down again as we moved on to the Ledges section of the climb.

Starting the Ledges section.

Starting the Ledges section.

Some minor scrambling.

Some minor scrambling.

Same spot, on the way back down.

Same spot, on the way back down.

No-fall zone.

No-fall zone.

After the Ledges section, we arrived at the bottom of the Trough. I had been reading condition reports throughout the week, and knew to expect about 100-150′ of snowpack blocking the upper section of the Trough. So I had brought my ice axe along, and we had both rented some crampons/microspikes from a local hiking store.

Looking up at the snow from halfway up the Trough.

Looking up at the snow from halfway up the Trough.

Most of the other people we met hadn’t come prepared for the snow, and about 60-70% of them were forced to turn around at this point. The remainder were able to bypass the snow by climbing up onto some moderately exposed cliffs on the left side of the Trough.

Bruce ascending the snowpack.

Bruce ascending the snowpack.

Bruce went up first, and I followed after. I joked that if he fell, I would be sure to hand him my ice axe as he tumbled by. But of course we made it up just fine, without any need for a self-arrest.

Starting upward.

Starting upward.

Bike helmet because SAFETY FIRST.

Bike helmet because SAFETY FIRST.

When we reached the top of the snow, there were a few more challenging moves on some steep boulders before we reached the Narrows. Plenty of good handholds, though.

A British couple, well-prepared for the snow.

A British couple, well-prepared for the snow.

Looking back down on the Trough.

Looking back down on the Trough.

The Narrows section is very similar to the Ledges section: easier scrambling, but more exposure. The rock was dry, so it was pretty straightforward.

Starting the Narrows.

Starting the Narrows.

Navigating the Narrows.

Navigating the Narrows (on the return trip).

Looking back at the Narrows from bottom of the Homestretch; route in red.

Looking back at the Narrows from bottom of the Homestretch; route in red.

The final push to the summit is called the Homestretch. It’s a pretty steep climb that’s easy when dry and potentially deadly when wet. Today it was dry.

Looking up at the Homestretch; route in red.

Looking up at the Homestretch; route in red.

Top half of the Homestretch.

Top half of the Homestretch.

We had left the trailhead at 4:55 am and made the summit at 11:11 am. Took a few pictures, ate a few snacks, then started back down at 11:42 am.

Standing on the summit.

Standing on the summit.

The return trip was mostly uneventful. The snow section was more difficult going down than it was going up, and I relied on my axe quite a bit for stability. Bruce hadn’t brought an axe, and opted instead to descend those cliffs I mentioned earlier. Which I don’t envy him for. But he didn’t fall, at least.

Bruce coming down the cliffs.

Bruce coming down the cliffs.

Made it back to the trailhead at 5:50 pm for a total trip time of 12 hours, 55 minutes.

Advertisements
Published in: on July 30, 2015 at 5:17 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags:

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://mattandallison.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/longs-peak-keyhole-route/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This was a very fun but intense hike. I can honestly say I did have one moment of real fear on the way down through the trough section. One slip and I’m not sure what would have happened but it would have been very very painful. However, I really enjoyed the trip and adventure with Matt.

  2. A couple pictures made me a little queasy …either that or the appetizers that I had tonight. : )

    • It wasn’t the food…

  3. Congratulations–that was quite an accomplishment! Bruce–makes you feel good to be able to keep up with “the kids”, doesn’t it. A. Rachel


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: