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.

Published in: on July 30, 2015 at 5:17 pm  Comments (4)  
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The Mummy Range Traverse

On 7/22/15, Allison, Bruce and I decided to attempt the Mummy Range Traverse (aka “Mummy Mania”) in Rocky Mountain National Park. This route hits all six of the major peaks in the Mummy Range, and covers approximately 17 miles and 6000′ of elevation gain. Allison’s mom stayed back with Micah, and also volunteered for drop-off and pick-up.

The Mummy Range, viewed from Long's Peak.

The Mummy Range, viewed from Long’s Peak. Start &  finish locations marked in red.

We left from Chapin Pass at 4:30am, followed a trail for a mile or so, then began cutting up the gradual grassy slope of Mt. Chapin (12,454′). Only needed headlamps for 30-40 minutes before the sun started coming up.

Early morning start

Early morning start.

I had read several trip reports online, many of which mentioned how easy it is to overshoot Mt. Chapin by not staying far enough south on the approach. We ended up overcompensating somewhat…hitting every single high point along the ridge…thinking to ourselves, “maybe THIS is Mt. Chapin” on each one. After about 1 hour 20 minutes, we reached the true summit.

Sunrise over Mt. Chapin

Sunrise over Mt. Chapin.

Allison and her dad.

Allison and her dad.

From Chapin, we continued northeast toward Mt. Chiquita (13,069′). This was a pretty straightforward section – a few hundred feet of descent followed by 1000′ or so of steady climbing to the summit. We saw a handful of other hikers along the way, as the Chapin-Chiquita-Ypsilon route is a fairly well known out-and-back day hike.

View from the top of Chiquita, looking northeast toward Ypsilon.

View from the top of Chiquita, looking northeast toward Ypsilon.

The terrain was relatively gentle, and we were making reasonably good time at this point. After dropping down to the Chiquita-Ypsilon saddle, we made the summit of Ypsilon Mountain (13,514′) sometime around 9:15 am.

Looking toward Fairchild from the summit of Ypsilon.

The ridge to Fairchild, seen from the summit of Ypsilon.

We took a short break on the summit of Ypsilon, then started toward Fairchild (13,502′). At this point, the terrain became significantly tougher. We opted to avoid the nasty-looking ridgeline to Fairchild, skirting it to the south by dropping down a scree slope.

Allison and Bruce descending Ypsilon.

Allison and Bruce descending Ypsilon.

It took us a long time to climb Fairchild. The slope was strewn with large boulders, so there was a lot of hand-over-hand scrambling. Allison and Bruce looked like they might have been getting slightly tired, but I can’t really say for sure…

Climbing Fairchild; Ypsilon in background.

Climbing Fairchild; Ypsilon in background.

The easiest route up Fairchild goes directly between the two rock ribs, pictured here.

The easiest route up Fairchild goes directly between two rock ribs, one of which can be seen here.

During the climb, we could see some rain building off to the west.  It hit just as we reached the upper slopes of Fairchild, and we ended up losing about an hour cowering under some rock slabs to avoid the rain/hail/snow/lightning.

Leaving the rock caves after the storm.

Leaving the rock caves after the storm.

By the time we made it over Fairchild and into the saddle on the opposite side, it was getting late in the day. We had only left Lisa with a 12 hour supply of milk for Micah, so Allison and Bruce decided to start heading back down the valley. I opted to tackle the last two mountains solo.

Hagues Peak from the Fairchild-Hagues saddle.

Hagues Peak from the Fairchild-Hagues saddle.

I lost another 1.5 hours waiting out two more thunderstorms on Hagues Peak (13,560′). The rock got pretty slippery, which made the final 50′ of class 3 scrambling a little challenging.

Closer look at Hague's summit block.

Closer look at the top of Hagues.

The ridge from Hagues to Mummy Mountain (13,425′) involved a long stretch of wet, slippery boulders.

Ridge from Hagues to Mummy.

Looking toward Mummy (right of center) from Hagues.

Mummy Mountain itself was an easy climb. After reaching the top, I started the long descent down the southeast ridge to meet back up with the hiking trail in the valley.

Summit view from Mummy Mountain

Summit view from Mummy Mountain

Looking back up at Mummy Mountain from the valley floor.

Looking back up at Mummy Mountain from the valley floor.

Once I regained the trail, the final 6 miles took a little less than 2 hours. Ended up having to get the headlamp back out for the final 30-40 minutes.

Allison and Bruce had finished around 6:15-6:30 pm. I didn’t make it back to the Lawn Lake TH until 9:30 pm…for a grand total of 17 hours. It definitely would have gone faster without all the storms, but that’s the way these things go.

Published in: on July 27, 2015 at 7:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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