Longs Peak - Keyhole Route
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(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:|| Class 3 |
|Total Gain:||5,100 feet|
|RT Length:||14.50 miles|
|USGS Quad.:||Longs Peak|
|County Sheriff:||Larimer: 970-498-5100
| ||Boulder: 303-441-3600
|National Park:||Rocky Mountain|
The trailhead is west of Colorado 7 and can be reached from the north or the south. For the northern approach, drive 9.2 miles south from the intersection of US 36 and CO 7 to the turnoff for the Ranger Station. For the southern approach, drive north 10 miles from the junction of CO 7 and CO 72 on the Peak to Peak Highway to the Ranger Station turnoff. From the turnoff drive west 1 mile to the trailhead. Note: Car-camping is not allowed in the parking area. There is a tent campground nearby and a couple of full campgrounds near Meeker Park.
From the Ranger Station, start up the East Longs Peak trail. Hike 0.5 miles to a signed trail junction and stay left on the main trail. Continue up through the forest and pass Goblins Forest. Switchback up a hill before crossing Alpine Brook on a log bridge. Leave the heavy forest shortly after the stream crossing and continue up to tree line near 11,000' (approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead). Longs is now in view as well as the route past Mt. Lady Washington and to Granite Pass - Photo #1. Keep hiking southwest along Mills Moraine to the Chasm Lake trail junction ( 40.26579° N, -105.59264° W) at 11,550'.
Turn right and traverse west and northwest across the northeast slope of Mt. Lady Washington - Photo #2 Hike all the way to Granite Pass ( 40.27395° N, -105.60548° W) to reach another trail junction. The North Longs Peak Trail heads off to the right. Stay left on the East Longs Peak Trail and switchback up and easy slope (Photo #3) to reach the north end of the Boulder Field, near 12,400'. The north and east faces of Longs come into view, as well as Storm Peak (13,326') ahead. Follow the trail south into the Boulder Field ( 40.26509° N, -105.61402° W) (Photo #4) and past some established tent sites in the middle of the field. There is a restroom in this area. Your next goal is to reach the Keyhole - a notch in the rugged ridge between Longs Peak and Storm Peak. The trail finally runs out near 12,800' on the south end of the Boulder Field but follow cairns up through the rocks to reach the Keyhole - Photo #5 and Photo #6.
Pass through the Keyhole to the west side of the ridge where the remaining route becomes more difficult and requires a slower pace. Glacier Gorge is down to the right and the next section of the route is to the left. Scramble south along ledges by following painted bull's-eyes which mark the remaining route to the summit. Approximately 1/3 of the way across the ledges, the route climbs up about 50' before descending 100'. This up and down adds a bit of complexity to this section. Photo #8 and Photo #9 show some of the terrain.
Near 13,300', enter The Trough ( 40.25614° N, -105.62031° W), a defined gully which climbs 600' up the east side of Longs - Photo #10. The route is still well marked but it can take a bit of searching to find the route markers but, generally, ascend the center of the Trough. Some easy scrambling is required in several areas. The rock is mostly stable but there are a few sections of small, loose rock. Taken near 13,700', Photo #11 looks down the Trough and climbers can be seen in the center. Near the top of the Trough, climb 30' of steeper rock (Photo #12) to reach the top of the Trough at a small, flat area. You're now on the upper portion of the ridge which connects Longs to Pagoda Mountain (13,497').
Next, you must cross The Narrows ( 40.25413° N, -105.61773° W) - an exposed ledge which crosses the south side of Longs. Carefully climb around a couple of badly positioned rocks (Photo #13) and continue across the Narrows - Photo #14, Photo #15 and Photo #16. After crossing the Narrows, scramble up onto more difficult rock to see the remaining route to the summit - Photo #17. The final pitch is called the Homestretch ( 40.25406° N, -105.61628° W). It looks worse than it is, although water or ice will make it much more difficult. Climb through a couple more sections of rock to reach the final portion of the Homestretch - Photo #18. This pitch is straightforward - follow the cracks toward the summit. Climb about 300' up the Homestretch to reach the large, flat summit ( 40.254902° N, -105.615738° W) - Photo #19 and Photo #20.
This is a long climb with plenty of scrambling on the last mile. In summer, start very early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Also, dogs are not allowed on this route.
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