Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Date Posted:  09/05/2013
Modified:  09/16/2013
Date Climbed:   09/05/2013
Author:  hikerdawg
 Longs - Keyhole  

There are plenty of trip reports for Longs but I like having my own account to look back on and share with friends and family. I thought the recent report that thill wrote Keyhole - First Class 3 Peak summed it up perfect and the descriptions and pics were spot on.

I left my house in Littleton at midnight, picked up a friend in Boulder, and got to the TH just before 2am. We hit the damp trail right at 2am with a clear sky and amazing star ceiling. No full moon, so headlamps were needed until first light, which was just after 6. We lost the stars around 4-4:30 due to clouds but no rain. It's a very gradual easy hike up to the boulder field like everyone else mentions but it does make for a long hike coming back down. Based on the signposts out there, the full route from the parking lot is 15 miles and most of that is just walking.
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Distant look at summit, standard route goes through Keyhole on right and remaining route is on the other side


The boulder field can be tricky in the dark because you're not completely sure which way to head up. I ended up going up the middle and then finishing on the right side but it looks like dealers choice. We read lots of trip reports but still didn't have a good estimate on how long everything would take us and I always like to caution on the early side. Having said that, we got up to the Keyhole too quickly and had to sit around in the cold for a while waiting on light. Arrived at the Keyhole around 5:15 with 3 other guys waiting around for dawn. No one was eager to jump over and work on the ledges with just a headlamp and once I got over there I understood why. There's not a lot of room up at the Keyhole to "hang" around, so I would suggest either stopping before the boulder field or timing it better. Also take advantage of the shelter up there on the left if you have to wait at the Keyhole. I had never checked the sunrise/sunset chart before but will going forward when doing long hikes.
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Closer look at boulder field and Keyhole

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Keyhole


There was finally enough light just after 6 to move on, so I took off across the ledges. As long as you pay attention and follow the blazes, there aren't many places to get in trouble going through here.
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I did lose the path on the way back and went high too early and had to down climb some tricky sections wasting time and energy but I don't think most people struggle with finding the blazes. It's basically a bunch of random scrambling up and down sometimes needing to use a hand or 2. All of this terrain was stable and I never went through any loose section. Make sure you don't travel too far without seeing a blaze, they are mostly obvious if you take your time and look for them. This is another reason I would imagine hiking this section in the dark would be difficult. You don't really gain any elevation through the ledges and it's longer than I was expecting. Once at the Trough, the final 900' of climbing starts again. This section isn't that difficult but you are going straight up above 13,000'. I stayed mostly to the right going up where I could see some blazes but the water was also coming down that side of the climb so I avoided that as much as possible. The ground was more loose than the ledges. Not loose in the sense you ever feel in danger of sliding down out of control but absolutely putting people in danger above and below if someone kicks loose a rock or rocks. This section takes a while to climb up so I would imagine there's always going to be multiple people on it. I didn't have anyone above me but did have at least 5 people below me as I climbed up and another 7-8 as I climbed down it. I would suggest a helmet here just to be safe. There was one tricky section at the very top of the Trough that made me nervous because my shoes were slipping and there wasn't much to grip, so it took all of my 5' 11" frame to spread across a couple of the boulders. There may have been an easier path but I couldn't find it and there was no one above to me watch and copy.
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Top of The Trough

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Looking down The Trough

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Another shot looking down The Trough

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Now on to the Narrows, where again, there were a couple of places where higher concentration is required but nothing through here that bothered me as much as the top of Trough. This isn't a section where you want to do a lot of passing, so make sure if you need a break, take it before you head across. There are a couple of rocks that lay down at an angle blocking the path and you can go below them or squeeze above them, I choose to go above each time. Once you reach the Homestretch, you can see the top which is encouraging but there's still plenty of work to do. The "most difficult" 14er that I had done up to this point was Wetterhorn, so my experience with Class 3 climbing is limited. I've read plenty of stories of how this isn't a tough climb and Longs being people's first 14er but the Homestretch was a challenge for me. Look up the Homestretch coming right off the Narrows.
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I don't know if I was having a bad day or if that's how I would always feel but I couldn't keep the bottom of my shoes dry with all the water running down from the summit and I struggled with grip the whole time and was very nervous getting up and down the Homestretch. I honestly thought about half way up that I should turn back but people around me were making it look easy and encouraging me, so I pushed on. Hit the summit right at 8am and shared the massive area with about 6 others for maybe 20 minutes. No wind and very nice up top but it wasn't sunny either so I wanted to start working on getting back to safety. There was a lot of butt sliding and upper body gripping to guide me down. Back to the Keyhole at 10, so Keyhole to Keyhole took me 4 hours, 2 up and 2 down. I was so tired that I almost made some mistakes coming back down the boulder field but once past that, it's nothing more than a LONG walk back down. If I remember correctly, there is a 4.2 mile marker back to the ranger station, a 3.5, a 2.5 and then you finally see the .5 marker just when you feel like you've been walking forever......because you have been. It did start to rain about 12:30 on the way down but I never saw lighting or heard thunder until after I made it back to the car at 1:30pm. The trail wasn't as busy as expected but obviously there were people up there. If I had to guess, I would say 20-30 people summited that Thursday and another 20 were on the trail just for an average day hike.
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Summit

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So in summary, I have no doubt that I'm a weaker climber with less experience than a lot of people that summit Longs, but I did feel more danger than what I've read in a lot of trip reports. I'm sure a lot of that danger is based on confidence level and experience and it was all manageable if the risks are evaluated properly. As usual, the temperatures during the hike were completely driven by the wind. Wind = cold (25%), no wind = warm (75%). Side suggestion: stash water. I brought my 100oz bladder and almost brought another 24oz bottle but left it last minute. I knew I was running out the last 3 miles so I conserved but sucked it dry the final mile. If I did it again, I would stash an extra bottle somewhere around the 4 mile marker or at least bring some iodine tablets in case of emergency. There's plenty of access to the mountain stream to fill up.



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Comments or Questions
thill
Great report - thanks.
09/22/2013 15:25
Congrats on Longs - I think 2 hrs up and 2 hrs down from the Keyhole is really good time. Also, I'd forgotten how long it seems to take to get back to the TH from the Keyhole.


Peak_One

Early morning push out of hand...
09/25/2013 03:20
I started at 2:58 on Sept. 1 of this year and was lucky to get the absolute last parking spot. I was trying to get up and down pretty fast so I pushed on past the Keyhole in the dark. Not really fun, but not too bad if you've done it before and are patient enough to make sure you keep the bullseyes in sight. Kept it on till halfway up the trough.

I think people dress too heavily and move more slowly than is optimal- although groups, of course, should move with their slowest hiker. I'm guessing most people aren't really pushing that hard in the first 5 or 6 miles of easy, gradual class 1. Given that time at altitude is as much a factor as exertion, I think the early start thing has gone a bit far past actually being helpful.



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