Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Date Posted:  08/20/2017
Date Climbed:   08/18/2017
Author:  mountainman102
 Keyhole Route Fun  

Route: Keyhole
Longs Peak TH: 9,400 ft.
Summit: 14,255 ft.
Distance: 17.2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 6,129 ft.
Hiking Time (Summit Day): 10 hours and 29 minutes (Includes 40 minute shelter break)

Long Peak

Thursday night, Tyler and I met in Boulder and headed up to the Long's Peak TH (9,400 feet). We arrived at 2235 and to our dismay, we realized sleep would be very short tonight. We had a good debate on which route to take as Tyler wanted to do the Keyhole Route and I was feeling the Loft Route to avoid some of the people. Other people dropping rocks in the Trough was my biggest concern for this hike. Tyler eventually won and we decided to do the Keyhole. After an about an hour of not-so-restful sleep inside of Tyler's car, the alarm woke us up at 1245. Why did we get up so early? Not sure to be honest. Nevertheless, we ate a quick cold breakfast, saw a few people getting ready, and were on the trail at 0120. The trail was very easy to follow, even in the dark. The stars and the moon looked awesome and made up for the lack of wilderness views during the ascent. We moved quickly reaching the Chasm Lake junction at 0300. We continued on the switch-backing trail to the Boulder Field which we reached at 0410. It was still very dark out and we could barely make out the ridge. Longs still had not emerged into view and we just followed the trail occasionally wandering within the Boulder Field, but we quickly found the trail again. Just as the Boulder Field begins to climb steeply to the ridge, we went slightly off trail. Completely unable to see the Keyhole, Longs, or even the ridge, we went right to ascend the ridge. We ended on the saddle and were a few hundred feet North of the Keyhole (I kind of believe this used to be the route as it was a very easy class 2 ascent to the ridge and climbing directly to the Keyhole was slightly harder). Although in the light, it was easy to descend directly from the Keyhole and seemed to be how others came up. On top of the ridge at 0430, we dropped slightly off to the West (ascending climber's right) in search of the concealed-by-darkness Keyhole. We climbed Southeast to regain the ridge and miraculously ended directly under the Keyhole. It was windy!! We were getting slammed by the wind at 0445. We hunkered down under some rocks, but could not completely get out of the wind. As we shivered, Gerry Roach's wise words came into my head and I remembered somewhere there was a small shelter memorializing Agnes Vaille. I took out his route description and we began to search for the hut. Somehow in the dark, Tyler found it and we scrambled Southeast down to our wind-breaker where we were greeted with 5 friendly-faces. As I pondered why we did not start an hour later, I checked the GPS which read 6.94 miles and 4042 feet of elevation gain. I closed my eyes (first time I have ever tried to rest on the way up) and actually tried to sleep! Without any success, we continued to wait for light and the second the sky was not completely black, everyone got up and left at the same time (0525). The other 5 managed to slip out ahead of us, a little to my dismay, as we followed heading Southwest along the Ledges. The painted bull's-eyes were not completely visible as it was still quite dark, which was awesome, as I got to enjoy a little route finding on this overpopulated route. The traverse on the West side of the ridge was mainly class 2+ with a few class 3 moves. We passed two of the hikers a little before the Trough. I threw on my helmet here as there were 3 hikers in front of us. We quickly began ascending the Trough as I wanted to put a gap between us and the two behind us.

Looking Up the Trough

The Trough is long and arduous and was the most dangerous part of the climb in my opinion. About a quarter of the way up, the 3 in front of us exited what is normally a couloir and the two behind us had still not entered. We continued up slowly as fatigue had hit Tyler and his hip-flexor started bothering him. The bulls-eyes were now apparent and we persisted following different paths all over the Trough. The chock stone at the top was an obstacle we decided to go around and turned ascending climber's left and zig-zagged up a couple ledges (class 2+/3) to the ridge. The anti-climactic section known as the Narrows was much less intimidating than I had been expecting.

The Narrows are not so Bad!

Despite the exposure on the ascending climber's right, it is easy to hug the wall on the left and walk along the obvious path. There is one somewhat exposed move around a block sticking out from the wall, we decided to go right and around the block, but you can also go between the wall and the rock avoiding some exposure. The Narrows ended and we reached a bump with a 10-foot slot as described by Roach. I did not even look for the bulls-eyes and we ended up going around the slot on a class 2 trail. We descended this slot (pictured later), yet I believe going around is easier.

Meeker Looking Majestic in the Sunrise

The Homestretch came into view and looked more intimidating than it was.

The Homestretch

The 3 in front of us were on the last few steps to the summit as we began up. I found the Homestretch to be an enjoyable class 3 scramble. It was not difficult since the rock was mostly dry and we had no one above or below us. The rock did look awesome and was very unique! We summited at 0645 just missing the sunrise. It ended up being one of my earliest summits and we were greeted by the other 3 and a rope?? There was a rope tucked in the rocks right on the summit. Would have been nice to rappel the North Face, if only we had known! Just as we sat down, the others left and we surprisingly enjoyed the summit to ourselves for a while! My new GPS read 5440 feet of gain and 9.05 miles. I guess our little detours were longer than I thought. As we got up to leave, the two who were behind us summited and snapped our photo.

Summit Pic

We left at 0705, just as a few others reached the summit, and read the sign warning us to not kick rocks on others.

Looking South

Heeding to what you would think is common knowledge, we carefully descended the Homestretch and began to run into more and more people. This is what I had originally anticipated. After giving a few words of encouragement we reached the V-slot at the bottom of the Homestretch (would have been easier to go around). This quick class 3 drop took us right to the Narrows where we encountered even more people.

Tyler Descending the V-slot

As we reached the top of the Trough, I looked down and was unsure if I was on a 14er or in a crowded mall. There was what looked like one hundred people on the Trough. This section made me the most nervous and I decided to descend the right side (Northeast) of the couloir. I do not really think it made the hike any more difficult and everyone going up seemed pretty content to go directly towards each bulls-eye painted rock on the opposite side. We cautiously descended as Tyler's hip-flexor was killing him as we waited for the Ibuprofen to kick in. We finally exited the Trough and traversed back dropping a bit lower than where the trail goes and reached the Keyhole at 0832.

Keyhole with Perfect Weather

We rested in the shelter, ate, and checked the GPS which read 10.32 miles and 5,813 feet. The weather was perfect and it appeared to be a bluebird day without any clouds in view. We descended to the Boulder Field where Tyler made use of the solar powered toilet at 0910. Not often you get to use a bathroom this high up in Colorado. (Well I guess if you hike Pikes Peak or something like that.)

Looking Back at the Keyhole and the Shelter just Below and to the Left
Solar-Powered Toilet

Meeker and Longs are Quite Impressive

The views were phenomenal here and I marveled at what we had missed on the way up. The Chasm Lake junction came at 1025, 13.85 miles in, and provided us with some of the best views of Meeker's daunting Northwest face and Long's impressive diamond East face. The rest of the descent seemed to just drag on forever, but we enjoyed everything which was originally concealed by darkness on the ascent. We made sure to stop and take in the views often as we passed many people heading up. We finally reached the last turn as the cars came into view and we breathed a sigh of relief. The GPS read a grand total of 17.2 miles and 6129 feet of elevation gain with a finish at 1149. I cannot wait to go back and climb Meeker!!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 8 9 10 11 12 13

 Comments or Questions
08/22/2017 09:35
You can save yourself a half-mile by following the old telephone line that used to go to the Boulderfield Hotel. And the trail surface is nice, soft, flat duff instead of jumbled roots and rock.

Longs Thanks!
08/28/2017 16:10
You write your report so very well! I loved the photo looking back at the keyhole. I'm hoping to hike this mountain by end of this summer. I appreciated all you had to share. Thank you!

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