Route: Keyhole Ridge 5.6, Longs Peak
Climbers: Glen, Brian C, John
Date: July 16, 2011
yellow dots are belays
Brian, Glen and I have had this route floating around in our minds for quite some time. Brian, fresh off his West coast excursion including the summits of both Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier, and Glen, also just back from his climbing adventure in Peru, had both contacted me about climbing this route in the past. When we found a date that worked we watched the weather and made a start time.
long exposure shot by Glen.
We met up at the oh so familiar Longs Peak Trailhead at 2:15 am, each of us with about 2 hours of sleep. Glen offered to supply the rack which consisted of a full set of BD nuts, C3s # 0, 1 and 2 and a set of C4s from .5-2. Brian supplied a set of Tri-Cams and Glen topped off the rack with a few quick draws and many shoulder and double length runners. I carried Brian's 9.5 mil 60 meter rope and each of us carried an ice tool or axe. We knew we would be traversing snow on the descent down the North Face; the axe would come in handy.
thats the moon! Glen
We blazed up the trail reaching the beginning of the boulder field where Glen and Brian, with their awesome cameras, took several long exposure shots of Longs with the moon to the west. The sun was providing enough light to make the journey through the boulder field simple. When we arrived at the Vaille Shelter we geared up.
the ramp. Glen
Donning helmets and harnesses we started up the ramp behind the shelter. Glen racked up his harness and we remained un-roped.
Brian coming up
As the Sun rose we scrambled up 3rd and 4th class terrain up to the infamous False Keyhole.
at the False Keyhole
From the False Keyhole we traversed south along the east side of the first tower until we reached a nice ledge with 4 shinny new bolts lined horizontally. We assume these are use by NP Climbing Rangers for rescue systems, i.e. lowering victims from the standard route. Glen set up an anchor using 2 of the bolts and we began our roped climb.
Glen preparing to start P 1
Glen led pitch 1, a low 5th class gully of steep tall blocks. The holds were good but we made bigger moves which made the climbing fun. Glen placed maybe 5 pieces of gear over his 120+ foot lead.
Glen on Lead. Brian
Glen at his anchor
Glen made an anchor atop a small block. At the anchor a soloist, Chad, flew up past us climbing like he had the devil in him! We watched his progress as long as we could before we lost sight of him high past the third tower.
Brian coming up
John and Glen at first anchor
Brain was tied into the opposing end of the rope and I tied in at a point about 8 meters up the rope from Brian. We would climb simultaneously while Glen belayed. None of us had climbed on a rope like this before but because of the low technical nature of the route and our comfort level we found this to be our best option.
Brian and I reached the anchor and Brian took over the second lead. We spent just 5 minutes or so switching gear and Brian was on his way up.
Glen and I following Brian on his lead
Brian had the job of finding a good route to the top of the second tower. The wind was non existent and the temperature was warm which makes alpine climbing no fun at all.
Me on P 2
We lost sight of Brian fairly soon as he moved further up and left up the second tower. We heard, “Off Belay” and we knew he had gained the tower. Shortly after we hear, “I’ll say sorry for the route before hand.” Brian took a direct line to the top of the tower, a 15 foot headwall with an off-width crack running up featureless slabs. Brian called it 5.8.
Brain belaying atop his OW crack
me squirming up the OW crack. Glen
Glen gaining the second tower summit
Again I came up second with Glen following 8 meters behind and cleaning the gear. With a little verbal help I stuck a couple foot jams and arm bars to gain the top. Glen followed with ease. And like that we were on the second tower, a small summit with amazing views.
Pitch 3 from top of second tower
From the second tower we had to down climb several moves to a small ledge on the west side of the tower. Brian went first, on belay from Glen. Brian reached the saddle between the second and third towers and slung a boulder for a belay. I climbed down and traversed the ledge after placing a cam at the down climb for Glen to be protected.
on the ledge. Glen
We scurried across the ledge and met Brian who started up the slabby ramp towards the start of the third tower.
at the saddle between the second and third tower. Glen
Brian slung another boulder constriction and we joined him below the right facing corner.
I led the final pitch, a right facing dihedral topped out by low fifth class ledge systems up to a large ledge. I placed 2 pieces in the dihedral and started more right than the gear. I made some fun moves and pulled around to the small ledge to the east and placed a nut. Traversing up and south I clipped a fixed piton and place maybe one other piece before I ran out to the large ledge where I slung a nice rock horn and set up a belay.
me leading pitch 3. Glen
Brain and Glen followed, informing me that I had started the pitch on a harder section than I needed to. Always fun to hear that!
Brian following Glen on P 3. Glen
When they reached the belay we opted to bundle the rope and continue up ledge systems to the ridge proper and the top of the Northwest Couloir. In the shade we switched to shoes/boots and continued the final bit to the summit block. I was really dragging ass this final bit, so I was a little late compared to my partners. We were all there by 9:15, which makes for a six hours and forty five minutes from the TH to the summit! We were blown away by our speed and efficiency on the route.
climbing un roped to gain the ridge past pitch 3. Brian
route unroped to gain the ridge proper. Glen
top of NW couloir. 3rd class
Success! Glen’s 3rd summit, Brian’s 6th summit and my 12th. We rested for just a few minutes and started down the North Face.
jog to the summit. Glen
We traversed two snowfields above the Cables route, trail runners and an ice axe=FUN.
descending the snowfields above the Cables
Brain led the descent to the bolts and we threaded the eyebolt at the top of the pitch. We made two rappels down waterfalls of melting snow. At the bottom of the second rappel I struggled to bundle the soaking wet rope and crammed it into my pack. We climbed down several hundred feet of snow where we regained solid ground.
Now, just the long hike out, but this one was different; We had climbed a multi-pitch traditional alpine route, 3 men (or boys) on a single rope found our way up totally new terrain to us. We had no hang ups, no falls and stayed safe throughout. What a great day! Thanks Glen, Brian, it was a pleasure as usual.