| Longs Peak - Keyhole Route
It felt great to get back out climbing 14ers after battling various knee problems and plantar fasciitis over the past couple of summers. My friend Steve mentioned that he was taking a couple of days off from work this week, and after checking the weather forecast, we decided it was a great day for a climb! I really wasn't motivated to work today anyway!
Today's weather forecast called for storms after noon, so we decided to hit the trail around 6am to be back before the storms formed. Some low-lying stratus clouds caused us concern as we reached treeline and got our first views of Longs Peak.
The climb up to the Boulder Field of Longs Peak was top-notch, as the mountains were spectacular as always, and the wildflowers were in full bloom.
We made good progress to the Boulder Field, but as always, progress slowed considerably from the Boulder Field up to the Keyhole. Even though this was my fourth summit of Longs Peak, I still can never get tired of a close-up view of the Keyhole! As you can see by this point, the weather had cleared up nicely.
After a brief break at the Keyhole, we contoured our way across to the base of the Trough. As you can see from the following image, the Trough is completely clear of snow at this point.
My general take on the Trough is that it's not a super-technical section of trail, but it certainly tests your general fitness level. There's nothing quite like a steep 600' climb at 13,000+ feet!
The Narrows have also melted out completely. The blaze markings on the rocks certainly help travel through this section.
Following the Narrows, we hit the Homestretch. Although it looks daunting, it's really not too bad of a climb. Also, as seen from this photo, the Homestretch is completely melted out as well.
After leading the way for most of the route since the Boulder Field, Steve ran passed me in the final 100 feet and summited Longs before I did. Oh well, at least I was a close second! We reached the summit around 9:15 am - 3 hours, 14 minutes after we left the Longs Peak Ranger Station. I was excited, as this was a PR for me by about 15 minutes. We then took a nice break and enjoyed the beautiful views. That's us on the summit.
Here are a couple of more shots from the summit of Longs.
After about 30 minutes on the summit, we decided to head back to civilization. It seems to take just about as long to head up from the Keyhole to the summit of Longs as it does to descend! I took one fairly hard fall on my way down the Trough, but other than that, we made it to the traverse to the Keyhole with little incident. However, at this point, my navigational skills failed me! We ended up traversing well above the Keyhole and ended up at the "False Keyhole". I was not familiar with the "False Keyhole" until today. But, anyway, we then had to descend back to the official route. Oh well! I'll be more careful to follow the blazes next time! But, hey, at least I got a cool shot of some rock formations while doing the traverse.
Following a slow traipse down through the Boulder Field, we decided to try our hand at running from there back to the trailhead. I have to say, the Keyhole Route is a pretty challenging trail run. Although both Steve and I stumbled a couple of times, we managed to stay upright on our descent. We arrived back at the car a little after noon - about 2 hours, 30 minutes after leaving the summit. The clouds were starting to build at this point, so it was good to be back! After a tank-stoking lunch at Taco Bell in Estes Park, it was back to Fort Collins and 95 degree weather! It felt great to be back out in the mountains again.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):