| Longs Peak - Keyhole Route (Future Tourist!)
It was Friday evening and I had just been to the Longs Peak campground where there were no vacant camp sites. I continued to search with no luck. I finally gave up and decided to just crash in my pickup. So I found a nice parking spot, got my pack ready to go, and then kicked back my seat to try to get some sleep when I realized I had no alarm clock to wake me. My phone couldn't get any reception, therefore, making its alarm clock feature useless without the time. I then drove down the road looking for a gas station or something where I found the Mount Meeker store. I stopped, walked in, and explained my situation. The store didn't have any for sale, however, fortunately for me, the clerk found one I could borrow, which was a relief for me. I returned to my parking spot and made an attempt to get some sleep, however, just like the pevious Saturday I was unable to fall asleep. I had nothing to do so I just laid there for hours. I think I may have dosed off and on but I wouldn't count any of it as real solid sleep. Then, the alarm rang. It was time to get moving! I signed my name in the register at 2:50 AM and was on my way. There were quite a few hikers ahead of me and not enough room to pass. I was pretty well acclimitized and had eaten plenty the day before unlike the previous Saturday attempt. With what looked like an entire boy scout group ahead of me, it was hard to pass below treeline. As soon as I emerged form the forest, I nearly started running! I just really wanted to get to that Keyhole! I must have passed maybe fifty or more people and was the first one to get to the Keyhole. It was 5:00 AM and I was sitting in the entry way to the hut flashing my head lamp to guide other hikers because the thick fog reduced visibility to probably twenty feet and I myself had over shot the Keyhole and ended up on the ridge to the north. It was still pitch black out and the weather was much less than ideal. The wind was blowing steady at probably 40mph with gusts maybe up near 70 at the Keyhole. The rock was coated with a certain dampness that was enough to turn a substantial amount of people around, however, I had come to far to turn around that easy and so I took a short nap inside the hut, chatted with some fellow hikers, and crossed my fingers.
Looking at the deppressing atmosphere outside of the hut.
I climbed up to the ridge a few times to inspect the conditions but nothing ever seemed to change. There were a few climbers who continued on despite the weather. I didn't think it would be worth it with clouds engulfing the entire mountain. Besides, the mountain isn't going anywhere! I can always come back to climb another day!
The other side of the Keyhole
A couple of crazy people beginning their foray into a cloud!
At around 7:30 AM the first patch of blue appeared in the sky and it seemed as though it would clear up after all. Another thirty minutes past and the weather had improved enough to where I felt comfortable at least to make my way over to the trough where I thought I could make my final decision.
A view to the south from the ledges.
A random cool picture.
Having been through the ledges and the trough the previous Saturday, it was a walk in the park. All of the anxiety I had experienced the week before was nonexistent. I loved every minute of it!
The view to the west.
As the clouds dissappeared into the sky, it made for some gorgeous scenery! It amazed me how quickly the weather turned around! I started to feel bad for those who turned around!
Looking back at the ledges.
I was now at the base of the trough and was feeling great!
Looking down from the middle of the trough.
Looking down again after gaining a couple more hundred feet.
Almost to the narrows.
The view to the west from the top of the supposed "crux of the keyhole route."
I was now about to enter uncharted territory. I had imade it to the beginning of the narrows the previous Saturday, but turned around because I literally just felt to much like &$%@ to comfortably continue. I had absolutely no problem with the exposure at all and really wanted to summit just like the majority of people who make it that far, however, I just didn't feel 100% physically or mentally and decided I would come back another time when I was acclimated and had eaten sufficiently. I was proud of my decision and considering I had woke up in Bismarck, North Dakota just 24 hours before that without sleeping. I was not disappointed at all!
The infamous Narrows.
I was now beginning my traverse through the narrows. They weren't quite as bad as I was expecting at all! The rock was solid and there were bomber handholds throughout.
Midway through the narrows.
The wonderful Homestretch.
I rounded the corner at the end of the narrows and for the first time, I could see the summit! The Homestretch was not nearly vertical like the pictures had made it look. I felt more secure on the final 300 feet than the entire trip up the trough. However, the volume of people above did make me feel a little uneasy. I couldn't help but imagine a climber losing their purchase at the top and taking out many others! I hadn't experienced anything like this in my entire life! The exposure and the adrenaline as a result produced a state euphoria that remained for quite a while! The last 20 feet or so was absolutely overwhelming! I couldn't believe that I was almost to the top of the mountain, which I had read about for so long! I wasn't reading someone else's trip report! I was making my own! I was taking my own pictures. I was breathing the thin air into my own lungs! As I got within the last few feet and was pulling my weight onto the summit, I felt as though I could conquer all of the limitations within my mind and allow my imagination to roam free!
Me on the summit!
At this point, I was looking for a McDonalds! I never did find one! lol
The Keyhole and of course the cozy little stone clubhouse of which I spent three hours in that moring!
The climb of my dreams; the intimidating DIAMOND!
Perhaps, the mountain appreciated my, along with many others, patience and graced us with beautiful weather for the duration of our stay on the mountain itself, but quickly unleashed its relentless feary as we departed the boulder field because it proceeded to rain and hail not long thereafter! Besides that, the return trip was uneventful and anyone who has climbed Longs is familiar with the death march so I don't think it's necessary to go into details regarding it! I was very happy to get back to my pickup! I drove into Boulder and had a medium rare cheeseburger meal twice at the Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery! Fries and all! It was amazing! I drove back to North Dakota that night! I didn't think I would be able to top climbing Longs so I went home! This trip has solidified my decision to become a permanent tourist in Colorado as of June of next year following my graduation from High School! I am now planning and training for a quest to climb all 54 fourteeners in 54 days starting next June! I haven't quite figured out the logistics at this point, however, I think I will be starting a thread in the Forum on the topic relatively soon! If you are reading this I appreciate the time you spent and hope to see you in the mountains next summer!
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