| Longs Peak via Keyhole Route
Having lived in Denver now for two years, this was my first ascent of Longs. I've done other 14'rs in the area and really wanted to get up Longs. My son Peter and his best friend Nick flew out from the East Coast especially for the summit, and provided the incentive I needed to make the hike happen.
A couple days prior to the hike we did Bear Peak and then Heart Lake above Nederland to get the east coasters acclimated a bit (which seemed to do them well). We left home at 1:30 am on Tues morning, and made the trail head by 2:45. The parking lot was 2/3's full at this time so no problem getting a spot. After signing in at the Ranger Station log book, we turned on the headlamps and headed up the trail. We set a good pace with continual climbing up through the forest, past the Chasm Lake cut-off, and up to Granite Pass. A few hikers ahead of us and you could see the head lamps zig-zagging through the trail ahead. Also a clear night and some shooting stars.
Just past Granite Pass and the way up to the Boulderfield, I missed a step across the stream (which was really the trail but wet due to a lot of rain the previous day) fell and dislocated a finger on the right hand. Popped it back in and continued on. A bit painful but seemed to be managable for the rest of the hiked (ballooned up the following day though).
Passed through the Boulderfield (most of the campers in the process of getting set to head up to the summit) and made it up to the Keyhole about 6:15.
Towards the Keyhole
After passing through the Keyhole, followed the bulls eyes through the "Ledges" . A lot of exposure, but took it slow and made it through ok. Nick took a picture of Pete and I half way through.
On to the Ledges
Trail dips down a bit and then curves around to begin the Trough. We had helmets with us, but not a lot of people above us so hiked without them on (we probably should have had them on though). Looking from the bottom up the trough, you wonder how you can get to the top, especially with a few folks towards the top who look like specs. Slowly but surely though we pick our way to the top and reach the chock block which you have to get around to start the Narrows. Given the lack of any real footholds on the right, we opted to go to the left. Peter went first and then gave Nick and I a hand up.
After the top of the Trough you start the Narrows. I had heard that the block of rock leading into the Narrows might be a problem, but we all went up and over with no problem. A lot of exposure going across, but we took it slow leaning into the face of the mountain following the route (here's a picture Nick took of Peter and I starting across)
On the Narrows
and made it to the corner which heads to the Homestretch
Around the corner to begin the Homestretch
Looking up the Homestretch, you wonder once again how you can make it up a seemingly impossible angle without ropes, but again you see people towards the top, and you just slowly follow the bulls eyes up one step at a time looking for footholds.(Nick was good at spotting the bulls eyes as I'm colorblind and they don't stand out).
Finally, we make it over the top and reach the summit at 8:30am and we're greeted by about 25 other folks already on top. The picture here is of Peter, Nick and I at the top
Peter, Gary, Nick on the summit
We decide to head down after 30 minutes. While clear at the time, we knew it wouldn't take long for the clouds to start forming on our way down. Looking down the Homestretch a bit scary and we decided to slide down on our backsides. Put on our helmets first. Had to be careful though not to get in the way of folks coming up. Someone on the way up suggested that experts say you are supposed to back down. Did not trust myself though on finding footholds that way so continued sliding down.
We made back down the Homestretch passing a number of people who also didn't quite see how it was possible to get up, but kept going. Back down the Narrows (seemed easier on the way back) and to the top of the Trough
This time took the right side of the chock block to get past, sliding down. Slow going back down the trough, with more people coming up and more behind us. Glad we had our helmets on as part way down some one yelled "rock" and we ducked as one flew down the trough. A lot of loose rock and steep incline made us happy we had helmets on.
Looking up the Trough
After the Trough headed back towards the Keyhole on the Ledges. Be careful to follow the bulls eyes toward the Keyhole as there is a tendency to go to high.
Back through the Keyhole around 1100 and lunch at the Boulderfield campground for lunch and to watch the clouds start forming. Quickly began the trek back down with clouds growing along the way to the west and over the top of the mountain.
It was on the way back down the Trough we saw a lot of people heading up with little gear and seemingly unprepared not just for the hike ahead, but also expected weather. Even heading down to the Chasm Lake cut-off we saw people in sneakers and NO gear heading up the trail into the dark clouds. We couldn't help but wonder what happens to these people.
We just made it to the treeline as the thunderstorm hit with rain, hail and lightening. Finally made our way to the Trailhead at about 2:30 PM.
After the storm
Thanks Peter for holding us all accountable to make it happen (such an incredible feeling to have made it up and back safely) , and to both you and Nick for sharing a memorable day and a summit we''ll never forget.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):