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Keyhole route advice

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Keyhole route advice

Postby Boneshaker Craig » Wed Jul 17, 2013 10:15 pm

I think it all comes down to fitness level. The first 14er is almost always more difficult than anyone is expecting, especially if they have never done any hikes with serious altitude gain. The difference in difficulty between a class 1 and a class 3 is negligible compared to the difference between being able to gain 5100 feet over 7 miles with relative ease or serious fatigue.

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Re: Keyhole route advice

Postby shearmodulus » Wed Jul 17, 2013 10:26 pm

I climbed Long's via the Keyhole route in September of 2011. You can camp at the boulder field if you get a permit (they fill up quick) and divide the route into two days if fitness is an issue. If you start around 12:00 from the ranger station, you should be at the boulder field around 6:00 p.m. with a moderate pace.

Camping overnight, however, does not negate the exposure factor. One of the members of my group is an experienced and very fit backpacker, but did not have a fun time with some of the Class III moves at the top of the trough or along the narrows moving up to the homestretch. I didn't enjoy coming back down the homestretch, either. It gives the appearance that if you were to slip and fall that you would just roll down the slope and off into oblivion.

The RMNP rangers sometimes teach a class on how to climb Long's at the Denver flagship REI. I went; it's worth going to check it out. They do it because Long's is probably their biggest headache with unprepared climbers getting into trouble.

They say, "Long's is a 6 mile hike followed by a climb." And they weren't kidding. That last 1.5 miles or so from the Keyhole are exponentially harder mentally and physically than the route up to the keyhole.

Don't bother with a GPS, either. That's what caused the one dude to splatter, they think. Just follow the bullseyes. The route is very well marked.
"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads...."

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Re: Keyhole route advice

Postby Rambler » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:00 pm

Just did the Keyhole route Tuesday, my 7th summit and by far the hardest one I've done yet. We started at 2:15am with headlamps and ended at 4:30pm and our pace was obviously very slow. If it wasn't for the perfect bluebird weather we would have been turned back at the keyhole at around 9:30ish. The hike back down was brutal on the quads and seemed like it would never end. Really enjoyed the class 3 sections past the keyhole, but like I said the 6 or so miles back out were killer.

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Re: Keyhole route advice

Postby RosieTheSummiter » Thu Jul 18, 2013 3:16 pm

Longs was my first 14ers summit, but it wasn't until my 3rd and 4th tries that I summited due to a variety of factors. It was a hard fight, one for which I was not prepared physically the first two tries, even thought I "hiked" already. I admit the disappointment of two turnarounds FUELED the motivation to do whatever was required (conditioning, weather, start time,..etc.) to make it happen the third time, and I did do what was necessary to make that happen. But if your friend thinks Democrat is hard, then I would say it all boils down to what is more important to you both:
-making another 14er summit happen in which case I'd say pick a different mountain. Democrat is not really a qualifier for Longs.
-making an attempt on Longs where you will get an introduction to one of the most incredible mountains in Colorado, knowing full well you might not summit.

Like I said, it was my first and I failed to summit the first two times. But those attempts are how I learned to be a better hiker.

I'm not sure how other people would gauge it, but by the time you get to the keyhole you've done about 80% of the distance in one direction but only a fraction of the effort. Most of your energy will be spent in the last mile up to the summit in both directions.
"Don't get mad, get altitude."

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Re: Keyhole route advice

Postby DeTour » Thu Jul 18, 2013 9:25 pm

bob863 wrote:DeTour....a very interesting story.....you're very lucky no one got seriously injured....your report makes it seem like you all took it as a joke...
unfortunately, too many people have been killed on that route without proper training.....

I'm glad no one in your group was killed or injured....

Hmmph ?!? That TR has generated a fair number of comments, and nobody has ever accused us of taking the mountain lightly before. We respected the mountain with intense training, careful study of the route, early start, and thorough planning. We didn't have experience with exposure, but everyone has to cross that bridge eventually. You could question us pressing on with one person suffering altitude sickness, but we had a bluebird day, which, combined with an early start, allowed us to move as slowly as necessary to keep Brad close.

You're confusing my telling the story in an entertaining manner with a casual attitude about the climb. People who aren't prepared for the route are at risk - like the TR cited by RenoBob. We knew very well what to expect, and were probably safer than the majority of the people who climb the Keyhole route. I think your comment is egotistical and baseless.
when you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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