Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Date Posted:  09/15/2011
Date Climbed:   09/13/2011
Author:  ChrisM

 Another Keyhole Story  

TH to Boulder Field (BF)

Time: 4:16
Dist: 5.9 miles
Elev: 3348

BF to Summit

Time: 3:05
Dist: 1.53 miles
Elev: 1507

Being my third attempt and my second trip to the Boulder Field (BF), and having a climbing partner, Zach, a good friend from work, I figured the odds of success were with me this time. We arrived at the BCO (Back Country Office) around 9:30 am to pickup the permit that I reserved several weeks ago. We had until 10 am on the day of the reservation or it gets released. Stopped by the store/deli/gas station on the corner of Mary’s Lake Rd and Hwy 36/66 and got half a sandwich and headed for the TH.

Arrived at the TH around 10:30 am and got ourselves ready, departing at 11:07 am for another fun filled 6 mile trek up to the BF. During my planning phase, I debated about whether to just hike in or make it a two day trip. It’s whatever you feel is easier, or more challenging, depending on how you look it.

Reaching the crest of the BF, Longs on the left, a little biddy keyhole in the middle and Storm Peak on the right.

Made it to the BF in 4 hrs 15 min with the weather looking good. Definitely cooler than the trip I made 3 weeks earlier. Set up camp, ate dinner and continued drinking water.

Campsite is set up inside a rock wall which breaks the wind.

I had a bad headache at the BF on the 2nd attempt and decided to forgo that opportunity. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. When the sun went down, the temp went way down and we called it a day. Except for the draining my bladder (internal), I got a restful night’s sleep. When we got to the BF, I mentioned that my “bladder” was leaking and a guy at the next door campsite thought I was really talking about my bladder. I quickly explained it was my hydration bladder. Humorous moment.

Since the weather could go either way in the morning coupled with other climbers’ discussions coming down from the summit, the keyhole at dawn would be overkill and maybe too early. So, we opted to leave a little before sunrise. Get to keyhole in daylight and give the clouds a chance to clear up. It turned out to be a good plan. We left at 7:03 am.

Getting ready, sun is up and bidding the clouds farewell. Photo by Zach.

The keyhole, the shelter and the weather, all in one photo op.

It took us 35 min to get to the keyhole and we stopped in the Agnes Vaille shelter for a minute so I could put my poles in my daypack. I felt like I was carrying lightening rods. I used them up to the BF, but I thought I might need them in The Trough, so I took them. They came in handy coming down the Trough and again in the BF. As usual, a little windy at the keyhole, but very pleasant on the other side.

Zach is standing in the keyhole, I’m in the shelter doorway.

There has been a lot said about the Longs keyhole route in as many perspectives. Here is one more. A picture may speak 1000 words, but they require significant translation. Only the photographer knows the real story. We, as climbers, try to pass on our experience to help other climbers, hoping that the word and photo will tell the story. I think many perspectives is a mosaic that compiles many stories into THE story. Even if you think a route has plenty of TRs, write one anyway. You may never know the impact you make, but your view is important to the whole community. Sorry, got off route…again.

Going through the keyhole and looking to the left and out around the area is an ah ha moment. This is it, this is what’s it all about, let’s see what we can do! A hearty sense of confidence consumed me—probably adrenaline . With those thoughts in mind, Zach and I headed for the bulls eyes. Zach led most of the way, but I played back seat driver quite well. Zach had the energy to explore a route and start over, if I felt another route might be easier. We made a great team helping each other the whole climb, never more than a few feet apart.

We agreed that the segment between the Keyhole and Trough seemed class 2, okay, there was exposure, but not like you’re hanging on for dear life.

This is the little ramp with two metal bars cemented in place. Zach’s right hand is holding one. The other has been bent down to the rock.

There doesn’t appear to be a path here, but there is. Blow up the photo and you can see two bulls eyes. The trail is angled down.

Turning to the left is the Trough, otherwise known as the longest gully on the planet or at least it seemed that way. There was a little snow/ice on the right. It was steep in areas, but not a constant rock clutching, finger nail grip situation. I went at my own pace and by carefully examining the landscape, I could always find the path of least resistance. Does it look steep, yes, but only when you look down. It looks fine from the head up point of view!

The Trough

There is a “gate” at the end, or top, which one must climb or crawl over to continue. The huge rock formation, actually several large rocks, formed a formidable obstacle that required some thinking skills. I think The Rock deserves it’s own name. Anyone want to start a petition to name it? We ran across 3 folks who were turned back that day at The Rock.

The Rock—this photo is too close and only shows one way up, but there are at least two more.

There is one way on the left where you must get yourself onto a ledge and then up. Handholds are scarce. The photo shows the big crack, which appears plausible, but footholds are faint and the grip on the left rock is not a good angle. The third is a narrow ramp up the left side. The upper portion is visible in the photo. Grips are accessible along the ramp, but they are at foot level and looked awkward to me. I needed an arm assist from Zach on the way up. Mine are just not long enough! On the way down, he directed my foot onto a great spot so I could reach the ground from there. I only stepped on his hand once, really!

Zach was ahead of me on The Narrows and he crawled over this rock and stood on the ledge to the left of it. From my vantage point, it looked pretty risky. The ledge walkway that we were on, had these rocks laying in the way and the walkway just continued on. It was an illusion, the risk looked real. The Narrows was a path to the last challenge: The Homestretch. We were reserving our energy for it, and thankfully, The Narrows had no surprises.

Holy Cow, Zach be careful!

Another rock gets in the way.

Give this rock a big hug on the way by! Really though, there is room.

We made another left turn and The Homestretch appeared. The last challenge to summitting. It is fairly wide and plenty of room for several climbers, however, we were all using the same crack formation on the left side all the way up. No water or ice.

The crack up.

Ok, I couldn’t resist a look down photo. Don’t stare at the slope, look out at the horizon. Can't figure out the name of that lake.

Zach is really good at taking one arm, no view, shots and he caught this one of me, but also the angle of The Homestretch. Not so bad. Photo by Zach

The Marmot-In-Charge (MIC) inspected the cargo on whatever was brought up. Photo by Zach.

The MIC made his living up here and considered people just pack mules, bringing him supplies. We reached the summit at 10:15 am and inspected at 10:16.

Zach and I with the summit register. Photo by Zach, (he really is THAT good!)

We had snacks, chatted with the folks on the summit, took some funny photos, watched the weather, and paid our respects to the MIC before heading down The Homestretch. That took us all of 18 minutes.

We faced out and “spidered” most of our way down, sometimes sliding, but most of the time we looked like climbers. At least we were wearing helmets. The return was identical to the adventure up. Seeing how the route cannot be varied by more than a few feet in most places. The Homestretch was very enjoyable.

The Trough had the greatest flexibility for those who wanted to be individualists. I brought out my trekking poles and could only get one to extend, but still, one pole helped stabilize me down The Trough. We managed to get through all the challenges we faced the other direction except one, I think. Somehow, we missed the very first “rock in the way” moment near The Keyhole, returning there at 12:30 pm.

My Keyhole photo. Photo by Zach.

The shelter has been photographed many times and here is one more.

We made our way down to camp and began packing up. While doing so, we got traces of snow, which melted soon after hitting the ground, but nevertheless, the cloud system was producing frozen precip. We dressed accordingly and headed down around 2pm.

On our way down we were sprinkled a little, quite refreshing, and we got a rainbow.

The thousands of feet vertical and 6 miles took painfully forever for my knees. The more we wanted to see the TH, the further away it was.

The Rock earned our respect and we voted it the most challenging feature on the mountain. Not to say the other segments weren’t tough, they were, but The Rock was more mentally challenging. It made us think harder and provided doubts, it tested our resolve to achieve the goal. We overcame doubt and better climbers for it.

Having summited Lindsey, Sneffels, Castle, Wetterhorn and now Longs, I feel pretty good about my climbing skills. I have Darin and Hoot (from CMC) to thank for getting me over an initial apprehension. Britt, hopefully, the Crestones will be in the lineup next summer! Zach, thanks for climbing we me, we made a great team, just watch out for those “backseat drivers!”

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Craig Cook

Third time's a charm
09/15/2011 20:15
Congrats on making the summit!


The Rock is
09/15/2011 21:30
called the ”chockstone”. I hit that last year after sleeping at the boulderfield. Gale force winds broke my tent and rain squalls coated the top of the mountain in verglas. I chickened at the chockstone. Glad you had better luck!! This year i got over that but when i got my first look at the end of the narrows i was pretty sure that would be this years tunaround!! I got by that and now have the check mark. Even with a lighter pack the oneday trip was worse than the pack in the day before option. Those last 3 or 4 miles were pretty tough!

James Scott

great climb!
09/15/2011 22:18
I love Longs Peak- it's got it all. Thanks for the pictures taking me back up there for a few minutes. I'm glad you finally summited- what a feeling and accomplishment!


Good job!!
09/16/2011 02:50
I believe the little Lake in image 15 is Keplinger.


Very Impressed
09/21/2011 02:13
Chris, your trip report was very good. I appreciate your attention to detail. I know from your descriptions just how risky, or unrisky, this climb can be in places. excellent job, my friend. You are truly getting it done. My hat's off to you.

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