Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Date Posted:  06/21/2013
Date Climbed:   06/17/2013
Author:  smcobert24

 Longs Peak - Keyhole Route  

A bad day all together...

So basically we did everything wrong. We didn't start the trailhead till 0630. Arrived at the Keyhole around 1200-1300... just in time to see the Thunderstorms rolling in. We geared up and headed down the ledges (following the bulls eye markings). We pasted a gentleman that had turned around... he reported the snow conditions to be to dangerous on the ledges. We continued and past three guys that were descending from summit (they started at 0330 at the trailhead). The look in their eyes could tell a tale. They reported increasing dangerous conditions descending and the Narrows were extremely sketchy. We only made it past the ledges to the base of the Trough... But before we could make, the snow buckled underneath me and I slide down about 15 feet and caught a rock (lucky). The same thing happened to my buddy Ted. The snow collapsed under him twice. The second fall for him was about 50ft down. He slid down to where the bare rocks were and hit a boulder pretty hard. Luckily no injuries. Doesn't matter if you have crampons and an ice axe... the snow is just too dangerous. It's not holding and its really slushy. Probably doesn't help that we were on the ledges at 1300 either... right when it's warm enough to make the conditions more dangerous by the minute. So just when we're almost past the ledges, I see some dark clouds rolling in. And then BOOM! Lightening cracks down about a mile away. So we took all the metal off our gear and stored it about 50 feet away. We found a ledge to crawl under for cover just for the storm to roll over the mountain. Then it started snowing on us. As scary as it was, it offered such a surreal experience. So we continue to the Trough... At this point we decide not to take anymore risk and start planning our retreat. We didn't want to see first hand how the Trough or the Narrows where. So now we realize we do NOT want to go back the way we came. We look down and see there are bare rocks about 100 feet below us. So we start playing "Planko" down the mountain... aiming at protruding rocks to slide down to. We get to the safe zone and start back tracking to the Keyhole. Which this was kinda fun & Scary at the same time. We found 3 water bottles, 2 Camera cases from the 80's, and a Frisbee golf disc. So we get below the Keyhole and start ascending back to the top. The rocks were kinda steep in some points and unstable. One Boulder came loose and could have proven fatal for myself or Ted who was below me just seconds prior to it going crashing down the mountain.

Needless to say, Yes, I know, we did everything wrong. We left way too late case and point. Everything that could go wrong did and we were lucky enough to turn back before we made anymore stupid mistakes. I hope my post will serve as a lesson of what not to do and give you better judgment before you go up there... Make sure you leave early... before the sun starts beating down on the snow. I would recommend getting to the Keyhole no later than 0400. That way you can summit and start your descent before the ice gets slushy. Equipment recommended: Ice Axe and Crampons. Oh, and if you find a pair of White Dragon sunglasses up there on the ledges, let me know... I lost them taking shelter from the lightening.



 Comments or Questions

Be safe.
06/21/2013 16:33
Give it a few more weeks for the trough to melt out, and it should be fine.


06/21/2013 16:36
please learn from this


06/21/2013 17:51
Sounds like the people I usually see on Longs.

Longs is typically still considered ”techincal” this time of year. Please treat it as such so you don't hurt yourself or others.

”So basically we did everything wrong.” At least you recognize that.


06/22/2013 00:41
I don't really think holding metal objects has any effect on your chances of being struck, unless you are pointing a long pole at the sky


Good Post
06/22/2013 01:37
Glad you're alive


making choices
06/22/2013 01:56
in the end i am glad you are back and all ok...if anything your post should highlight a different approach and safety above all! it will still be there on the morrow! the thunder and lightning has arrived.

No Malarkey

You Lived Now Learn
06/22/2013 02:47
Steve and Ted, glad you are alive and did not wind up risking the lives of those who may have needed to come to your rescue ... or recovery. There are quite a few people on this forum who have considerable experience on Longs and other big hills in Colorado and elsewhere. Perhaps you are equally experienced as well, but just made a long parade of critically bad decisions that you wished to share. None the less is a wonderful reference for learning how to get up, get down, and get it done as safely as possible. Remember the objective is always to get back to the TH not the summit. Ask questions. Read the forums. The big hills will always be there tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your experience. Perhaps others will choose not to repeat the same mistakes.


Glad you're o.k.
06/23/2013 22:17
Thanks for sharing.


06/26/2013 19:07
It's a pretty good idea to not hold anything pointy or metallic, or have anything pointy or metallic strapped to your backpack, when there's lightning about. Lightning likes to attach to pointy stuff whether it's metallic or not. This includes a person's head.

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