Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Date Posted:  04/17/2007
Modified:  05/06/2014
Date Climbed:   04/15/2007
Author:  USAKeller
Additional Members:   Lhotse, sdkeil
 Longs Peak (Keyhole Route)- Longs Peak TH  

A Big Day on Longs: Keyhole Route Spring Snow Climb

Date: Sunday, April 16, 2007
Group: USAKeller, sdkeil, Lhotse, and Robert (Lhotse's friend)
Route: Keyhole from Longs Peak TH
Total mileage: 14 miles
Total elevation gain: 5,100ft.

I originally had planned on Longs Peak as being my 14er finisher, but when I read a forum thread a few weeks ago that some people had climbed it, I was dying to get it done and anxiously waiting to see what the "Longs Peak fame" and the Keyhole was all about. Lhotse and I had been talking about a climb together and we were set on Longs Peak. The weather called for a sunny day. Let's get 'er done!!

sdkeil picked me up in Boulder at 3:00am and we met Lhotse and his friend, Robert, at the Longs Peak TH at 4:00am. After introducing ourselves and gearing up, we were on trail at 4:30am (temperature: 37 deg.). There was another group of four people ahead of us. The trail has significantly melted out and is quite snowpacked. Although we were all prepared with snow flotation, there wasn't ever any need for it so we left that in the cars. The current trail conditions would have made for an unpleasant skin up! We made great time up to treeline and once we were there, we all paused for a few minutes to watch the gorgeous sunrise, and took some awesome pictures.

The sunrise hitting Twin Sisters (9,090ft.) (taken from 11,000ft.):

We hiked up a little ways more to where we had a fantastic photo opportunity of the morning alpenglow on Longs Peak. We skirted around the northeast slope of Mt. Lady Washington (which was almost completely windblown) and up to Granite Pass.

Lhotse, Robert, sdkeil, and USAKeller in front of Longs Peak during the prime time of
sunrise (taken from 11,200ft.). Mt. Lady Washington is also seen in the right portion of the photo:


We reached the Boulder Field in 3.5hrs. (8:00am), grabbed a quick snack, and took more pictures of the Keyhole. From what I understand, the boulders in this area are "tippy" during the summertime; but the snow and ice inbetween them allowed for us to quickly walk over them. We also could see that the group of four ahead of us was climbing the north face (Cables Route).

Lhotse, sdkeil, USAKeller in front of the Keyhole in the Boulder Field. From here, the
snow became minimal up to the Keyhole as seen in the photo:


A photo of the Diamond and the north face of Longs Peak from the Boulder Field.
To ski the north face, you'd have to be one hell of a creative skier to get a line from
this- the upper parts are pretty windblown:


Looking down into snow-filled Glacier Gorge from the Keyhole (13,200ft.):

Up until this point, and throughout the rest of the trip, the wind never blew and the skies were mostly sunny. From the Keyhole, this route definitely becomes more technical in snow conditions! This was also Robert's first 14er and unfortunately the area after the Keyhole exceeded his comfort level. We all stayed together and worked with him to try and increase his comfort level, however, we decided we were not making good time and at this point that it was best that our group should split up with sdkeil and I continuing onto the summit. Lhotse (who has summited this peak 6 times) turned around with Robert about 1/3 of the way past the Keyhole and helped him work on some mountaineering techniques. From where we left them (which is where we put crampons on), Lhotse and I saw the lower half of the Trough was full of snow and immediately wished we had our skis- great section to ski down. There was definitely more snow on this west side of the ridge- sdkeil and I had to create a track for us to climb/traverse. The route markers (bull's eyes) were easy to spot and follow. sdkeil and I traversed the south ledges (see photo below) to where they dumped us off in the Trough at about 13,300ft.

Well here I am- traversing back from the Trough. The lower part of the Trough is shown
with some excellent ski lines. On the right side of the Trough, we gained a track that
had been kicked up all the way from the bottom.


While ascending the Trough, we noted the temperature was 58.5 degrees. sdkeil and I were almost miserable roasting in the sun. There wasn't a cloud in the sky to give us any relief from the sun's rays; we could only hope for it. The upper half of the Trough was pretty rocky- again, you'd have to be a very creative skier to drop a line down this section without messing up your skis.

Looking down the Trough from a few hundred feet shy of the saddle (around 13,550ft.):

Now for the Narrows. This was truly the only section that was a little sketchy because of the snow on the ledges, however, there were tracks all the way across. We just didn't know how the snow would hold considering how warm and late in the day it was, not to mention having the exposure on that side! By staying close to the rocky upslope, it was not a problem to cross the Narrows with crampons.

Looking back at the Narrows. I traced the path we took:

We scrambled up onto some more difficult rock where we could see the Homestretch and the remaining route, and evaluate and its steepness. Again, we questioned how the snow would hold knowing how warm it was. We passed another group at this section who climbed up the Loft and they assured us that with crampons on we would be fine. I kept using my axiom "we'll never know how it will be until we at least try it." So we went up, without any problem; the steps that had previously been kicked in made this an easy ascent. This spring freeze-thaw cycle is awesome!

Taken 300ft. below the summit, this photo shows the conditions of
the Homestretch. There was a nice path all the way up.


Three hours after leaving Lhotse and Robert, we summited Longs Peak at 2:05pm (9.5hrs. including stops, 5hrs. of moving time). I had the greatest feeling in the world! The skies were still blue, the tepmerature was 55 degrees, and we still had not felt an ounce of wind on the entire climb! The summit was nearly snow-free. We had a short break, snapped some photos, and decided it was best we start heading down.

USAKeller and sdkeil on the summit:

On the descent, the hesitant feelings we had along the climb up (due to the snow heating up so much) went away; sdkeil and I were surprised at how straightforward climbing down the Homestretch, traversing the Narrows, and coming down the Trough was. We arrived back at the Keyhole in 1hr. 15min. and removed our crampons.

sdkeil descending the lower portion of the Homestretch:

Tired and sunburnt, we weren't looking forward to the hike back down to the trailhead. The heat had significantly softened up the snow, making it a slushy walk back. 13hrs. 45min. later, we returned back to the car (3hrs. 50min. descent time from the summit) at 6:15pm... completely exhausted! I was so pleased to finish off the Front Range 14ers with Longs Peak and sdkeil was excited to have completed this peak in winter-like conditions. An intense feeling of satisfaction swept through our bodies and we agreed that we couldn't have asked for any better of a day (during any season) to climb it!

Lhotse, it was a pleasure to meet you and Robert- we hope to climb with you again soon, and I hope we can ski while we still have time! Thank you so much for the water- I wouldn't have made it!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nice report
02/05/2011 00:22
Congrats on the accomplishment! and thanks for the pics. Did you happen to get one of the ledges leading from the bottom of the homestrech to the notch above keplingers?


Thank you!
11/30/2010 17:28
Joe, I'm not sure that I looked for Keplinger's Couloir- I will ask sdkeil if we saw it . I told Fritz I'd email him some of the pictures I took and I will email them to you too tomorrow!


11/30/2010 17:28
Looks like a great day but you should probably go back and get it when there's wind so you get the correct conditions

Thanks for the pics


04/18/2007 02:04
Nice TR. Looks like it was cold as hell, but I guess you stayed pretty warm.


04/18/2007 02:13
Well as much as i do wish i could have gone with you instead of played frizb all day in boulder, looks like you picked the right day, congrats on gettin er done.

Kevin Baker

04/18/2007 04:30
Looks like you guys picked a rare bluebird day on Longs in April. For some strange reason the Homestretch looks easier with snow(with crampons and axe of course)! An axe and crampons can take you a long way. Congrats!


Great TR and pics
11/30/2010 17:28
It was fun climbing with you two. Hope we'll do it again sometime. Congrats on making the summit


10/22/2008 10:35


04/18/2007 14:14
Way to go guys! Nice pics too. I thought there might have been more snow up there, but guess not.


would skiing have been good
04/19/2007 03:25
going to try to do a climb this weekend and i was hoping to telemark down. Is Longs going to be good? got any other recommendations for ski climbs?


04/19/2007 09:39
Hi USAKELLER, I have read many of your reports- you submit awesome reports!!


Nice Pictures
04/19/2007 15:56
Congratulations!! I am sure I speak for all when I say thank you for taking the time to prepare such complete and entertaining trip reports.


11/30/2010 17:28
and now you all know why I don't file any trip reports. USAKeller does such a great job, I wouldn't be able to top hers. So all I am needed for is to add the occasional smart ass comentary.

Good job Care, have fun in TX!


04/21/2007 19:42
You also dont have quite should i say this...appeal that she seems to. Take a look at the hits column on the TR page, her reports seem to get ALOT of attention!


11/30/2010 17:28
Hey girl! You are amazing for climbing Longs! I'm glad you had an awesome day. I'm going to try to get out there to CO this summer to climb a few with you! Nice job.


Hey Matty!!
11/30/2010 17:28
Thanks- we all had a wonderful climb of Longs; conditions and company were great. Haven't heard from you in awhile. Definitely try to come out here this summer! How's Indy?


05/04/2007 23:14
Great trip report USAKELLER.. Nice accomplishment especially with it still being winter conditions up there.. Great Job.. Frankly, I would have been a little concerned with the narrows and homestretch with the snow and ice..


01/21/2009 22:15
Great TR, and great pictures!! Glad you guys summited and had such great weather!!


we all loved it
11/12/2009 15:00
you four look so happy as happy as I was when I climbed my first 14er Mt. sneffels in sept. looking at capital for next summer longs looks so much more of a challeng than sneff.Enjoyed the pics and report.Thanks!!

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