Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Date Posted:  08/23/2010
Modified:  05/13/2011
Date Climbed:   08/22/2010
Author:  Carl
 Longs Peak - solitude on Keyhole Ridge  

Just so there isn't any confusion, this trip report does not depict the standard Keyhole route on Longs.

Longs Peak
Route: Keyhole Ridge, 5.5/5.6
Vert: Approx. 4,900
Mileage: Approx. 13
Time: 7.5 hours up, 11 hours round trip with breaks
Group: Carl & Brian

This route was high on my interest list this summer. I was finally able to talk my friend Brian into taking a break from single handedly finishing his basement and joining me on a climb. Brian's only prior attempt on Longs was on the Diamond (Pervertical) so he was partially motivated by a route a little more likely to result in a summit. Had the gear discussion on Saturday, and decided to go with a red and yellow C3, a red and yellow Alien, C4s from .5 to 3, and a set of nuts. Saw a placement for a smaller and larger cam, but it wasn't necessary. 60 or 70m rope would work fine, we used the latter.

With a good forecast we left the TH at 4:20am. Brian's wife Mary, and their friend Erica, joined us on the approach and then climbed the Keyhole. Also happened to cross paths with member geno71 as we hiked in the dark past the Goblin's Forest.

A windy morning made the predawn hours a little cold. Sunrise was a welcomed event.

Was hoping to make the Boulder Field in two hours, but we came up short, making it about to here.

Paused for a bit to take in the alpenglow. The Diamond at sunrise is pretty spectacular.

The Keyhole Ridge route follows the ramp from the Keyhole and stays mostly on that east side, as pictured here.

A shot of Mary's Ledges and the North Face.

The ramp reminded me a little of Broadway.

The ramp leads to what I believe is the false keyhole. It doesn't look much like the Keyhole, but there is a sign (on a large boulder on the right side of this photo) telling you this is not the Keyhole. Seems like a better location for this sign would be the beginning of the ramp.

We continued scrambling on the east side to where we roped up. Brian is at that point here in the middle of the photo.

I led the first pitch, and was glad to have the rope for the first 30 or 40 feet. The difficulty eased about half way, as you can tell by the lack of pro placed.

Not being sure if this was the spot where we crossed to the west side, I stopped climbing at about half rope and brought Brian up. I was wrong, but it was good to get Brian out of the shade and I'm sure he was anxious to lead something. Also a nice spot for a break.

Brian led about half a rope pitch and ran into the same issue I did, wanting to consult with his partner about the route. He belayed me up to a good size ledge below a short off width crack.

I recognized this from Sean's TR of his and Marc's climb last summer and knew they had ascended the crack. A traverse in the sun looked doable but we opted for the sure thing. If your leader wanted to protect this move, I think you'd need a #5. Next time we'll try to link these first 3 pitches.

At this point it was time to cross to the dark side. We could see the Keyhole route as we rappelled about 10 feet to an obvious ledge. The downclimb looked doable, and we had the discussion, but opted to do a quick rap, doubling the rope through instead of untying.

The rappel put us on the shaded side of this cool looking fin. You then traverse on a ledge/ridge to the next interesting section. We stayed roped but the climbing, or walking rather, was easy. Brian is pictured here finishing the traverse.

After heading up a few feet to a wide ledge, you can continue across (the ledge narrows), or work your way up. We chose to head almost straight up. Brian led.

This pitch may have some 5.6 moves during the first 30 feet before things ease. The exposure is awesome.

Brian at a comfortable belay. The next traverse is pictured behind him.

I thought this precariously perched rock sitting above the Keyhole route was worthy of a photo.

After the traverse, a couple hundred vertical of class 3 slabs leads to the summit ridge.

Arriving at the summit a little before noon, we had the place to ourselves.

Stopped at Chasm View after making one 70m rappel down the north face and had a conversation with a couple friends on the Diamond. Because the terrain acted as an amphitheater, we were able to clearly hear each other without yelling, despite the considerable distance between us.

One last look back at the Diamond as we watched our friends slowly ascend the face. It will be a while before I attempt one of these routes. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy slowing working my way through the easier routes. The Keyhole Ridge was my 7th route on Longs, and probably my second favorite. Thanks for a great climb Brian.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

precarious rock
05/23/2011 14:42
Great Report! The rock in your image #18 is the same one that I also thought deserved a picture in 1975 on our climb up the Dovetail Route - image #14 on my trip report that I posted here in Aug 2009. Maybe it's not so precarious after all.


precarious rock
05/23/2011 16:37
Interesting note. Thanks for sharing. Your trip report from 1975 is great. Here is a direct link for those who want to check it out that aren't familiar with how to navigate this site

Brian C

Nice description
08/24/2010 12:30
This route is definitely next on my list for Longs. I was checking it out on the way down the north face and wasn't exactly sure where the route crossed over. Also, I think the cool rock formation is the top of the Knight's Couloir. I will be reading this again before I go. Thanks!


Second Favorite?
05/09/2011 17:48
Now you have to tell us what's your fav. Awesome report, great beta to add to Seans TR! Thanks for posting


08/24/2010 16:48
Neat route! Thanks for posting - you don't see much out there on this route. Nice TR Carl. We still want to get out with you and Dayna!


You've been busy!
08/24/2010 17:21
Great report, Carl, looks like you had a great day up there. Yep, that rock tower is the Knight, the marker for the NW Couloir which intersects the Ridge about 3/4ths the way up. So yeah, what's your favorite route?


My favorite
05/02/2011 14:23
I think my favorite route on Longs, so far, is Keiners. It's got a little bit of everything (snow/ice, scrambling, exposed hiking, low 5th class climbing), the views of the Diamond are spectacular, and it gets you off the standard trail quicker than the north face/ridge routes. And I've only done it in the summer, so I'm just scratching the surface. A north face ascent with a ski descent of Kepliners makes for a spectacular day too though.

Thanks for the comments, and for the info about the Knight. I should have realized it would have a name. That northwest couloir might be a fun route for this fall.

Edit: I forgot about the Notch Couloir. I really like that route too. No wonder this is my favorite 14er!


Hell yeah Carl
08/24/2010 18:56
If you want a recomendation with another versatile RMNP peak, check out Ypsilon, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the number of aesthetic routes on that peak. Donner, Blitzen ridges, Y-Couloir East Face, the solitude of Ypsilon Lake, the fraction of summit registers when compared to others, the view of Spectacle Lakes from high above.

Anyays, just a thought.


08/24/2010 20:44
What a day, Carl! I know we haven't been keeping in touch too much over the summer but you've been getting in some quality routes!
You can tell by the pictures, you were throughly enjoying it! Keyhole Ridge looks awesome. Hopefully I'll get 'round in doing it before the snow sets.
Great job, man!
Brian: Steph and I have been talking 'bout Blitzen Ridge all summer. Hint-Hint


08/25/2010 04:18
Looks like a ton of fun, bummed I missed this one. I had a beer frisbee date in Buena Vista that I just couldn't get away from . Nice work on another sweet Longs route!


Image #16 ...
08/25/2010 20:04
The exposure here is ... well, EXPOSED! 8) What great shots of this route. Looks like you two had a wonderful day and lots-o-fun. Nice photos of the diamond too. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


The flaring offwidth
09/10/2010 02:47
just before the short rap seemed harder than 5.5 when we were up there a few weeks ago. We didn't have any pro that size, so I found a way around it. Funny, the last time I climbed the route we missed that crack altogether! There are a lot of nice lines up there. Maybe I can borrow #5 cam next time...


False Keyhole sign
10/02/2010 13:32
That sign is there because it is all too easy to wander to the False Keyhole when descending the Keyhole Route. You don't want casual hikers starting down that ramp thinking they are at the Keyhole.

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