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The Keyhole
Route

The Keyhole

 
The Keyhole

Page Type: Route

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 40.25470°N / 105.6153°W

Object Title: The Keyhole

Route Type: Hike and Scramble

Time Required: A long day

Difficulty: Walk-up

Route Quality: 
 - 41 Votes
 

 

Page By: marcminish

Created/Edited: Aug 28, 2003 / May 17, 2013

Object ID: 158688

Hits: 33491 

Page Score: 83.71%  - 18 Votes 

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Approach

The Keyhole route begins at the Long's Peak Ranger Station at an elevation of 9,400 feet. The approach consists of several miles of hiking through very picturesque scenery including two waterfalls. The trail is well marked and well maintained. If you are climbing during the busy summer months, you may find the parking area full even during the middle of the week so be sure to arrive early (before midnight) if you are going to be doing the route in a single day.

Be advised: Camping permits for the mountain are hard to come by during the summer. Plan ahead if you want to spend the night.

Route Description

The route is 16 miles round-trip and has an elevation gain of 4,845 feet. During winter the route may require an overnight bivy but can otherwise be done in a long day from the parking lot. Though mostly a hike, there are a few tricky scrambles in places.  Watch for loose rocks and, in winter, patches of ice.

Follow the signs from the trailhead and ascend by switchbacks to the treeline. Once you are above the trees you will reach a trail junction. To the left will be a trail leading to Chasm Lake and to the right (northwest) leading to Granite Pass and the Boulderfield. Once you pass through Granite Pass the north face of Long's Peak will be in view. Continue up the trail that winds its way generally southward between Mount Lady Washington and Storm Peak.

Once well into the Boulderfield you will see a very obvious rock formation in the shape of an upside down keyhole. It is this formation that gives the route its name. Just to the left of the Keyhole is a small stone building with windows. To reach the Keyhole, rock hop following the path of least resistance. There are cairns marking the route in case of whiteout conditions, but otherwise they are not very useful for finding the easiest way. A privy and very good tent sites are located in the Boulderfield.

Pass through the Keyhole which is usually very windy. Pay particular attention to the weather since this is a good place to turn back if things do not look good. Once through the Keyhole, carefully follow the "bullseye" markings painted in red with a yellow center and stay on route! The bullseye marks are painted in both directions.

The next section of the route consists of rock hopping and some scrambling in order to get to the Trough. You will lose a little altitude in a few places. Be extra careful of your footing because a slip here could have serious consequences. Once you reach the Trough, continue upwards to the top. Much of this area is filled with loose rock, scree and hardened snow (even in August).

Once out of the Trough, you will come to a short section called the Narrows. The name is fitting though the hiking is level and fairly easy. However, on your right is a very sheer drop off so move slowly and carefully through this section. There are good railing-like handholds across the whole thing to your left.

After passing through the Narrows only one more section remains, the Homestretch. This part of the climb can be especially tricky if wet although it is relatively short. From the bottom of the Homestretch you can see the summit plateau of the mountain. Keep moving... you're almost there.

Essential Gear

This is not a technical climb although depending on the season, an ice axe and crampons may come in handy. During the summer months you will only need a good pair of hiking boots and plenty of water. No rope or pro is required.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.

Additions and Corrections

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marcminishRoute Comment

marcminish

Hasn't voted

An excellent guidebook for the Keyhole route, and Long's Peak in general, is: "The Longs Peak Experience" by Mike Donahue of the Colorado Mountain School.
Posted Jan 26, 2004 9:33 pm
cwoods17Route Comment

cwoods17

Hasn't voted

This is usually a walk up, but there can be black ice on the route after the Keyhole in late July, so look out if you don't have crampons and an ice ax.
Posted Nov 27, 2005 4:58 pm

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