Had a great trip up Longs on monday august 9 to finish off our yearly RMNP trip. This was the 3rd year in a row my wife and I have hiked the keyhole route, and the 2nd time I made it (too much ice in the trough last year). However, it was the first time my wife Sara summitted and it was so cool being able to share the experience with her this time. We started out at 2:15 am under a 1/4 waning moon with some cheap new $4.99 headlamps. The traffic was unusually light-- probably (?) due to the officially technical status of the keyhole route. We only saw a couple dozen people on the way up, which is pretty sparse for Longs in early August, even on a Monday. Alpine Brook has much more water flowing than I have seen in augusts past...as does Larkspur creek, making for a nice display of wildflowers. At the junction with Chasm Lake Trail, we were attacked and overrun by a ferocious pack of MICE! They were everywhere...I don't remember seeing any mice on past trips...but, surprisingly, there is plenty of room on Longs Peak for more rodents. We even saw a rabbit near Jim's Grove Junction on the way up, and (the same one?) on the way down. You will never find braver rodents anywhere. OK, can't get anything by you, rabbits are not actually rodents...(Incidentally, the Rodentia does not include rabbits; rabbits differ from rodents in having an extra pair of incisors and in other skeletal features. Rabbits, hares, and a few other species make up the Lagomorpha. Shrews, moles and hedgehogs are also not rodents; they are classified in the Insectivora.) Anyhoo, if you are still reading this, sunrise from just below the boulderfield was especially cool on Monday, as there were predawn supercell thunderstorms on the plains to the east.
I had never seen the sun come up over thunderheads before... very cool lightning filled clouds with that spectacular radiant gold outline from the sun hiding behind...then Bang!!!! the sun comes up over them and the east face goes through its spectrum of color change, but dramatically accelerated, as it only took maybe 30 seconds for the sun to clear the thunderstorms. It was like watching a solar eclipse. We got to the Boulderfield with no headaches-literally. Good sign. We ate breakfast and climbed through the keyhole around 7:30 or 8:00. There was hardly any wind at all, it was unusually calm all morning. The view from the keyhole and the ledges is awesome. Its cool to look down on Black Lake and think how you were just there the other day. (To think that you would have to hike there first.) Follow the painted bullseyes on the rocks. The trough still had some snow and ice on the "bullseye" route in the upper half, but we skirted the ice to the north (left) over some trickier slabs and steps. The sign at the trailhead said that the route here is technical due to the ice/snow, but also due to the fact that if the slabs to the left get wet, you may have problems coming down. Luckily it did not rain at all on Monday, as I would rather downclimb the homestretch wet than those off-route slabs in the trough. The narrows are not all that scary really. There is some exposure there, but the terrain is easily crossed. Its funny, Pagoda mountain looks strangely tiny from here... but the Black Hearse rock looks strangely large. Finally, the Homestretch...very steep but over with quickly (try to stay on route, the bullseyes are faded to almost nothing here. Someone has repainted them up to the beginning of the trough, but i guess they ran out of paint or something). We lingered on the summit for like an hour, as there were absolutely no clouds anywhere to the west, and I actually had the energy this time to tour the whole peak and take some panoramic video shots with the digital camera, as well as wave to the hikers and campers way down in the boulderfield. There were actually more marmots on the summit than people this time(what do they EAT up there? Lichen?), and I found the summit register underneath the right side of the summit boulder. We really took our time coming down; the seat of my pants became a casualty of the trough downclimb, and i got to hike the rest of the way with my shorts hanging out of the hole. I was the perfect picture of the typical Long's Peak Tourist, arriving back at the trailhead 16 hours after starting, looking like i just completely got my ass kicked, taking the requisite prideful photographs next to the "Keyhole Route Closed to Non-Technical Hiking" sign, and the "54 people have lost their lives here" sign. Hey but we did it, and its quite a workout and quite an accomplishment that anyone in decent shape can do. Make sure to bring God along for strength and safe deliverance!!!
edited on October 22, 2005:
Turns out those mice were not mice, but voles, a closely related rodent.
Vole: any of various small rodents (family Cricetidae and especially genus Microtus) that typically have a stout body, rather blunt nose, and short ears, that inhabit both moist meadows and dry uplands and do much damage to crops, and that are closely related to muskrats and lemmings but in general resemble stocky mice or rats
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