Longs Peak - Keyhole Route
I climbed Longs Peak on August 23, 2009. I was leading this hike thru meetup.com. This was preparation for my trip to Kilimanjaro in October
, and it was also just something I wanted to do. I had 6 people sign up, but only 1 person showed up, a guy by the name of Allen. I had one other person, Michel, call me while I was waiting at the Park & Ride, but he was in Castle Rock, so we agreed to meet him on the trail at some point.
We met up at the Westminster park & ride at 1:30AM and drove to the trailhead. The trailhead parking lot was already full at 3 in the morning, so we had to park along the side of the road, as other cars were coming in behind us. We got our stuff together and started hiking around 3:15. There were a lot of hikers on the trail. The sky was clear, we could see lots of stars, as well as city lights as we climbed up above the treeline.
The sun came up as we passed the junction for Chasm Lake, and we were treated to a gorgeous sunrise over the Twin Sisters.
We briefly lost the sun behind Mount Lady Washington as we went over Granite Pass and into the Boulder Field. It looked like all of the rock shelter campsites were taken. Lots of hikers scrambling up to the Keyhole. We passed through the Keyhole, and we could see the shadow of Longs and the Keyboard of the winds on the Spearhead. We had to descend a little bit to get to the Trough. I was not going to enjoy that on the way back!
All the snow in the Trough was gone by this time. I had to stow my poles in my backpack so I could get over the big chockstone at the top.
We made it to the top of the Trough and continued along the Narrows to the base of the Homestretch.
Allen had mentioned (before we started) that he had had some trouble with his feet, but at this point he passed me and continued on up. Whatever was bothering his feet was not bothering him on this day. We passed a few people coming down while we were going up. We scrambled the last few hundred feet, and suddenly, we were on the summit. We reached the top around 9:45AM. The summit area is huge: it must be the size of a football field.
We waited our turn, then took some pictures on the highest point.
The weather was great up there. It was still sunny, no threatening clouds...yet, and almost no wind! Unfortunately, I began to feel the effects of altitude in the form of some pretty unpleasant nausea. I nibbled on some food and napped for about 20 minutes. A park ranger gave me some water and advised me to head down soon. I did feel a little better after awhile, so I took a few more pictures and began the descent.
The descent was pretty uneventful. We did have that damn uphill section in the Ledges, but I s'pose it could be worse. I had thought about tagging Storm Peak on the way down, but I was most certainly not feeling up to it. Maybe I'll knock that bad boy off some other time.
We continued on down through the Boulder Field and over Granite Pass. Clouds started rolling in whilst we were in the Boulder Field, and it finally began to rain a when we dropped below Chasm Lake junction. There was some distant thunder as well, but it was not much concern. The rain soon passed, and the sun came out a few times once we got into the trees. The last section from the Estes Cone junction to the trailhead is only about half a mile, but it must be the longest half mile anywhere
. After what seemed like an eternity, I got back to the trailhead around 4:15PM. Allen got there a few minutes before me. There were far fewer cars in the lot.
Aside from the summit nausea, it was a great day. No accidents or injuries. We could not have asked for better weather. I have heard bad weather (or at least high winds) are the norm for Longs, but it gave us a pass that day. I was a little surprised that no one else showed up for this hike, since Longs is the most frequently hiked peak in Colorado. We did not meet up with Michel on the trail, and he did not call me back. But, an early start is necessary, and it is a long, hard hike, as I can attest.
The altitude sickness issue bugged me for a time, since I was going to Kilimanjaro in a few months. I think I went a little too fast on Longs, and that's what caused the problem. The pace on Kili was much slower, and I reached that summit without too much trouble.
I think I'll climb Longs again someday, maybe from a different route. It's one of the best mountains I have climbed.
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