Longs Peak

Date to Climb: July 26, 2009

Date Climbed: July 31, 2009

Elevation: 14,255

Range: Front

Latitude: 40.25480, Longitude: -105.61610

Route: Keyhole

Round-Trip Mileage: 14

Pre-Climb Comments

Longs is our last peak to climb and one of our favorites. We have climbed Longs many time before (probably 25 to 30 ascents by seven different routes, 4 times one year). We are going to finish with the Keyhole route, not the best route on Longs, just the easiest.

Post-Climb Comments

Hurrying from Leadville we arrived at Longs around 5. We, amazingly, found a site at the Longs Peak Campground and were feeling pretty lucky. Then the volunteer host asked if we were planning on climbing the mountain and told us the mountain was closed due to snow and ice. The same storm we had seen on Massive must have hit Longs too.

Taken back by their comments, we finished setting up camp and walked to the trailhead adjacent to the Ranger Station. Looking at the log of daily climbs, we saw that most of the people going up early had turned around because of ice, but most of the afternoon climbers reported summiting. To us that meant that the ice was melting.

Note: Longs is one of the harder popular Fourteeners. On the popular climbs, hoards of unprepared tourists attempt the mountains. If they reach the summit it is because they were given the gift of perfect weather, perfect conditions, and the climber was moving as well as possible. On the hard non-popular routes most of the climbers have a bit of swagger about them. They have earned the right to stand on the summit, it is no gift.

Still at the trailhead, we consulted with a Ranger who told us the mountain was not climbable because of ice. When I told him we would just bring crampons, he told us that crampons would not do you any good because the ice was not thick enough. I could tell right then that the Ranger had never worn crampons or he thought that we had never worn crampons. We had spent most of June climbing in crampons on rock which had a thin coating of ice. Huh, maybe Longs Peak ice is different...

Friday morning we left the trailhead at 5:30, not early and not late. After waking up we climbed the trail at a good clip. We did not pass anyone, but we did meet a few people coming down.

Once we were above treeline we began to pass and meet people. We are sure that some of the hikers did not have Longs as a goal, but some did. More than two hundred hikers signed the log that morning. We were going to meet a lot of people.

Longs Peak

Longs Peak from the Boulderfield

After passing Chasm Lake cut-off, we began to meet people regularly. Asking them how high they got, they told us a location and the prevailing reason for turning around was the wind. It was a cold and verrry windy day. If we were dressed the way most of them were, we would have turned around too. Longs was serious that day, it didn’t seem to be wanting to talk to tourist clad in shorts wearing sandals.

Higher up (probably close to Granite Pass) we asked a group how high they had gotten. They said they made it to the Keyhole, but the wind was so strong it was ’suicidal’ to go any further.

Huh. We just said thank you and walked on. I guess they thought we were crazy for not turning around but they did not know we had been in the mountains climbing 53 peaks; we had seen some bad conditions. We had to at least go look at the suicidal conditions.

When we got close to the Keyhole, there was a group beneath the gap talking about the conditions. Amy and I checked our clothing to make sure we were dressed properly and then without stopping, climbed through the Keyhole and down away from the ridge. The wind was strong, but not as strong as we had seen on Sherman at the beginning of our trip. When we stopped to talk about conditions (100 feet from the gap), the winds were not as bad and we were able to continue.

Black Lake from the Trough

Glacier Gorge from the Trough

Making good time we traversed the ledges to the Trough. It was odd seeing the Trough with so few people in it. We met a few folks coming down who warned of ice on the Narrows and Homestretch. Their words were not going to turn us away, dangerous conditions for the equipment we were carrying would be the only thing that would stop us.

There was a bit of ice in the Narrows, just as there had been some in the Trough, but it was easily recognizable and easy to avoid. We devised a simple technique, when it looked icy, we stepped some place that looked dry. It did not take long for us to finish traversing the Narrows and stand below the Homestretch. We simply climbed up the Homestretch by following the bullets and avoiding the ice. In minutes we were on the top, sharing the summit with a couple who had done the Cable route in those conditions, a hearty feat indeed. They had climbed twenty peaks together at that time.

Longs summit

Longs Summit

We took pictures and stayed a few minutes longer than usual before heading down. Our summer was over. The 54 peaks had been climbed.

Getting down was even faster than the climbing was. Quickly, we descended the Trough and traversed to the Keyhole. No matter how hard we tried to slow down, we kept going faster. Our knees hurt, but it just did not matter anymore. We touched the bases - Granite Pass, Chasm Lake Cut-off, treeline - and headed home.

Descending the trough

Descending the Trough

Back in Boulder we had a celebratory dinner at Zolos with Mark and Michelle. Thanks.

Later that evening we started the drive to Nashville, stopping in Western Kansas to sleep a bit. On Saturday we were up early and arrived home at 9:30.

Amy and I had quite a trip. Thanks to all the folks we met along the way and for their encouraging remarks and advice on routes. Thanks to all those that posted on 14ers so we could get updates on conditions. And thanks to all our friends who traveled and climbed with us and never seemed to doubt that we were strong enough or good enough to climb all 54 of the Colorado 14,000 foot peaks in one summer.

Thanks again.

Longs Peak - July 31, 2009 summit check