Sunday, August 30, 2015

Long's Peak via Keyhole Ridge

Long's Peak (14,255 ft.) via Key Hole Ridge - 5.6 grade III (Free-soloed)

August 26, 2015

14 miles
5,5000 ft elevation gain

Michael and I seem to never settle for the standard routes up mountains. We decided to attempt the Keyhole Ridge route on Long's Peak to make the outing more interesting. The route (5.6) follows an exposed ridge from the Keyhole area directly to the summit, instead of skirting around the mountain as the standard keyhole route does.

We started our adventure around 5:30 am at the Long's Peak trailhead in the dark. We reached the tree line during sunrise and we reached the keyhole area by 8:30 am. By 9 am, we were on the route making our way towards the summit. We free-soloed the route but we wore our rock climbing shoes and our helmets.

We primarily stayed on the east side of the ridge, following the path of least resistance and avoiding the cold, windy western side of the ridge. Route-finding was challenging but not a problem. The exposure on this ridge is real. We both felt uncomfortable in a couple of spots, but for the most part it was all fun scrambling up Long's Peak and not slogging along with the other hikers on the standard keyhole route.

We reached the summit by 11 am. We descended the Keyhole standard route and reached the car at 2:30 pm. 9 hours round trip.

Sunrise near tree line 
The diamond of Long's Peak ahead
Diamond on the left, keyhole ridge on the right
Keyhole Ridge from the Boulder Field
Close up view of Keyhole Ridge 
Getting started on Keyhole Ridge 
Our first crux - 5.6 terrain on the second tower of Keyhole Ridge
Michael making his way up some cracks on the east side of the 2nd tower on Keyhole Ridge
Me on the first crux - exposed 5.6  
Scoping that route
PC: Michael D 
Michael working his way up Tower 2 on Keyhole Ridge
Lots of exposure
Exposure
Steph Davis, what?
Looking over to the west side of the mountain. Keyhole standard route traverses below
Michael on top of Tower 2
Michael traversing on the west side of Tower 2 after a challenging downclimb. This is the only section that we were on the west side of the ridge 
Working our way up the third and final tower on the route 
We traversed quite a bit until we found blocky terrain that led us to the ridge crest
Traversing 
Working our way up blocky terrain to the ridge crest on the third tower 
Michael scouting his route ahead 
On top of the route, Michael looks down the sheer west face
Michael takes a rest on the summit ridge
The broad plateau summit of Long's Peak, looking south
Walking down the trail before the storms moved in