10:15 Monday morning, the day before our ascent - Longs Pk (14,259') in center rear; .. "Keyhole" barely out of sight in low pt of saddle on right. ..Mt Meeker on left.
11:45 am Monday. .. It was stormy all afternoon with intermittent showers in Estes Park - suggesting that we should start our climb Tuesday at 2:00 am, rather than "sleeping in" for a 3:00 am departure. .. What the heck, who can sleep anyway when facing such a gnarly challenge. :)
The Longs Pk trailhead in Rocky Mtn NP is about 10 miles south of Estes Park.
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Note elevations and distances from the Longs Pk trailhead (TH) - 7.5 miles one-way, total gain of over 5,000 ft.
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Checking out the Keyhole Route - perhaps better done before the climb than after, as is the case here. :)
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The climbing team first meets in the TH parking lot - quickly sizing each other up for the monumental task ahead.
[The three guys had camped nearby at the Longs Pk Campground, while the girls had "camped out" in Estes Park.]
OK, 2:00 am at 9405' - the adventure begins on schedule, although everyone remained blinded for the first half-hour. :)
L-R: Shane, Clare, Ann and William; Bill behind camera. .. [Actually, the girls also carried summit packs.]
Clare evidently checking her compass to be sure we're on route.
Whew - good thing we couldn't read this sign on the way up .. Who would have guessed that horses and campfires are that hazardous!
All right - 3:45 at the Chasm Lake turnoff (and a sit-down toilet some of us were unwilling to forego).
[Rock climbers will take turnoff to reach the Diamond/East face of Longs.]
The hope of a clear new day becoming fulfilled - belying the lightning heard earlier at the TH.
Putting aside headlamps as we reach the Boulder Field campsites about 5:30. .. The signature Keyhole looms ahead.
The "Keyhole" is the odd sorta hole/slot left of the low point in the saddle - entryway to the daunting back side of the peak.
Don't bother asking why they named it the Boulder Field.
Here comes the sun from behind Mt Lady Washington - yeah, God.
Note the cool stone hut just left of the keyhole.
It was originally built as a shelter, but now is a memorial (as shelters aren't allowed in a Wilderness).
Happy campers - though the summit is not yet close.
We can shelter here - or we can go for it!
Standing now in the Keyhole.
Clare and Ann enter the Keyhole on left.
View to the northwest up Glacier Gorge.
Time to head along the narrow ledges of the west face - just follow the red & yellow markers, in theory the safest way.
Heading first to The Trough - the very long gully in the distance.
Not all of us are thrilled by what lies ahead. .. Ann quickly and wisely decides this isn't the best day to summit her first 14er. ..She would hang-out in the Boulder Field as our Prayer Warrior (not worrier).
You don't like so much red & yellow? - just get over it.
Yep, there are some big ups and downs - not a level traverse.
Staying warm in often quite windy conditions
The Trough gully beckons ahead.
[Bill's not moving as fast as the youngsters.]
Almost at the head of The Trough (not in sharp focus).
Yep, technically the crux move - climbing past this flake (not referring to Shane).