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Longs Peak in the clouds.

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Longs Peak Trail from  Ranger Station:
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Above timberline, at the 2.5 mile mark, the trail veers left onto pure tundra. Half a mile further the trail splits: straight ahead leads to Chasm Lake; left leads to a skyline toilet; heading right (west) takes you to Longs by way of Granite Pass.

Finally, after a couple more miles, you're at the Boulder Field with the grand view of the East Face and the Keyhole. If spending the night here, it's worth the scramble up the ridge to the south of the trail. From there there is an awe inspiring view of Chasm Lake below, and an unbeatable view of The Diamond, the precipitous upper portion of the East Face that challenges the most daring of rock climbers. This ridge melds into the East Face where an old cable route took hikers to the peak. The cables, considered a defacement, were removed in 1973, and this route is now rated as a technical climb.

The next stop is the Keyhole, a notch in the stone flange joining Storm Peak and Longs Peak, about .5 miles from the Boulder Field and 500 feet above it. The Boulder Field sweeps upward toward the Keyhole, moderately at first, and the quite steeply. To the left of the Keyhole stands a stone hut erected to memory of Agnes Vaille. Having accomplished the first winter ascent of the East Face on January 12, 1925, she was caught in a storm a died of exposure, a companion lost fingers, toes, and part of a foot; and a would-be rescuer also froze to death.

But step through the keyhole and you forget about the dark past. Glacier Gorge stretches thousands of feet below with a backdrop of "thirteeners" - from left to right pagoda, Chiefs Head, and McHenry peaks. From here it's still 1.5 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain to the top.

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Past the Keyhole the trail begins a traverse about a third of a mile long. Here the grade is moderately downhill, although there is nearly as much exposure as in later sections. If you are feeling altitude sickness or have a fear of heights at this point, you might want to consider turning back.

The traverse leads into The Trough where exposure is not a concern. Much of the remaining altitude is accounted for here, climbing over chunks of granite at an angle approaching 35 degrees. Be aware of falling rocks, and be careful not to free any. After another .5 miles you enter the Narrows, and exposure is again a consideration. For the most part the route is level and as wide as a generous sidewalk, but there is a short stretch where it's only a couple of feet wide and the wall about tilts out above you and over the dropoff - but only for a few steps.

The Narrows continue for several hundred feet to the base of the Home Stretch, wide slabs of stone, inclined nearly 45 degrees, that lead to the summit 450 feet above. Although you can stand in places, ascending or descending here is usually done on all fours - a bit humiliating to some perhaps, but safe. When wet it can be quite dangerous. It's a small price to pay to make it to the top!

The summit is as large as a football field, and almost as flat. Views are incredible. Storm Peak is to the northwest, Mount Meeker to the southeast. To the west are the mountains of the Continental Divide, to the south is Wild Basin. 2,500 below the East Face is Chasm Lake and Peacock Pool.

Although the ascent of Longs Peak is justifiably popular, don't take it lightly. It's a very strenuous one day hike. Remember, only 3 out of 10 actually make it to the top. Use caution and common sense. Good hiking!

 

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