from Ranger Station: (continuation)
Longs Peak Trail #1 Intro
Longs Peak Trail Map
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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
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!