Longs peak is one of those mountains that has haunted me for years. Majestically dominating my views of the front-range, i've always been too lazy to try it after getting turned back by bad weather and preperation a few years ago. That and the fact that Longs peak is ALWAYS crowded has been a major turnoff from me attempting to climb it.
Alas, This weekend i finally had some free time to give it another shop. A car full of friends and I left Boulder at 130 AM to head to the trail. Upon arrival, there were cars already parked pretty far down the road: The dreaded crowds we had heard of. We kept going, and luckily found a great spot in the parking lot that others must have missed. We were on the trail by 245 and immediately began passing numerous groups of people. By the time we got to Chasm lake, a look over the shoulder revealed a highway of headlamps following us up. We made our breaks short and kept a good pace, trying to beat the crowds to the summit.
We reached the Keyhole around sunrise, and the moon set on the other side. The winds were delightfully calm, and we proceeded through the dreaded narrows. At this point, this was all new territory for me. The backside of longs was a little bit slower going, and we were still picking our way past groups of people as we scrambled over the last few miles of boulders and scree. There were only a few challenging places to get up (They were more challenging to get back down on the way back), and we successfully summited around 7:15. We took our sweet time on the summit, enjoying the sunshine and lack of winds, before heading back down.
The hike down took us almost as long as the hike up. Picking our way down the narrows and boulder field was a tedious task, as we tried to avoid messing up our ankels or falling on some rocks. After the boulderfield, we leasurally walked and talked, before arriving back at tree-line. The hike through the trees seemed like an enternity. We could all taste the beers we had waiting for us in the car, and we finally made it down at 12:15.
All and all, it was a perfect day on Longs. I wish i had packed a pair of work gloves, they would have made the scrambling a lot easier on the hands. I was glad I packed my down jacket. Even on a warm calm day, Perfect conditions, I appreciated it's warmth on the summit and during breaks. I can't imagine not having it with anything less than perfect conditions. The lack of warm clothes for our group was one of the reasons we had to turn back on our first attempt, so prepare for cold windy weather.
Our trip lasted 9.5 hours. I think we could have shortened it a bit on the decent if we had pushed ourselves and spent less time on the summit, but I still feel that's a respectable time. If anyone is planning on a Long's keyhole summit, Be prepared for a 10+ hour hike, and bring plenty of water and food (I went through 3 L of water, and could have stood to have a bit more). If you're planning a longs summit, it's a great idea to read trip reports and conditions on 14ers.com. Happy climbing!