Type: Trad, Alpine, Grade III
FA: Alexander and Smith, 1924
Page Views: 27,675 total · 126/month
Shared By: Mike Sofranko on Dec 31, 2000
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details


Not on the Diamond, but a great easy technical route to the summit of Longs Peak. Slightly committing with tricky route finding. We roped up for 5 or so pitches, but other parties may do less or more depending on experience.

Follow the trail through the Boulderfield to the Keyhole. The route follows the ridge from the Keyhole to the summit.

From the hut at the Keyhole, hike south up the ramp on the east face until below the False Keyhole, and then head straight up (possibly roping up), to the hiker warning sign. From here, the route finding is slightly tricky, and there are a couple different ways to go. We headed south across the east face of the obvious tower for a pitch, and from there headed straight up dirty rock (5.6) to the summit of the tower. From the top, we dropped down the backside about 10 feet to an obvious ledge, and followed it south. Be very careful as there is much loose rock and the hiking trail is below.

Follow the ledge to the obvious notch before the next large tower. Scramble south up the obvious ramp, and then break left and head south on narrow ledges across the east face of the tower. At a right facing corner (possible fixed pin), head straight up the face following the path of least resistance (5.6). This is another possibly tricky route finding section. Once you reach an obvious ledge system near the crest, continue working south on the east side. Cross to the west side at a notch, and work your way up onto the summit ridge, and follow it to the top.


SR - nuts and some cams.
Great route with fantastic views and no traffic. The rock is alpine (loose in places with some lichen), but the position is fantastic. (Can you spell Chamonix?)

[From another Anonymous Coward listing/commenter accidentally deleted on the same route]: One can also continue on the Keyhole Route along the ledges until about halfway to the Trough. Take a steep gully up towards the Keyhole Ridge (you are on the west side). Mostly it is fourth class, but there is a 30 ft section of maybe 5.2 rock, but full of water, so more like 5.4. A bit more climbing tops you out right where the technical climbing of the Keyhole Ridge ends. It is a fantastic climb from there to the summit. You also get a spectacular view from directly above of the poor souls climbing up the trough. David Neckels (the name pop up didn't work, too many names). Jul 4, 2002
Guy H.
Fort Collins CO
Guy H.   Fort Collins CO
Most of the climbing is very easy, but the loose rock and exposure will keep you on your toes. We roped up for all of 5th class rock and simul-climbed a number of pitches. Expect a long day if you don't move fast, the 5th class rock on this route is about 1500 ft long.

1.) After scrambling up the 2nd class ramp on the east side, follow low 5th class slabs and ledges to the false keyhole. (190ft)

2.) Climb the right side of the tower to the top. Belay in the sun or continue on. (5.5, 75ft)

3.) Climb down a 10ft step and traverse a ledge system on the west side of the ridge to a step. (5.2, 150ft)

4.) Climb one of the crack systems to the top of the small step, downclimb the baskside and follow ledge systems to the next notch.(5.4, 350ft)

5.) Climb slabs to the base of a large right facing dihedral. (5.2, 100ft)

6.) Follow ledge ststems on the east side, while gaining very little elevation. Cool exposure! (5.5, 180ft)

7.) Follow clean slabs up and then left to the next notch (5.2, 190ft)

8.) Climb through the notch, follow ledge systems on the west side, and find a place to belay in the talus. (5.2, 300ft)

9.) Unrope and follow the classic 3rd class ridge to the summit. (600-700ft) Aug 12, 2002
What a great alpine moderate this climb is.

It is amazing there are so many different versions both here and in the guide books regarding the route considering you are on a ridge that most of the time is no wider than 10ft.

Here's what we did:- We followed the huge ramp that runs left and starts below and before the rock shelter at the Keyhole. As the ramp thinned out we moved up easy ledges towards the obvious notch above (False keyhole)) At the notch where a wooden sign tells you this is NOT the Keyhole we roped up. - We climbed up the step on the ridge, the obvious start is a few feet on the right (West) side where easy blocks lead to a two move 5.5 headwall. From there we ran the rope on the ridge to the next tower.- We traversed left and slightly up on the East (left) face of the tower past a few right facing flake/crack systems until an easy line up was found (5.6). There are many alternatives here. We finished the pitch on a 10ft fist crack that we climbed for fun but that could be easily avoided on the right.- From here we dropped 10ft to the West (right) to a really cool and exposed ledge (5.0) and ran the rope to the next notch, crossed it to the East (left) and continued up some easy slabs to the base of a large right facing dihedral. NOTE: escape is possible from the ledge, (we found some bail slings) a rap from here would deposit you close to the Keyhole trail in the Trough section. Escape further up the ridge seemed way harder.- We traversed past the dihedral horizontally via a cool 3 inch ledge for some 75 ft until a crack leading to the sumit of the tower was found. I guess there are many options here too. We climbed up the crack flake system (5.5) to the ridge - The final roped pitch follows broken terrain on the east side (left) and slightly below the ridge, bypassing a gendarme (I climbed it and it is a dead end). After the gendarme you are on the West side and a few more easy scrambling ft will move you to the left side yet again. By now you are in a talus field on the main part of Longs. - We unroped and climbed the now blunt ridge for some 300 ft to the summit

Enjoy. WT Sep 16, 2002
Our path over the ridge was about identical to what Guy H. described above. It was a very windy day making some of the traversing on the ridge top in the middle pitches very exciting but communication was our biggest difficulty. As a ridge route it is top notch yet almost cosmopolitan as you are looking down on the hords ascending the Keyhole route almost the whole way up. Sep 26, 2003
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
Climbed this Labor Day (9/5/05), our only problem was the wind. Because of it we climbed on the leeward (east) side as much as possible, following the line in Pete Fox's photo very closely.

The rock on the lower half on this route was quite shattered, might have been more solid had we been on the ridge-crest. Felt rather alpine hunkered down on a belay below the ridge crest, listening to the roar of the wind with dramatic clouds whipping over the crest. The wind also can make a strange tearing sound when cranking over a ridge like this. Although it seemed strong, I'm sure the wind over this ridge is much worse in the winter. Sep 6, 2005
Doug Redosh
Golden, CO
Doug Redosh   Golden, CO
We did a slight variation around the 2nd tower. From the false keyhole (which one can easily reach from the hiker's route and avoid the initial ledge system on the east side), step right 20 feet and traverse upwards on 4th class terrain (50 ')to a large ledge system for 50', then through a small notch and down 15' to another large ledge. One is below the summit of the 2nd tower at this point. (It looked like this point could also be reached from the hiker's route by a 200 foot 3rd class scramble. A nice 5.4 200 foot ramp ascends to the next notch below the beautiful buttress.
Overall, a fun moderate alpine route. Also, we did not see the signs for the hikers.
3 stars! Aug 11, 2006
the Mountains
Stiles   the Mountains
  • **Beware of the short downclimb mid-route*** The most logical hold to grab when lowering yourself down is a large block. IT IS LOOSE, and you commit most of your weight to it. If it goes, you're going to crush some touron on the trail and take a digger onto less-than-vertical ground.
Oh, and I lost a super-duper sweet hacky sack somewhere up there. Keep an eye out, 'cause it's so f-ing cool looking, you're going to crap a brick if you find it. Aug 15, 2006
Andy Leach
Denver, CO
Andy Leach   Denver, CO
I climbed Keyhole Ridge September 2, 2006. We mostly relied on beta gleaned from summitpost.org and ended up passing the second tower on the west side. This way we avoided most of the class-5 climbing :-( We only roped up for one pitch to pass the third tower and even that was only about 20' of 5.5. If I had it to do over again, I would have made a bigger effort to follow the route outlined here (in the photo by Pete Fox) to pass the second tower on the east side. Live and learn. It was still a fun climb though. (If you do it the way we did, you only need a very, very minimal rack: a few medium-sized nuts and 4 draws.)

Photos: leachfam.com/securearea/sub…
Trip Report: leachfam.com/securearea/1st…
Movie: leachfam.com/securearea/1mo… Sep 8, 2006
Meredith DB
Boulder, CO
Meredith DB   Boulder, CO
This route is super fun - if you like ridge climbs, go do it. I wouldn't say it has not traffic though. When we climbed it in July, there were 2 other parties on the route the same day. However, when we arrived home we found in our mailbox a new issue of Climbing magazine with Majka Burkhardt's article featuring this route. So maybe we just had bad timing.

If you simulclimb the route, it goes quickly - about 2 hours roped up. Oct 6, 2007
Ernie Port
Boulder, Colorado
Ernie Port   Boulder, Colorado
Good alpine route if you don't mind a very long approach. Climbed this 7/27/08, and getting a late start found ourselves high on the ridge when light hail turned to rain. Passed the crux slab when it was still dry, although rest of climbing was slippery. Route finding was mostly straightforward except we incorrectly opted to start the 2nd pitch going up the SE side from the belay notch on the ridge, finding out it dropped off at the top. From this belay notch, (marked by a black piece of webbing) the route passes over to the west side of the ridge and almost immediately up a narrow slab (crux) with a crack running through it. Exciting route with outstanding position! Aug 13, 2008
Estes Park
Q B   Estes Park
Amazing route and a GREAT solo! By the 5.6 head wall there are a couple of other cracks, and a roof that look fabulous. Also, there are a dozen 30 foot cracks to choose from if you're more bold higher up on the route (back on the west face). If you're looking for something a little more challenging....heart racing than the north face....DO THIS, the approach is the same, if not easier!!! Jul 29, 2009
rich mcfadden
rich mcfadden   loveland,co
Great route! Soloed this with a rappel down North face in 8:20. Excellent way to avoid the crowd with spectacular views both east and west. The sketchy part for me was the slightly wet, east-facing rib below second tower. I didn't sneak west around tower like most people seem to suggest. If you do climb to top of second tower, you will need to downclimb through a small notch just north of tower top. There is a sling there as well if you prefer to rappel the 10 ft to small ledge. I'm 6'2" with longer legs so I was able to hang on a flake and just reach ledge with my toes.

The east face section above the ramp felt like 5.5 at most. This probably after the wet 5.6 section below. I continued scaling the ridge on east side while occasionally peaking west. It's always nice to see the crowd suffering through the trough while alone above on a classic route. Aug 1, 2010
joe lavelle  
Here's another trip report for any looking for more detail:
Keyhole Ridge Trip Report. Jul 10, 2011
John Shultz
Osaka, Japan
John Shultz   Osaka, Japan
This is a great, if neglected, line up Long's. I think it is a good as Kiener's (less the snow/ice). The position is amazing, and the exposure was much better than I expected. The cirque of funky towers you climb through at the end was an unexpected delight.

We climbed it very slowly with three the first week of July 2013, and any snow still on the ledges was avoidable. There is just enough loose rock that I didn't want to run simultaneous-seconds on most pitches. We climbed the 5.8 offwidth to reach the top of the second tower. Additionally, we roped up for a few more pitches past the money pitch (aka "the 5.6 pitch" above the ramp) for a total of about 7 pitches.

All three of us agreed that it is a classic route.

Go get her.... Aug 12, 2013
Dan Watkins
Marquette, MI
Dan Watkins   Marquette, MI
It would be wise to pick up a bear canister before setting foot in the park if you're planning on camping out in the boulderfield. The rangers will require you to have one (for marmots, not bears). If you don't already have a canister, you can call the station beforehand to determine where to rent from, as there are options in Estes and Allenspark. Aug 19, 2013
Dave Bn
Boise, ID
Dave Bn   Boise, ID
Amazing position on this route!

On the first tower, directly below the rap station to gain the traverse ledge, the obvious, mini-fridge sized jug-block for the downclimb is loose (this is likely the same as the flake referred to by Rich McFadden above). By applying only a fraction of my body weight, I could get the block to move several millimeters and make a hollow, grinding sound.

Avoiding using this block will make the downclimb substantially harder, so a rap is a better idea. Be warned, however, that this is the same block that you will likely be standing on to set up and/or start the rappel. Sep 18, 2014
Buzz Burrell
Buzz Burrell   Boulder
Yesterday I went up Keyhole Ridge, down Stepladder, then up Gorrell's Traverse for one of the longer and more spectacular moderate routes in the Rockies. It's all at a fairly consistent grade, the rock is excellent, and the link-up is quite logical.
Highly recommended! Jul 26, 2015