Longs Peak-Keyhole Route: Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Keyhole Route a hike or a climb?
Would you describe the Keyhole Route as dangerous?
Are you still providing “technical” and “non-technical” ratings concerning the Keyhole Route?
Our goal is to provide the best available information that will assist in determining if, when and how you may choose to climb this mountain.
How have people been injured or killed on the Keyhole Route?
Summit fever is dangerous. The Keyhole rock formation, six miles from the Longs Peak Trailhead, is an ideal spot to stop and assess how you and other members of your group are feeling. Is the weather changing or likely to change? Take the time to fairly assess your physical condition and the ever-changing conditions on the mountain before you tackle the most difficult part of the climb ahead. While you are at it, snacks and water will provide energy for the trip beyond or your return back to the trailhead.
Along the Keyhole route there are numerous areas where an un-roped fall can be fatal. If you find yourself off route and wondering which way to go – don’t shortcut – retrace your steps to your last known position. Many people have fallen while shortcutting or continuing ahead after losing the route.
Attempting the summit in the afternoon greatly increases your risk – the round-trip from the Longs Peak Trailhead averages 10 to 15 hours. Increased risk factors include: weather, eventual darkness, and a decline in the ability to see others on the route or to successfully navigate in the late afternoon light.
Solo travel is never recommended particularly on a high risk activity such as the Keyhole Route. Some have died or sustained serious injury because they were travelling alone or chose to separate from the rest of their group. Travelling with others provides an added margin of safety with decision making, shared observations of changing conditions, and the ability to assist or go for help in the event of an accident. Although you may encounter other people along the route, this in no way substitutes for travelling with others who can share in the assessment and decision making responsibilities.
No one plans to get hurt or killed on Longs Peak. Safety is your responsibility and our concern. The most important part of your climb is to plan for a safe return. Remember to enjoy the experience along the way. Too much focus on the summit can lead to poor decisions!
Do I really need to start at the trailhead before sunrise?
What are the symptoms of high altitude sickness?
How physically fit you are plays no role in whether you get altitude sickness. The symptoms of altitude sickness include: a dull to throbbing headache, loss of appetite, sick to your stomach or nausea, vomiting, and feeling weak or dizzy.
It is important to watch for these symptoms in yourself as well as others in your group. If symptoms develop, don’t wait to turn around. The best treatment for high altitude sickness is to go to a lower elevation as soon as safely possible.
To successfully summit Longs Peak - it is in your best interest to spend time acclimating and hiking other lower elevation summits before attempting Longs Peak.
Is the “trail” to the summit of Longs Peak easy to find?
Check out the Keyhole Route brochure which describes the different sections of the Keyhole Route starting at the Boulder Field and ending at the summit with brief text and photos.
How many miles is the Keyhole Route to Longs Peak?
How many people should I expect to see on the Keyhole Route during the summer?
When is the best time of year to try to climb the Keyhole Route?
However, weather and conditions vary so it’s best to check with a ranger or online for current conditions, 970-586-1206 or the park's Conditions & Closure page.
Conditions are constantly changing and influenced by altitude, wind and sudden changes in weather. Obtain a reliable weather forecast for elevations ranging from 8,000 feet to 14,000 feet and be prepared for all types of conditions before you depart the trailhead. Never hesitate to turn back if conditions deteriorate.
I know I should carry common sense, what else should I carry in my pack?
How is cell phone coverage?
Thank you for taking the time to read more about the Keyhole Route.
We hope the information provided will assist you with planning for a safe and enjoyable experience on Longs Peak. Don’t hesitate to turn back for any reason – your life may depend on it. Longs Peak will await your return.
Longs Peak-Keyhole Route Frequently Asked Questions (8 1/2 x 11-PDF 162k
Did You Know?
Rocky Mountain National Park licensed the nation’s first female nature guides in 1917. Sisters Ester and Elizabeth Burnell learned the naturalist trade from advocate and author Enos Mills.