Longs Peak - 14,255 feet - Keyhole Route - 5,100 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead - 14 miles round-trip.
I wake early feeling surprisingly fresh after only 4 hours of sleep. I brew up a stiff cuppa and rehearse each section of the route in my head from the photos I’d seen on the Internet the previous night. I like everything about the line. Short, steep and to the point with a mix of running and scrambling and what seems like a little exposure. I reach the packed parking lot just after sunrise and am lucky to find a spot. I’d read it’s a busy route but wasn’t quite expecting this. I settle into a comfortable jog up the polished, well maintained trail to Granite Pass. I pass only a few people suggesting that the congestion will occur up ahead. A guy yells, “Go get ‘em man!” and I ponder this for a bit wondering who exactly I’m going to get. Turkey wants to get me, hissing and flapping while I run by its chicks. Trail workers line the way leading into the Boulder Field and a small stereo blares, putting a bluegrassy rhythm in my step. I skip through the swamp and hop from boulder to boulder, pass some campers, while the wind kicks up and plays with my hair. I pause briefly under the Keyhole for a bit of licorice and to put on my jacket before entering the Trough. Granite towers line the ridge up above and my gaze is constantly drawn to the fascinating texture of the rock. So much so that I forget about the impending traffic of almost 30 people bunching up ahead. Some of them are staling right before reaching the Narrows so I skirt by quickly, mumbling apologies but also eager to move passed the fanfare. The Narrows aren’t as narrow as the photos let on, nor is the Homestretch, the last 100 feet to the summit, as steep, making both sections less sketchy than anticipated and therefore more enjoyable. I eat a little on top and lie in the sun for a bit before beginning the descent. I pass the crowd of people again who are nearly there, then casually ride the wave of rock back down into the valley. Couple hours up, buck fifteen down without accounting for photo stops makes for a most pleasant day on the hill.