We woke up early Friday morning at 2AM local time and were on the trail by 3AM. The Longs Peak trail begins at 9,400 feet in elevation and is a 15 mile roundtrip hike/climb. The flashlight we brought promptly quit on us an hour and a half into the hike. Luckily, Adam had brought his cell phone along with him which illuminated the trail until we were able to catch some other hikers farther up on the trail. We followed these 4 guys from Texas that had functioning head lamps until sunrise.
Near Granite Pass at 12,000 feet at sunrise
We continued on to the Boulderfield (which is aptly named) to complete the first 6 miles of our journey in relatively uneventful fashion. We had some great views of the surronding area as well as Longs Peak at this point. However, we would soon discover that the truely daunting portion of the hike (well, climb at this point) was to come. Below is the view of the Boulderfield: Yes, we did have to traverse over all of these boulders to reach the Keyhole (see pic below)
View from the Boulderfield to the Keyhole (notch at the top center of pic) showing the 500 foot elevation gain over a very short distance. This part of the climb is where Adam and I began to slow down and feel the effects of elevation/climbing over huge rocks, which we did not anticipate encountering prior to setting out on this climb! Our pace significantly slowed at this point, and we would have been happy just to make it up to the Keyhole.
After getting up to the Keyhole at 13,160 feet, we took an extended break, as the most challenging part was just ahead on the back side of the mountain (see pic below).
If you look closely at the above picture, you can make out hikers on this part of the climb leading from the Keyhole to the Trough(this picture was taken from the bottom of the Trough towards the Keyhole). We were basically going up and down in elevation while trying not to look down over the vertical drop on our left. Some areas on this portion of the climb were quite narrow...our motto was to not look down! Both Adam and I were struggling at this point, making frequent stops to catch our breath.
The next part is touted as the most difficult segment of the Longs Peak climb. Over 6 hours in, we had slowed to a snail's pace as we began the steep incline that is the Trough. We would walk 20 seconds and rest for 2 minutes, which wasn't setting any land speed records. After somewhere between 1 and 2 hours we made it to the top of the Trough by scaling the last (probably over 6 feet in height) boulder and bruising our legs in the process. Below is a view of the 1,000 foot climb from the top of the Trough: