I got this feeling that we might not summit Longs on this day. I remarked to myself that I had yet to get any gut feeling warnings about proceeding past the Keyhole with this wind. We stopped in the small edifice left of the Keyhole to warm up and got a reprieve from the wind. There were about 10-15people huddled in there with us and you could feel the vibe of fear coming from certain folks who wanted to continue. I told several people that the Keyhole was always this windy, and I compared it to the micro bursts that happen in downtown Denver when the buildings that funnel wind can literally knock a bicyclist off their bike (it happens often riding downtown). My point being, some parts of the mountain are windier than others, and you should make that call at each section of the hike past the Keyhole, not at the Keyhole itself as you are selling yourself short. However, I have no issues with people bailing. In a sense, I was happy to see that type of caution in a multitude of climbing parties. The peak will always be there for another day.
Regina felt a bit nauseated regarding the amount of effort it took to get up the Boulder Field. We decided to take it slow on the next part of the hike, known as the Ledges. I knew we would have a good weather day (minus the wind), and that we had started at a great time.
The Ledges are your first introduction into the real effort it takes to climb Longs Peak. Gerry Roach prefaces the route after the Keyhole as “Let the fun begin.”
The wind died down the further we got away from the Keyhole. We came to the crux of the Ledges and stashed our hiking poles after the move for later. Beautiful views of Glacier Gorge could be seen from here. Chapin, Chiquita, Ypsilon, Fairchild, The Spearhead, McHenry’s, Pagoda, Chief’s Head, Alice, the list goes on and on. There were not many people following us or ahead of us (compared to usual Longs traffic), and this was good for entering the Trough as there is plenty of loose rock there and the less people, the better. I warned Becky and Regina that I felt this was the crappiest part of the hike. Everyone has their own opinions, but the Trough is hard work. You have to take five steps up, stop hearing your heart in your temples, then take five steps more.
One of the fun things about the Trough is that it evens everyone out. It is physically exhausting and even the fittest folks are willing to follow in line with the overall pace of everyone. So you get to chat to random people along the way up, mostly about how crappy the Trough is.