11 August 2011

Longs Peak Speed Record? Keyhole Route R/T FKT 3:26:10

The Keyhole on a bluebird day

Summit Marker

Looking down the Homestretch

View from the top of the Trough

A hunters dream

What a peak!

This morning I went to Longs Peak to attempt the FKT for the Keyhole Route roundtrip. On July 27 I did a recon trip and snapped the photos that accompany this post. The existing FKT (that I know of) for the Keyhole Route was run by Bill Wright in a time of 3:35. He went up in 2:05 and down in 1:30. Here's a few of the links I found while researching: This one and this one. Since this record occurred in August of 2000 there is a strong possibility that during the last 11 years someone has run a faster time that was not recorded in a public forum. Let me know if you know of a faster time.

My previous best time ironically occurred during my recon trip a few weeks ago. I ran a 3:41- 2:01 up, 1:40 down. It was a pleasant surprise as I ran a 3 min PR from my last attempt of 3:44 in 2009. Below are the details of today's run.

Start/Finish Line- I started my watch in front of the Ranger Station where the paved sidewalk ends and the dirt trail begins. I have used this line for all my runs on Longs. For this route I stay on the trail the entire distance top to bottom- no cutting switchbacks to obtain a faster time. My watch ran continuously from beginning to end- no stops on summit/pee/eat/etc.


Chasm Junction- :43
Granite Pass Junction- :56 (13)
Keyhole- 1:25 (29)
Summit- 1:59 (34)
Keyhole- 2:30 (31, 3 faster down)
Granite Pass Junction- 2:52 (22, 7 faster down)
Chasm Junction- 3:00 (8, 5 faster down)
Ranger Station End- 3:26:10 (26, 17 faster down)
Up- 1:59 (6 faster than Wright) Down- 1:27 (3 faster than Wright)

Comparatively to my run on July 27 I was faster at all splits except from the Keyhole up to the summit. My July attempt was done in 32 compared to the 34 today. I encountered a conga line of 8 hikers shortly after the Keyhole. I tried a parallel line beneath them but found myself traversing exposed slab so I retraced my path until I could get above them and proceed without traffic. Lost at least a minute with this decision. At the top of the trough I waited another minute while hikers descended the crux. This area can bottleneck very quickly! The narrows went smoothly as I could easily pass on either side of anybody. The homestretch was a zoo- I weaved in and out of 20-25 people until I reached the summit. I ran and tagged the Geological Survey Marker (official high point?)on the rock that has the summit register below it. I then descended through the masses once again. After the homestretch I was free and clear back to the Ranger Station. I could easily move around people through the narrows, down the trough, and through the boulderfield. Between route congestion and a routefinding error I lost an estimated 3-4 minutes. Not bad. One of the challenges of this route is the sheer number of people on it at any given time. If you are going for speed don't do it on a weekend or holiday! In 2009 I made this mistake and counted over 70 people that I passed on my ASCENT. This year I tried it on a Wednesday and a Thursday- starting between 8-8:30 and still encountered plenty. I think the best approach would be to start on a weekday around 3-4 PM with good weather. Minutes after finishing I went into the Ranger Station and asked if they knew of any faster times for the Keyhole route roundtrip. They didn't but were excited to hear about my run. I gave them all my splits which they wrote down along with my name, city of residence, phone number, and blog address for future FKT questions/inquiries. They were then going to forward the information to park information headquarters. They also mentioned that one of the climbing rangers is training to break the FKT roundtrip for the Cables Route. Apparently he is within 15 minutes of the record from his last attempt.

Here's what I brought with me:
1 20 oz. bottle of Nuun. Stashed the empty bottle at the Keyhole, picked up on my return and stored in the back waistband of my shorts for the descent.
1 package of Clif Bloks- ate 4 of the 6 before the keyhole, the last two after I finished.
Mountain Hardwear Geist Jacket tied around my waist- just in case.
Car key in back shorts pocket
Montrail Rogue Racers
Socks, Montrail hat, sunglasses, Mountain Hardwear shirt and shorts.


  1. I was just thinking about how there ought to be an FKT section for Colorado's 14ers while I was climbing La Plata this morning.


  2. Congrats man. That's a-movin', especially with all the traffic.

  3. Holy cow, that's blazingly awesome. I think I was 3:15 just to the top. Way to go.

    >"but found myself traversing exposed slab"

    aka The Ledges? Yeah, a hiker simply dropped off the trail near there last summer, good to avoid those slabs!

  4. Wow. Happy for you. Looking good for your leadville run!

  5. Very cool! Great report and a great run.

    The info on Peter Bakwin's site is fantastic. Almost unbelievable to think that someone could get from the summit to the parking lot in 42 minutes.

    Here's another report with a pretty fast time, although JV does say he spent a bit of time on the summit.


  6. Thanks all! It is great to see the historical data and times that both Bakwin and Wright have compiled over the years for Longs and other inspiring runs. So many of the Longs records are extraordinary to say the least. Cool to see Mackey's name up there on the Cables Route which speaks to his versatility and many talents.

  7. Hey Ryan - Did you stick strictly to the main trail, or use short-cuts below the Boulderfield? Thanks.

  8. Nice Run!!! Just 20 oz. of fluid? How many miles is the round trip? Good luck at Leadville!

  9. Nice work Ryan. I have done the RT twice in 3:18, but both times spent around 4 (unrecorded) minutes on the summit and took all the "standard" shortcuts below the boulderfield. Next time, I would like to give it a go sticking to the main trail.

  10. Peter- I was on the trail the whole way, no shortcuts up or down. I believe this is one way to standardize the route for future attempts and for those who don't know about the shortcuts.

    Brad- 20 oz. worked well, I had 16 oz tea at breakfast and 20 oz water on the drive to the TH to prehydrate. I was thirsty coming down but wanted to keep extra weight at a minimum.

    Jeff- Awesome time! Thanks for sharing. My gut told me there had to be a faster time since Bill's 3:35 in 2000. I can see improvement for me on my ascent time and getting smoother from the keyhole to summit in both directions. From the boulderfield I pushed the descent pretty hard. If it works out let's get a group together- I know Nick Clark wants to attempt the ascent record via Keyhole.

  11. Nice work Ryan!

    Sounds like you are in good form - go get it at Leadville!

  12. Awesome man, can't wait to see your Leadville race as well!

  13. Its nice to see others racing. I have been trying to beat Chris' time for awhile, and so have other Estes locals. I wonder, though, about a record being a record or a female/male difference.

  14. Damn dude, good job. I am not a runner, just a cyclist and climber, and had a 3:15 up and 2:15 down this morning. The whole way I was wondering what the record is -- I'm flabbergasted by your time.

  15. The is a very humble climbing ranger, tall and ginger, who holds the record as of this summer.