Longs Peak dominates the Front Range skyline up here in NoCo-land, so given the ease of access from tourist haven Estes Park, it's no surprise that it's probably the most hiked/climbed mountain in the state. As a local who also enjoys the trip to the top, the trick therefore is to go early in the week when the crowds are at their least annoying.
After an email from Dan Turk late last week about potential interest for today, and a bit of work shuffling, I signed on and contracted recent FoCo arrival Aaron Marks for the trip too. We got to the trailhead soon after 6:00 and were greeted with a choice of parking spots at the small (for RMNP) parking lot. On weekends at 6:00, one typically has to park a good half mile down the road, so this was a very good sign.
I was unsure if I wanted to push out a hard effort or just take it easy and fully enjoy the outing, so I figured I would just let the run come to me as it progressed.
As far as fastest known times (FKT) are concerned, the only records I could find on the tubes list Kraig Koski as the ascent record holder via the popular 7.5 mile (`5,000') keyhole route. His 1:49 dates back to 2000, and while certainly a solid time on what is a potentially dangerous route if moving carelessly above the boulder field, it seemed like a time that would be within reach.
I actually e-mailed Kraig a couple of days ago to inform him that I might be chasing his time (as that apparently is FKT protocol), and Kraig responded with an e-mail claiming no knowledge of the fact that he held the FKT! I figured therefore it might be fun to put a time out there for people to chase, presuming of course that I was good for a sub-1:49. Bill Wright holds the RT FKT at 3:35, according to details here.
From the off (9,400'), the breathing felt a bit labored as is typical with uphill starts at altitude. I was settled in to the workload and altitude after 10 to 15 minutes, but didn't much feel like pushing things after the pounding at Barr Trail two days prior. All bets were soon off anyway as I managed to head straight through in the wrong direction at the Chasm Lake 4-way. By the time I knew for sure I was going in the wrong direction I was a good two-thirds of a mile down the trail. I turned around and headed back just in time to meet Dan, who figured I'd lost a good 15 minutes. Buggery!
Pushed on and forgot about times and such like. The traffic was definitely thin given the ideal conditions, however there was the usual bottlenecking beginning at the boulder field, which I hit in 1:20. The keyhole (1:34) was as calm as I have experienced it from a wind perspective, as was the rest of the route from there.
I love the quad-burn sensation you get from a hard effort up the trough (~12,500' to 13,500') and homestretch (~13,600 - 14,200') so I had a blast powering up them. Although most everything past the boulder field is non-running, I still consider it a great power workout with all that intense high altitude quad work. I hit the summit rock in 2:08 and immediately turned around and headed back down.
I got off course again on the ledges back to the keyhole, ending up way too high and off to the right, realizing my mistake upon peering over the ridge to a big drop to the Boulder field below. Had to backtrack significantly (and somewhat sketchily) to get back with the bullseye markers (probably lost 15 mins total) and then hopped back across the Boulder field and down at a steady pace on the annoyingly jerky and steppy descent to the trailhead in a total descent of 1:46 and total RT outing of 3:55.
It was a fun outing on a perfect morning, but no damage whatsoever was done to the existing FKTs. Might take another shot next week, being sure to be less careless with the route. Oh, and if anyone has intel on faster times, please post in the comments.
Edits: See comments below for links to Jeff Valliere's 2006 3:23 (FKT) round trip report (Keyhole) and Bill Wright/John 'Homie' Prater's 3:09 report (Cables) .