Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Two days in Indian Peaks.

While the days detailed below took place two weeks apart, they both start from the same place and cover some of the same terrain, so it seems logical to group them as one.
On week one, I set off for the Fourth of July trail head, and planned an extensive day.  First, I would run the trail up and over the Continental Divide, to visit the two 11ers on the west side, and the come back and do the Arapaho traverse, then run the ridge down to Klondike Mountain.  That sounds like alot, and though I felt ok, I quickly learned that I was not recovered from the race.
High on the trail, nearing the divide.
While I felt motivated, and my muscles felt recovered, my connective tissues did not.  Already I wondered about the day ahead.
I followed the Caribou Pass trail as it curved around Neva, and Satanta came into view.
There it is.  It was a short jaunt off the trail on tundra to reach the summit.
Satanta Peak, 11979 feet.  You can see the other 11ers in the background.
My plan was to descend the trail for a bit, then leave it and head down toward Columbine Lake.  I'd stay above it and ring the bowl to arrive at the saddle between Neva and the two 11ers, and then ascend them from there.
Above the lake.  Note the tents, what a beautiful place to camp!
The plan worked pretty well.  There was some talus to contend with, but it was larger and mostly solid.  A bit farther on I discovered a social trail from the lake up to the saddle, and was happy to follow that.
I decided to go south to 11801 first, which meant a quick descent, and then a short scramble up the north face.  It looked steep and rocky from afar, but went easily enough.
The view to 11831.
Back down and then up, to the broad flat expanse of possible summit area.  I finally found a small stack of rocks.
Looking back to 11801.
I basically went back the same way but took a steeper gully back up to meet the trail.  It worked out fine.
I ran some of the downhill and looked ahead.  Despite a great weather prediction, things weren't looking so hot ahead.  I wasn't feeling great either, definitely not at one hundred percent. 
I stopped to check out some of the old equipment at the mine.  Pretty neat stuff.
Then I sat for awhile and did some math.  It was about 2000 feet up to South Arapaho, then everyone says an hour each way on the traverse, then at least 2 more hours to go down to Klondike and back.  So, even if I was feeling 100%, I was looking at five more hours.  That would put me home later than I wanted, plus I wasn't feeling 100% and would likely be slower, plus...
these clouds did not look good.
It was easy to call it a day, but sucked to know I'd have to drive the bone jarring Fourth of July road at least once more.  I was able to make good time jogging down, and headed back home.  I never heard thunder, but it rained by the time I was back in Eldora.  Getting caught in rain on an exposed third class traverse is not my idea of fun!
Two weeks later I headed back, aimed at visiting the remaining peaks in the area.  Fourth of July road was as rough as I remembered, if not worse.  But oh well, it's easily passable in any vehicle.
I started from the trail head at 6:08, and had read a few trip reports to familiarize myself with the challenges and length of time the traverse might take.  All mentioned the slab as the crux, and many gave about two hours for a round trip from and back to South Arapaho.
Early morning on the Fourth of July trail.
At the turn off for the Arapaho Glacier trail.
Moody clouds up there.
The climb was fine, predictably wet due to run off in the lower sections, and lightly windy as I got higher.  I layered up and found myself wishing I had worn pants instead of running shorts!
At the saddle between South Arapaho and Old Baldy, South Arapaho on the left, and North Arapaho to the right.
The easy stroll up Old Baldy.
The climb up South Arapaho wasn't too difficult, with a clear trail worn through, around, and over the rock in the area.  I was on the summit at 8:07, two hours after I started.
The forbidden fruit of the Boulder Watershed.
South Arapaho summit.
Looking to the traverse.  It looked a little intimidating. 
I moved off the summit, expecting the difficulties to start right away.  To my surprise, they didn't, and I was still on a runable trail for a bit.  When you hit the start of the route, you can follow the faded orange arrows or not; on the way out I did at first, and on the way back I didn't at all.  I felt they led you off the most obvious route, the ridge proper, which wasn't any more difficult than the ups and downs the arrows had you take.
I reached the famous slab, and took a much more exposed option to the right, with a few scrambly moves over alot of air.  The only other difficulty I remember was when the ridge promptly ended.  The drop was too large to jump off of, and the down climb was over hung and of unknown quality.  I headed down some slabby stuff to get past this.
I've also read the final gully to North Arapaho is loose.  I avoided this by crossing the ridge and taking a more solid but more exposed option up.  I made sure to look around at the top so I could find the correct way back down.
Nearing the summit. 
Summit benchmark, reached at 8:42.
Looking north to more forbidden fruits.
On the broad and flat summit.  Like Longs Peak, it was some work and scrambling to get here, and then the summit is pretty flat.  I ate a snack and headed back.
Looking back at the ridge.
Part way back.
Here is the infamous slab with the added bonus of my finger in the shot.  I measured it at 61 degrees.  I took the same method to descend it, and had a heart racing moment when I pulled off a hold.  So if you take that option, you're welcome!
Back on South Arapaho at 9:23, so 1:15 to do the traverse out and back.
The descent back to the saddle was fun and quick.
Looking at Old Baldy, which was a much easier climb up!
The broad summit plateau made it difficult to tell where the summit was.  Fortunately someone had marked it with a cairn.
I was feeling so good and happy here.  I was able to get LTE service on my phone and streamed Beethoven's 9th Symphony as I made my way to the summit.  I hate it when I come upon people playing music out in the middle of no where.  I guess that makes me a hypocrite, but no one was around and the orchestral music fit the scenery perfectly.
And perfect things were, for a few minutes at least.  Of course, this set off a long inner monologue on the very nature of perfection, and if something can ever be perfect.  When perfection is obtained, does it cease to exist?  Is perfection therefore ever reachable?  The debate raged on in my head for the rest of the day.
Looking back, with Old Baldy reached 28 minutes after South Arapaho.
Next I looked east to Klondike Mountain.  It made more sense to me to do it now rather than to have to come back.  I started the descent on tundra and talus.
Looking back up.
I wanted to visit the summit of the unranked Bald Mountain on the way down, because why not!  The only mistake I made here was staying to the south of the ridge holding it, which had me side hill over some talus.  I imagine it would be easier to just stay right on top the whole way down.  I'd also suggest heading south from there and trying to stay right on the ridge proper for the easiest descent.  I had some short stretches of talus and from satellite photos, it looks like there is a trail most of the way down to the Klondike saddle.
Klondike was a short climb up.  I found three of the best Porcini I have ever found in Colorado on the way and ate well that evening!  I was so excited by this fortuitous turn of events that I forgot to take a photo of the summit.  Ah well.    
Looking west from Klondike Mountain.
My plan was to descend back to the saddle, and then bushwhack downhill while heading up into the Fourth of July basin at the same time (if that makes sense).  This was to avoid a longer run on the road.
Much to my surprise, I found a very distinct trail.
Yay!  This is the trail mentioned in a few trip reports on LoJ that I didn't read very well.  It's on the older maps for the area, and since it went by several former mining sites, I'd guess it's related to them.  I was glad for it.
As many a unmaintained trail does, it ended up ending in the middle of no where, but in sight of the road. 
Klondike from the road.
And finally back to South Arapaho from the road.  
The road run seemed to take forever, as they always do.  I was back at the car at 12:11, giving me 6:03 to do this fun loop.
This was a enjoyable traverse, though I was thinking it would be more sustained in difficulty.  In reality, it's mostly second class, including some runable terrain, interspersed with a few difficulties.  It was fun, but I found myself wishing for more scrambling.  Old Baldy is a ranked peak, and an easy add on if you're in the area.
Link to run maps/GPX on Caltopo (day 1 in blue, day 2 in red).
Day 1:
Satanta Peak, 11979 feet: 5 miles, 1896 foot gain.  Moderate.
11801: 7.1 miles, 1718 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
11831: 8 miles, 1748 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
The highest point of the day is around 12100 feet, before you drop down to Satanta, so there will be elevation gain in both directions.  Over all you'll be looking at 14.34 miles with 4479 feet of elevation gain.  Moderate+.
Day 2:
South Arapaho Peak, 13397 feet: 4.45 miles, 3314 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
North Arapaho Peak, 13502 feet: 5.2 miles, 3419 foot gain.  Third class.  Strenuous.
Old Baldy, 13038 feet: 6.8 miles, 2955 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Bald Mountain, 11340 feet: 9.4 miles, 1257 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Klondike Mountain, 10770 feet: 10.8 miles, 687 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+
As a whole, this day covered 13.65 miles with 4718 feet of gain in up to third class terrain and held some fine alpine running.  Strenuous.

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