South & North Arapaho Peaks with “Old Baldy”
From 4th of July TH
Friday August 26, 2011
I got myself on the road by 4:58AM under clear & starry skies. I drove out Route 36 from Louisville and into Boulder to Canyon Blvd via Broadway from the Baseline exit. Very few cars on the road this early on a Friday and the drive up Boulder Canyon went smoothly. Nederland was still asleep as I rounded the rotary and headed towards Eldora ski area. Took the right hand turn to Eldora then proceeded past the High School, Eldora, Hessie TH and on to the 4th of July TH where there were lots of people camping but everybody was still asleep.
With a light westerly breeze starting to blow and the skies lightening by the minute I made ready my day pack, donned my headlamp and started up the trail at 6:00AM. I saw two hikers at the parking lot getting ready but otherwise, everything was very quiet. My eyesight in this dark/sunrise early hours is quite poor and my headlamp lit the way for the first 30 mins. Dawn was breaking quickly and soon the easterly facing peaks of the Indian Peaks were bathed in a golden hue and the breeze from the west grew a bit stronger as I turned right at the Diamond Lake/Arapaho Pass sign.
I was now progressing much higher and followed the Arapaho Pass trail up to 4th of July mine site where all that remains is a rusted-out boiler sitting on top of a couple of mounds of tailings. Here I turned right on the Arapaho Glacier Trail where the trail flattens through brush and a creek crossing before heading up high to the right and above tree line. Following a very well-worn trail cut deep into the earth where even I couldn’t get lost the advance was very steady as the trail breaks wide right and around and up higher to the left. The unobstructed view from this vantage was wonderful with Diamond Lake
Skyscraper & Dorothy Lake
Skyscraper and Dorothy Lake in clear sight. Very nice.
Directly high and ahead stands S. Arapaho Peak
as the trail becomes steeper and after a short while I reached a juncture where the Arapahoe Glacier trail goes right; here I stood right between S. Arapaho Pk and “Old Baldy” with a magnificent view of N. Arapaho Pk right across the top of Arapahoe Glacier. Spectacular!
Heading left and following the trail up steep rock and zig-zagging up the ridge while pausing briefly to take in some water and catch my breath. Looking back down the trail I could now see many others coming up and I soon covered the remaining summit approach reaching an empty summit at 8:27. This was my second ascent of this peak having previously completed a snow climb of Skywalker coulior back in June 2009. I paused only briefly then headed to the connecting ridge between South & N. Arapaho; I stayed high on the ridge then broke left following the trail that gets much fainter here.
I was making good progress as the trail follows left of the ridge and the terrain was very rocky with lots of ups and downs as a scrambling/crawling approach while following some painted orange arrows. However, the lichen on the rocks is also orange and I stayed left all along through shaded rock where the westerly breeze was keeping things pretty cool as I was glad to be wearing long sleeves. Tougher terrain next as grabbing a hand and foot hold and crawling up and over some rock slabs brought me to a sheer drop as I’d gone a bit too high on the ridge and now retreated back left and then across a steep traverse around some much taller rocks on the ridge line. This advance is directly on the Continental Divide and the view down the glacier on the right was awesome
with Lake Granby down on the left side
Lake Granby & Monarch Lake
. Through some more rugged rock and notches and then breaking out, up and over a talus grade to a mammoth mound of boulders
N.Arapaho Summit Mound
marking an empty summit right at 9:27
I made it!
I clambered up to the very top of the boulder mound to claim the tippy-top and then settled-in for a good rest. The weather was ideal with bright sun and a cooling breeze; the views were stunning with visibility seemingly endless out to the vast eastern high plains and all through the west countless peaks. Across the ridge I could see people coming along a ways behind so I would have this marvelous perch all to myself. Below to the east lay the snowy/icy Arapaho Glacier and the entire Boulder Watershed area with its many holding ponds
; strictly off-limits and well guarded. My camera batteries were running low so I started clicking photos with both my camera and my cell phone as best I could. I took in some food & drink and applied some sun lotion and then stretched-out and enjoyed a splendid, relaxing recline right on the rocks. I think I might have actually dosed for a moment as the solitude of this summit was just what I needed after a hectic week. Rejuvenating…….. After a good 25 mins on top I put some Skittles in my pocket, saddled-up and started back down right at 10:00.
On my way down I soon met a group of three guys and two girls coming through a steep notch; they graciously allowed me to pass first as the spot is single file only and we bid each other luck and moved on. The passage back went much the same as coming over and I met a few others along the way as back to S. Arapaho went well as I found this connecting ridge to be both challenging and invigorating. Back to S. Arapaho at 10:50 where one guy with his dog was just leaving to head back down as a dog on the connecting ridge might be a concern with an older/larger animal. I would stay for a short bit this time through and climbed atop the highest stones to view down on a “distance dial”
pointing in a dozen or more directions indicating landmarks all-around, cool! Right across was my next stop, “Old Baldy”.
The day continued to show bright with a few clouds gathering to the west as I exited stage left at 11:00 with lots of people heading up to S. Arapahoe………
I made rather quick work of the descent back to the low point between S. Arap. and Old Baldy and passed many heading up as I went down. Here I turned left and headed directly for the highest point I could see as the gradual grade with grasses and rocks allowed a pleasant ascent atop another 13’er. Looking down and across showed a magnificent view of the uppermost portions of the Arapahoe Glacier with N. Arap. directly across and S. Arap. high left.
S & N.Arapaho Peaks
A guy with his dog were peering over the edge and down the glacier as I sought the highest ground trusting that to be the true summit of Old Baldy. My height perception may be worse than my depth perception or perhaps they’re one and the same; I really couldn’t tell if I was highest or not but further steps showed downward so I must have been very close at 11:22.
Old Baldy self-portrait
I paused and snapped a few more shots and then started back down the way I came. There is no defined trail up here and cross country is the only way across and back to Arap Glacier Trail.
Back down I saw one young girl heading up as I went and was soon back to the Arap Glacier Trail where many others were still coming up. I stopped and removed my long clothes and added more sun lotion for the remainder of the descent as things were getting a bit warmer with a high sun and scattered clouds coming in from the west. A smooth, uneventful descent was most welcomed as I was starting to feel rather tired and finding the shade of tree line was nice as I’d had about enough sun by now. Back to my truck right at 1:19PM to close-out the Arapaho Glacier trifecta on this beautiful day in Colorado……………….Sweet!