Navajo Peak - 13,409'
Apache Peak - 13,441'
Peaks Looked At:
Dicker's Peck - 13,140'
Mileage: about 10 miles
Elevation Gain: around 3,400'
Airplane Gully - Class 3
West Chimney - Class 4
South Ridge - Class 3
East Ledges - Class 3
A Failed AttemptTwo weeks earlier I was high in airplane gully planning to climb Navajo, Dicker's Peck and Apache. Long story short, we had a slight incident just below the top of Niwot Ridge and were forced to make a hasty retreat. After a long/stressful day I quickly found myself making plans for a return trip to complete the route.
Try, Try AgainI was soon able to convince one of my regular climbing buddies to retrace the route with me. We were also joined by a 14ers member, Chuck (ulvetano). With a nice forecast for 50+ degrees up high and slight winds only gusting up to 30 mph we set out loaded with hiking and climbing gear from the Long Lake TH.
It quickly became apparent that the nice forecast and the awesome warm weather of last weekend is quickly giving way to fall. A freezing wind was coming down from the upper cirque chilling the 30 degree air into the teens. It's been a while since I've been so happy to be in the sun! As we passed the upper lakes and streams we noticed they were covered in thin ice. It took some care to cross the upper stream above the final lake due to a nice layer of ice on the rocks.
The alpine tundra is quickly changing colors and is ahead of the trees below. The air was also getting colder as we moved up below airplane gully. We took a short break right at the shadow line and enjoyed the sun before plunging into the cold of airplane gully. Our thermometer was reading just below 30F in the sun.
Navajo - My 100th SummitAs we entered the shade of airplane gully the cold became our motivation. We pushed quickly up as the wind funneled down the gully. My hands felt colder than they have since last winter! This route gets a bad rap of being terribly loose but it is not bad if you choose carefully. You can follow the gully straight up to the ridge but we took the shorter line right past the airplane crash. We hit the sun right at the plane and stopped for some quick photos. It is strange to see the wreckage and even stranger that it's been there about 60 years.
Wanting to get past my last turn around point, we moved up to the ridge and were happy to find that Navajo was blocking the wind. The ridge up to the summit was easy hiking until the summit cap. We chose to ascend a narrow chimney on climber's right (class 3+?) and quickly topped out.
Traverse to ApacheAfter chilling (literally) on the summit for a while we started scoping out how to get down the other side of Navajo. I decided to add another layer to help battle the shade and wind waiting us on the other side and was so glad I did. It was freezing down there!
It is a little intimidating going down towards the west chimney because of Navajo's summit cliffs and the steep crumbly gullies. We knew we were aiming for the northern-most of the gullies and soon found our way to the top of it. The west chimney would be pretty simple going up but was an attention-grabber climbing down. It drops quickly and steeply and the rock is not always trustworthy. With some care we managed to move down without any issues and found ourselves by Dicker's Peck.
We had planned on climbing Dicker's Peck and had carried all the gear up with us. Standing in the cold, shade and wind about 50 feet from the warmth of the sun was depressing. It was going to be a finger-freezer for sure and after staring up for a while I simply could not bring myself to lead it. The Peck would have to wait for next time and a warmer day. Tired of the cold, we pushed up onto the south ridge of Apache and into the sun.
After a few moves of class 3 the ridge easy to a simple stroll up onto Apache's summit. The wind was still chilling the air and kept us moving and we quickly topped out.
Down and Out!The views from Apache are excellent. It is the 2nd highest peak in the IPW and has great views in all directions. We took a short rest, a few photos and headed down towards the east ledges hoping to miss the wind.
The east ledges is very straight forward. The upper slopes are loose but are easy to walk down. Angling down and right we moved through the rock bands without troubles. Below the bands, we aimed for the meadow below airplane gully and it worked very well.
Glad to be back on the trail we quickly booked it to the car. Considering it was a Sat. in the IPW the trails were fairly open until the last 2 miles. It was a great day and a good wake up to the upcoming colder weather. I'm loving the Indian Peaks more every time I get in there!