South Arapaho - 13,397
North Arapaho - 13,502
"Old Baldy" aka Point 13,038
just under 4,000 feet
Feels Like Fall Up Here
My wife and I are both teachers and were excited about the awesome forecast after our first week back with the kiddos. Not wanting to have to spend hours in the car to go hiking, we chose the wonderfully close Indian Peaks. As my low-clearance Mazda wormed its way through the potholes up to the Fourth of July trailhead, we couldn't help but notice early signs of fall. Chilly, breezy, and some changing colors all marked the start of my favorite hiking season in Colorado. We were lucky to get a front-row parking spot with our late arrival and quickly started up the trail at 8am.
The views of the Indian Peaks appear immediately as the trail ascends toward the Fourth of July mine.
Having mostly hiked in the IPW by Brainard Lake, I'm not sure of all the mountain names but would like to hike some of these stunning peaks.
We passed a few other parties on our way past the mine, but we were happy to see the trail fairly unpopulated. We made short work of the trail up to the Arapaho Saddle where we had to stop and layer up against the chilly wind.
The views of both Arapahos and the Arapaho Glacier are complemented by many other peaks, including Longs Peak in the background.
North Arapaho with Glacier
The final slopes up to South Arapaho's summit were the only steep hiking we encountered. We tried to stay close to the edge to experience the views.
The summit of South Arapaho appeared quickly, and we only stopped briefly to chat with another hiker enjoying the summit.
View of the traverse
Although the traverse is short and rated class 3, we had heard mixed reviews and rumors of it being dangerous class 4 at times. With the weather looking good, we put on our helmets and headed out. The first bit is very easy and goes quickly. We soon reached the first class 3 step and had no problem following the many orange painted arrows marking the route. Some of the arrows are very faded but they are easily seen if you keep an eye out.
We both felt the traverse went fast and nothing exceeded class 3. There were a few points where the route dropped below the ridge briefly, but we never had trouble with route finding. Here are photos from the rest of the way...
Next Class 3 step
Slab wall. Much easier than many photos make it look.
On the ridge
Almost done scrambling to North Arapaho
Last moves to summit plateau.
Cool old can found under a boulder
About 40 minutes (no speed records today!) after leaving South Arapaho, we strolled up onto North. The cairn up there was huge! We had only passed one party returning over the ridge, so we had the summit all to ourselves.
Eventually we had to head back over the ridge. I would say the crux of the route is simply remembering to allow enough time for the return trip. Luckily, we had beautiful weather and plenty of time to return safely. It takes about the same amount of time to traverse back to South Arapaho. The return was uneventful, and soon we were back on South Arapaho's summit and talking about the possibility of summiting Old Baldy from the Arapaho Saddle.
It's because I'm bald, isn't it?
Back at the saddle, we decided to give Old Baldy a go. The weather was building a bit, but it seemed to be moving away from us. We set a 30 minute turn around time and headed up the slope. We hiked next to each other to help reduce our impact on the trail-less tundra. A mere 15 minutes later we happily topped out. Old Baldy quickly became my favorite summit of the day. The views of Arapaho Cirque were spectacular, and the summit had a very secluded feel. The register revealed that Old Baldy is only summited every few days, so clearly he must be lonelier than his popular neighbors. My camera batteries died at this point, but I was able to snap two last shots from the summit.
3rd summit for the day!
The hike out was uneventful, and it was a great day. The lower trails were much more crowded with folks heading up to Arapaho Pass. The Arapaho traverse is an excellent route and would be a great intro to ridge scrambling. Snow would make it much more serious, but in dry conditions, it's a great route for someone getting into scrambling. Old Baldy is a great addition to this hike, but it most people don't take advantage of the opportunity. With the minimal amount of time it takes to visit, it makes me wonder why. This is an excellent way to get 3 13ers, and I would highly recommend it.
Great day out with my wife.