How do Colorado's Front Range alpine snow climbs get named? For rock climbs the first ascenders have the honor of naming the route and these are duly entered in the guidebooks. For snow climbs I see no such evidence, yet there are distinctive names such as Snow Lion, Skywalker, Dream Weaver
, and Queens Way
. Do the guidebook writers coin the names, or have they been passed down to them? I don't know the answer, if someone does please post an addition to this page!
In any case the Apache Couloir has missed out on having a memorable moniker. But that doesn't mean that you should miss out on Apache Couloir!
When snow conditions are good, typically in June and July, the Apache Couloir provides a direct and fun climb to the summit of Apache Peak. Combining this with a descent of Queens Way
makes for an excellent tour of Apache's east face.
The approach is from the Long Lake trailhead at the Brainard Lake road. See the description on the main page
for driving to this trailhead.
Follow the well-marked and well-trodden trail about 2 1/2 miles to beautiful Lake Isabelle. Continue straight past the Pawnee Pass junction, and beyond Lake Isabelle into the magnificent cirque. The trail can be faint at times through this section. Depending on the time of year you may need snow shoes, an ice axe, and/or crampons just to reach the base of the climb, which is about 4 miles from the trailhead.
Get to the base of the couloir and go up! That's about it, the route is pretty obvious. The angle is about 45 degrees for nearly 1000 feet of climbing.
Note that the couloir is east facing so it will soften up early in the day. Before starting make sure you have checked for cornices that might drape the top of the route. Being in the couloir if one of those broke loose would not be a good idea.
The Apache Couloir receives Gerry Roach's coveted *Classic* designation.
Both times I climbed Apache the descent was a via Queens Way glissade. Other options would be coming back down Apache Couloir itself, or descending the East Ledges
. Note that the runout on Queens Way will be good much later into the season, when Apache Couloir ends abruptly at a scree field. This is also when the snow has turned harder and icier, so caution is advised.
Both of these couloirs (especially Queens Way) are skied by people who are much better than I ever was, or ever will be.
Normal hiking gear and a basic mountaineering axe, crampons, and helmet. Early in the season you may decide to leave the crampons in the pack.