What can I say about Quarter to Five Peak. Every time I came to the Fourth of July Trailhead I had lofty goals. Mainly, I was aiming for South Arapahoe Peak. I reached that summit on May 25th, 2002 on snow.
Looking up at South Arapahoe Peak on May 25, 2002
I first visited this area in April and I had seen Quarter to Five Peak, hovering above the ridge. It looked interesting. A near vertical climb from its base at an 11,000 foot ridge, a trail on its left side is at a relative grade to Arapahoe Pass.
Photo from the first time I ever saw Quarter to Five Peak
In early July of 2002, I decided to take this easier, yet still scenic hike up to Quarter to Five Peak. To get there by car, I took Route 119 in Boulder, to the peak to peak highway, the glorious winding mountain road that leads to Nederland and followed the road that heads to the Fourth of July Trailhead, at just over 10,000 feet.
Unlike my May trip to South Arapahoe Peak, there wasn't much snow at all, and this was going to be a nice day. This was my only successful attempt of Quarter to Five Peak.
Successful Attempt - July 2002
I took the main trail up two miles to the 11,000 foot ridge. It was another mile to Arapahoe Pass 11,906'. I passed an old mine I had never seen before, and then started the gradual climb.
Up at Arapahoe Pass, Dorothy Lake is at the left, and Quarter to Five Peak to the right. There are three summits on Quarter to Five Peak. The highest is at 12,300 feet, about 400' above the pass. A trail
took me half way to the first summit, which is just a walk up.
The second summit required some boulder hopping, but it wasn't too difficult. I left my pack on the second summit while I geared up for the true summit, not far away. Right away, I noticed that the boulders were too big to hike the ridge line to the third summit. Instead, I skirted down to the left below the ridge. The boulders were pretty big, and it was at this time, I knew leaving my pack was a good decision.
This part of the climb was the most fun of all. It didn't require much elevation gain, but some exposure and the challenge of navigating the large boulders. The Colorado Rockies, particulary this part of Indian Peaks have particularly large boulders, as opposed to sandy slopes or smaller rocks in other mountain ranges in the West.
About 15 minutes after I left the 2nd summit, I reached the true summit.
I could tell it was the highest point on the mountain. The other summits are probably about 12,000, and 12,100, so there is a lot of relief. Despite being a weekend in early July, I was the only person on the mountain. There were lots of hikers back at Arapahoe Pass, but the 1/2 mile or so from the Pass to the Quarter to Five Peak summit I had to myself.
Failed Attempt - May 2005
In May of 2005, I was visiting Denver, Colorado for a renewable energy conference. With lots of snow still in the mountains, I decided to go back to Quarter of Five Peak. It was here that I learned a lesson that I carry with me today:
Deep Snow + Heat = Sinking = Multiple effort for each step
Even from road up to the trailhead, I could tell the snow was steep, but I was hoping it would hold strong.
Near the Trailhead
Nearing the late-morning by the time I started, the snow was not forgiving. Sinking at every step, I made it only a mile before exhaustion and frustration caused me to reverse my steps. I instead went back toward the lower part of the ridge connecting to South Arapahoe Peak. Further east, the mountains were devoid of snow almost up to 12,000 feet. This was pretty amazing since there was relatively deep snow at 9,500 feet on the road. I made it up to almost 12,000 feet when my lack of acclimatization kicked in and I retreated back to the trailhead.
Maybe I will return someday, since I enjoyed Quarter to Five Peak. 7 miles round-trip of beauty and a fun final scramble to reach the top.
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