PrologueMountains: N. Arapaho (13502’), S. Arapaho (13,397’) and Old Baldy (13038’)
Route: Started at the 4th of July TH, climbed Skywalker, traversed to N. Arapaho and back to S. Arapaho and over to Ol’ Baldy.
Elevation Gain - 4200’ (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 10 miles (approx)
Crew – Stephanie, Lior (until Skywalker) and Prakash
We’d had enough of Skywalker before we’d even set foot on it. Personally, I wanted to see Skywalker dead. We were snowed on and ended up with a flat tire and dead battery on our previous attempt the past weekend… hopefully this weekend would be better. A fantastic Friday afternoon’s climbing at the canyon and several metric tons of pancake, bacon, sausage and huevos later I coaxed myself into the Jeep and drove to Nederland to meet up with Steph and Lior for operation Skywalker-must-be-b!%@$-slapped. There looked to be a nice overnight freeze with warm temps and gusty winds to follow on Saturday. We went to bed early despite a reproachable drummer and three dozen screeching brats at a neighboring campfire. Steph needed to get back to Ft. Fun by 4PM and we planned on a 5AM start hoping to catch good solid snow conditions and hopefully get done fast.
The Trail and Couloir
We were up and moving at 5:15AM. Steph took off at the usual fiendish pace up the trail. It was soon time for sunhit and we managed to catch some of the early rays filtering in.
We were at the base of the couloir at 6:20AM and found one group ahead of us… one of many dozen to follow we would soon find.
We tooled up and started up the couloir a while later. The apron was a nice easy warmup run. Snow was perfect for cramponing up… just the right amount of purchase.
Lior… making the French technique work…
Up the Couloir
Lior works his way up the slope…
It was hard to keep from turning back and taking in some of the scenery in the basin behind us. This is what we live for after all…
At about 7:30AM we looked up and this was what was left.
The Rest of the Couloir
And this was what we’d come up…
Looking down Skywalker at Lior... Artistic tilt... Unintentional
I don’t carry an inclinometer, but in my humble opinion the slope angle through most of the couloir was 35467834200502.534628 degrees, um Kelvin. We were all carrying an extra tool mainly because it pleases us to play with sharp shiny objects and decided Leia might be a nice way to finish.
The couloir maxed out at 55 at the very top… my guess. It got a little icy and it was nice, not necessary though, to have that second tool out.
The Leia Finish (c) Steph
We topped out shortly before 8:30AM. The wind was blowing steadily with the occasional 30-35 mph gust... a mild aggravation.
Traverse to N. Arapaho and back to S. Arapaho
Steph and I decided to head on over to N. Arapaho while Lior who was nursing a leg injury decided to summit S. Arapaho and get back down. The traverse felt mostly 2/2+ with the occasional 3rd class move and the one 3rd Class crux wall. There’s the occasional dollop of snow on the ridge crest and Steph who had done the traverse once before in summer said the snow made it easier at some spots but harder at others.
No sooner did we embark upon the traverse when the crux wall sneaked up on us. It was a little anti-cruxtactic and was over rather too quickly. I kind of wished I had my crampons on here although blatantly unnecessary. It could have been mad fun to dry tool here and scrape some sparks out of them slabs.
Traverse 3 (c) Steph
We passed the wall and were faced with the occasional 2+/3rd class move or two in the ensuing sections of ridge.
The day was beautiful. We searched hard but couldn’t find a single wisp of cloud.
We were soon close to our first summit for the day… North Arapaho. There was one last summit pitch to be climbed.
Looking back at our traverse route…
The snow was great and we didn’t need crampons to get up this final gully. We met one person from the party that had started before us that morning coming off of the summit. It was good to meet you Mike.
We headed straight up the gully without wasting much time. It’s a beautiful feeling when your crusty old boots with the patched up bootlaces sink into perfect snow to just the right depth, without any extra expenditure of energy.
Traverse 12 (c) Steph
We got up the gully quickly and found some nice minimally exposed, optional scrambling opportunities on the East side of the ridge below the summit block.
We summitted at 9:50AM… a little over an hour from when we left the top of Skywalker. The views were enough to turn Mushmouth into freaking Wordsworth.
Nice gnarly ridge, Ja! Might be fun to give this a shot some day…
And our fearsome final opponent of the day… Old Baldy…
After 15-20 mins on summit and a few power bars we made our way off the summit block. Here’s looking down the last short chute we had ascended…
The snow was not optimal for plunge stepping down it for the most part so the following tactic was employed…
Traverse 17 © Steph
Nightmare on Old Baldy and our Descent into Hell
The traverse to S. Arapaho was pretty uneventful. We mixed it up nicely by taking a couple alternative paths to our ascent route. We summitted S. Arapaho shortly after 11, but the day was not over… We had heard of the history surrounding Old Baldy. Of the lives lost battling this cruel mountain, of fiendish exposure, of digits lost to frostbite and laryngeal linings that sloughed off and were coughed up amidst sadistic attacks by fire-breathing gargoyles, vermin and other assorted scum from Beelzebub’s lair… Lucipher stood swinging the dead atop the summit block. He was the crux move. Yep, lots of history through there.
We quickly descended down to the saddle off of S. Arapaho.
Descending off S. Arapaho
The ascent up Baldy was nerve-wracking… Sharp blades of tundra were strewn over treacherous class 1 terrain. Allergens were abundant. Minions were upon us. Disease and pooch poop lay rampant everywhere. Pestilence prevailed. Steph encouraged me to hang tough through here. It was tough though... we scrambled, climbed, stemmed, stymied, fist-jammed, jumped, dodged, hacked, plunge-stepped, scree-skied, dry-tooled, wet tooled, drooled, stooled, but the deed was finally done… we crawled on to the summit block. We wept. It was all very emotional.
Old Baldy Summit © Steph
We made our entries in the log… the ordeal was over.
A view of the Arapahos traverse was captured from Baldy…
Arapahos and Traverse from Baldy
The descent was rather uneventful. Old Baldy had instilled confidence in our minds and character in our souls... character that will come in handy on future outings. We passed Skywalker on our way out. Several groups had headed up and down it during the day. Several notched descents down it.
We were back at the trailhead at a little after 1:30PM for a round trip time of a little over 8 hours. Steph would make her concert, I would get my stretches in… we make-a-da-world-go-around.