Rough on the Legs, Euphoric for the Soul
South to North Arapaho Peak Traverse
13,397ft. and 13,502ft.
8.3 miles roundtrip; 3,600ft. Elevation gain
3rd & 4th Class Rock Scramble (Solo!)
My wife had bought me Dave Cooper’s guidebook, “Colorado Scrambles” many moons ago and I had yet to get my feet wet and try on of the routes. I decided on the Arapaho’s via the Skywalker Couloir. Yet I slept in Saturday morning until 6am instead of awaking at the scheduled 3:30am – The couloir would have to be climbed another time due to my late start. I wasn’t that bummed as rock climbing is my true love anyhow.
I parked at the TH roughly 8.5 miles from Nederland and hiked as quickly as I could down the trail. The trail has two intersections, each time you follow the signage taking the right turn option. After two hours of steady hiking I was at the 12,700ft. saddle between S. Arapahoe and Point 13,038ft. (See view below)
I strapped on my helmet which didn’t prove to be necessary until halfway through the traverse…I looked like a dork for naught! Can’t be too careful, right? On the summit of South Arapahoe you get to preview conditions on the traverse. It didn’t look too bad at all and my main concern shifted too out climbing the impending storm clouds.
As I departed S. Arapaho’s summit to begin the traverse I foolishly banged my shin against a boulder. My skinny leg experienced a rock against bone banging; for a moment it hurt so badly I thought I had broken my leg! I used ice from atop the ridge to num my three inch long, bleeding wound and tried to walk on it. It hurt like hell but wasn’t crippling enough to stop me from attempting the traverse. I continued down the ridge with a slight limp, promising myself to keep my shins off of the rock.
I reached the crux of the route that Mr. Cooper describes in his guidebook, “Colorado Scrambles". I feel that whether or not this section is Class 4 would depend on the climber you asked. My photo above makes it look harder than it actually was. The exposure in this section will make you slow down a little and take your time, as I did.
Once past this section I thought it was all in the bag. Patches of snow made me go off route and created some tricky detours. This route will be a lot easier in a week or two once the dwindling snow disappears. As I navigated the ridge, I closed in on the prize…N. Arapaho.
Due to the building weather I didn’t spend more than ten minutes on the summit. I reminded myself that most accidents happen on the descent and carefully traversed the ridge back to S. Arapaho. Once back on S. Arapaho’s summit the climb was practically in the bag. The good trail provided a speedy descent.