Tour of Navajo and Apache

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 40.05469°N / 105.64891°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 11, 2010
Activities Activities: Scrambling
Seasons Season: Fall


Peaks Hiked:
Navajo Peak - 13,409'
Apache Peak - 13,441'

Peaks Looked At:
Dicker's Peck - 13,140'

Mileage: about 10 miles

Elevation Gain: around 3,400'

Routes Used:
Airplane Gully - Class 3
West Chimney - Class 4
South Ridge - Class 3
East Ledges - Class 3

A Failed Attempt

Two weeks earlier I was high in airplane gully planning to climb Navajo, Dicker's Peck and Apache. Long story short, we had a slight incident just below the top of Niwot Ridge and were forced to make a hasty retreat. After a long/stressful day I quickly found myself making plans for a return trip to complete the route.

Airplane Gully
Airplane Gully

Try, Try Again

I was soon able to convince one of my regular climbing buddies to retrace the route with me. We were also joined by a 14ers member, Chuck (ulvetano). With a nice forecast for 50+ degrees up high and slight winds only gusting up to 30 mph we set out loaded with hiking and climbing gear from the Long Lake TH.

It quickly became apparent that the nice forecast and the awesome warm weather of last weekend is quickly giving way to fall. A freezing wind was coming down from the upper cirque chilling the 30 degree air into the teens. It's been a while since I've been so happy to be in the sun! As we passed the upper lakes and streams we noticed they were covered in thin ice. It took some care to cross the upper stream above the final lake due to a nice layer of ice on the rocks.

Navajo to Apache
Navajo to Apache

The alpine tundra is quickly changing colors and is ahead of the trees below. The air was also getting colder as we moved up below airplane gully. We took a short break right at the shadow line and enjoyed the sun before plunging into the cold of airplane gully. Our thermometer was reading just below 30F in the sun.

Navajo to ApacheChilly below airplane gully.
Navajo to ApacheShady route.

Navajo - My 100th Summit

As we entered the shade of airplane gully the cold became our motivation. We pushed quickly up as the wind funneled down the gully. My hands felt colder than they have since last winter! This route gets a bad rap of being terribly loose but it is not bad if you choose carefully. You can follow the gully straight up to the ridge but we took the shorter line right past the airplane crash. We hit the sun right at the plane and stopped for some quick photos. It is strange to see the wreckage and even stranger that it's been there about 60 years.

Navajo to ApacheAlmost in the sun!
Navajo to ApachePretty sad.

Wanting to get past my last turn around point, we moved up to the ridge and were happy to find that Navajo was blocking the wind. The ridge up to the summit was easy hiking until the summit cap. We chose to ascend a narrow chimney on climber's right (class 3+?) and quickly topped out.

Navajo to ApacheHappy to find shelter from the wind!
Navajo to ApacheCool pinkish birds. This was the best photo I could get.
Navajo to Apache
Navajo to Apache
Navajo to ApacheForbidden fruit...
Navajo to ApacheOptional chimney.
Navajo to ApacheScrambling at last!
Navajo to ApacheEnjoying the last break from the wind for the day.
Navajo to ApacheMy 100th summit!

Traverse to Apache

After chilling (literally) on the summit for a while we started scoping out how to get down the other side of Navajo. I decided to add another layer to help battle the shade and wind waiting us on the other side and was so glad I did. It was freezing down there!

Navajo to ApacheDropping into the shade.
Navajo to ApacheAngling below the summit cliff towards the top of the west chimney.

It is a little intimidating going down towards the west chimney because of Navajo's summit cliffs and the steep crumbly gullies. We knew we were aiming for the northern-most of the gullies and soon found our way to the top of it. The west chimney would be pretty simple going up but was an attention-grabber climbing down. It drops quickly and steeply and the rock is not always trustworthy. With some care we managed to move down without any issues and found ourselves by Dicker's Peck.

Navajo to ApacheSteep and cold.
Navajo to ApacheChuck is below the 4th class step and Mark is just at the step.
Navajo to ApacheFurther down the chimney.
Navajo to ApacheA good view of the route.

We had planned on climbing Dicker's Peck and had carried all the gear up with us. Standing in the cold, shade and wind about 50 feet from the warmth of the sun was depressing. It was going to be a finger-freezer for sure and after staring up for a while I simply could not bring myself to lead it. The Peck would have to wait for next time and a warmer day. Tired of the cold, we pushed up onto the south ridge of Apache and into the sun.

Navajo to ApacheLooking back at Dicker's Peck from the sun. Next time!

After a few moves of class 3 the ridge easy to a simple stroll up onto Apache's summit. The wind was still chilling the air and kept us moving and we quickly topped out.

Navajo to ApacheRidge to the summit with RMNP in the background.
Navajo to ApacheHiding from the wind on Apache's summit.

Down and Out!

The views from Apache are excellent. It is the 2nd highest peak in the IPW and has great views in all directions. We took a short rest, a few photos and headed down towards the east ledges hoping to miss the wind.

Navajo to ApacheLone Eagle.
Navajo to ApacheStarting down the east ledges.

The east ledges is very straight forward. The upper slopes are loose but are easy to walk down. Angling down and right we moved through the rock bands without troubles. Below the bands, we aimed for the meadow below airplane gully and it worked very well.

Navajo to ApacheClimbers on Navajo.
Navajo to ApacheWalrus!
Navajo to ApacheMore wreckage below airplane gully.
Navajo to Apache
Navajo to ApacheLooking back up the east ledges.
Navajo to ApacheKasparov Traverse I think.
Navajo to ApacheLast loose slope back to the trail.
Navajo to ApacheFall in the Indian Peaks.

Glad to be back on the trail we quickly booked it to the car. Considering it was a Sat. in the IPW the trails were fairly open until the last 2 miles. It was a great day and a good wake up to the upcoming colder weather. I'm loving the Indian Peaks more every time I get in there!

Navajo to ApacheLooking back from the upper lake.


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