Sunday, September 04, 2005

Apache Peak

The decision making process is far more complicated than you might imagine. Far more so than the preparation, which is by now routine. Where to go, where to go, where to go? That is the tough one.

Here are the motivators behind this weekend's choice. First, I wanted to do a bit of scrambling to prepare myself for a trip to the Crestone peaks. Second, Dalton wanted to scout game units 29 and 38 for deer. Third, I wanted to take our dog Gracie on her first hike. Fourth, it is Labor Day and gas prices are outrageous. Put all of this into your hand-held super neural net gps computer and it spits out Navajo Peak. Cool. Bonus because I had not hiked in the Indian Peaks before.

So we set off for the Long Lake trailhead at 6 AM and arrive at the trailhead by 8:30. The parking lot is already full due to the holiday, so we have to park farther down. The price of admission was a bit of a shocker: $7! Oh well, cheap as a movie and much more fun.

The hike from Long Lake to Lake Isabel is flat and easy. A good primer for Dalton who has been burned by hiking with Nick and I before. We tell him it is easy and it turns out to be a mini-epic. From Lake Isabel to the upper unnamed lake is a bit steeper, but very beautiful. You are surrounded by those awesome peaks. You pass by small waterfalls and through marshes and by big boulders.

This brought us to a decision point. To go according to Dave Cooper's "Colorado Scrambles" book (which is highly recommended by the way) you leave the main trail and head for airplane gully. I wasn't sure how tough this trail would be for Gracie and I was hesitant to burn Dalton out on his first hike with me in awhile (given his history with Nick and me.) So we decided to continue on the trail to the San Isabel Glacier.

The trail at this point becomes a much steeper class 2 pull. Gracie was huffing and puffing and Dalton was starting to get preturbed. But I finally felt like we were really hiking! As we arrived at the glacier, Dalton had had enough hiking and any farther was no place for dogs. I, however, was just getting juiced. I decided to scramble up the Apache couloir and then make a decision from there.

The approach to the couloir takes you through a maze of rocks and boulders pushed down by the glacier. Then I had to tip toe across a snow field to get to the mouth of the couloir. I think an ice axe purchase is in my future. The couloir itself is full of loose rock, but otherwise is not too scary. I clung to the right hand side of the couloir for most of the ascent.

As I reached the top of the Apache Couloir, I was filled with exhillaration. This scramble was a bit tougher than my outing on Mount Peale and a good test for me. I didn't want to leave Dalton for too long and the approach to Navajo Peak looked from here to be quite challenging and kinda far away. Plus I was thinking about the descent as well. So I decided to save it for another day and just do Apache Peak instead. The climb up from here involved no scrambling.

The climb back down the couloir looks steep and is steep, but with concentration not too technical. I even picked up some rock samples for my collection. Arriving at the snowfield, I decided a little glissading was in order. Fun all the way down!

As I returned to the glacier, I found Dalton taking a nap. We had lunch and then made the return trip to the jeep. By this time there seemed to be hundreds of people on the trail! I think 9 miles is about Gracie's limit because she was cramping and stumbling at the end.

Thus ended the first half of our day, I will post the second half: deer scouting next.

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