Saturday, August 05, 2006

North Arapahoe Peak to South Arapahoe Peak

I should have gone with my friend Brian to the Mt. Harvard to Mt. Columbia traverse. It is a scramble that I am keen to complete. However I haven't spent enough time at home lately, so I decided to find something closer.

I decided to head back to the 4th of July Trailhead like my trip to Mt. Neva. This time I would head up the Arapahoe Glacier trail instead of Araphoe Pass. More specifically to do the scramble from North Arapahoe Peak to South Arapahoe Peak.

After a couple of switchbacks on this trail, it takes a long eastwardly stretch which had me worried that I would miss the point where I should head straight for North Arapahoe Peak. Stupid me, I left the Scrambles guide book in the damn truck. So I was unsure of my path. I decided to hike across the grassy slope and head straight for the peak. The grassy slope turned out to be not so easy. It was riddled with rocks and ruts unseen from a distance.

The final approach to North Arapahoe Peak can be made into a nice scramble if you try. Once at the top, look for the direction dial that points out all the peaks you can see from this lofty point. From here your path is clear, the ridge is quite obvious.

The first part of the ridge is easy hiking, route finding, and scrambling. The fun begins! Slowly as you progress the scrambling gets more focused. The crux of the entire ridge comes fairly soon. Check out this picture (notice the painted arrows.) You have to face climb this short section, but it looks a bit harder than it is.

The next crux is a downclimb that can be bypassed via the cairns, but what would be the fun in that? The guide says that some people rappel this section and I can see why, but I wouldn't. It did take me some time to route find my way down. Check it out in the second picture above.

The final piece worth mentioning is the start of the ascent of South Arapahoe Peak. Route finding here is aided by cairns, but they are hard to spot at times. The key is to cross the ridge into the next gulley fairly soon as you climb. Then you will come to a fun chock stone shown in this picture. Once around this it is an easy hike to the large cairn at the top of South Arapahoe.

I had promised Michelle I would be back home by 1 PM and I was seriously behind schedule at this point. It was about 11 AM. Can you make it back in two hours? No. At least I can't. I tried to pick up my pace on the return trip across the ridge which added an extra element to the fun.

As I approached North Arapahoe I was blindly following cairns thinking they were leading me around the peak. I lost the trail at some point because I soon found myself back in Class 3 territory descending the south face. There are many cliffs thru here so I tried to continue traversing east. It added some adventure to the end of the day for sure. There is a lot of loose rock here because nobody goes this way.

I finally made it to the steep grassy slopes and a quick descent to the trail. This scramble is very fun and highly recommended. Check out this picture of the entire ridge. It is not as intense as Mt. Neva, but still offers some fair exposure. Next up is a trip to Sections 24 and 25 on the Colorado Trail.