| Audubon to Paiute Traverse via SE Ridge
Peak: Mt. Audubon (13,223') and Paiute Peak (13,088')
Date: Saturday, July 12, 2008
Team: ajkagy (Adam), krz2fer (Chris), Ryan (krz2fer's brother)
Route: Mitchell Lake Trailhead, SE Ridge
Roundtrip: ~7 miles
We had originally decided to hit Lone Eagle Peak this weekend, but Adam banged his toe pretty bad the week prior and was battling some wicked swelling, so we decided to opt for a cool day trek versus the overnight hike into Lone Eagle. Adam noted the SE ridge route up to Audubon and the traverse over to Paiute. Looked pretty sweet.
The SE ridge of Audubon; note the notch which is the crux of the route.
Summitpost had a couple trip reports, but they were pretty vague on information, and I guess you never really - really - know what you are in store for until you get there. We gathered as much info as possible and arrived at the trailhead at roughly 5:30a once we paid the sweet $8 fee. Excited, we ripped up the Audubon standard trail instead of the Mitchell Lake trail, which is at the other end of the parking lot. Oops. We realized our snafu about a half mile in which wasn't a big deal.
Instead of going around Mitchell Lake we ended up gaining the ridge a bit earlier, cutting off from the Audubon trail.
Scrambling across the boulder area up the ridge wasn't a big deal, although loose rocks were hidden here and there that came as a surprise now and then.
We made a b-line for the saddle up the slope.
Once we gained the saddle, a little more route finding was necessary to get to the starting position. Here we grabbed a snack before taking off up the ridge. It began like the Kelso route, with some fun class 3 scrambling pretty consistently. As we continued up it definitely became apparent that this was a step up from the Kelso route in a good way.
Generally speaking we stayed on the ridge proper and felt out the best direction to take if a wall presented itself. And we went right up most of them to keep things really exciting. Exposure was quite apparent on this ridge, more so than Kelso as well (I think this is the best reference for the majority).
A sense of the exposure at times.
We reached the notch (crux) and our stomachs fluttered for a second as we peered over at the airiness below, wondering how we'd tackle it. We didn't get the gist of this section from the Summitpost reports so we down climbed to the right and executed a tricky class 4 maneuver. As Adam coined it, "This is a no fall zone." Definitely true.
The crux move down into the notch base before the climb back up to finish the SE ridge.
Looking back to the notch and the down climb section.
Once atop the main ridge section, it's a bit of a slog to the summit. Nothing too difficult, but a false summit rerun after another. We all plugged into our ipods and found a tune to jam to and reached the summit after about 30 minutes of elevation gaining.
Ryan and Adam on Audubon's summit. Reached at roughly 9:30a.
We had been taking our time with breaks and the summit was no exception. After some food and a solid rest we headed off to Paiute. To our surprise we noted how much elevation was lost on the traverse, something we underestimated at first. Overall the traverse is pretty tame, with a few sections that probably get into class 3 territory with some exposure, but ultimately nothing too bad.
Heading towards Paiute from Audubon.
We plugged in once again and keep pushing on up. We reached the summit relatively quickly and enjoyed another extended break. It was a great day out; a little chilly but clear skies. The views were great around us.
Looking towards our scrapped weekend plans - Long Eagle. Can you spot it?
More people atop Audubon. The traverse we had just completed.
Route finding off of Paiute is interesting since there is no established trail and there was still a fair amount of snow hanging around. We opted to scramble down a few rock ledges and swing a right down a brutal rock and dirt run out. Some of the most rotten slope conditions I've encountered, but overall a quick way down (since half the time we were sliding). The path turned into a nice tundra patch for a while, which was a nice break.
Looking back up the route off Paiute's summit ridge.
Mt. Toll looking epic. Many skiers and boarders enjoying the slopes.
And Blue Lake was amazing.
We made it back to the parking lot via the Blue Lake trail and all decided that it felt more than 7 miles. Perhaps it was the multitude of mixed terrain, or the constant elevation gains and loss, but our legs were a bit tuckered at the end of the day - right about 2:30p. We did take our time though and thoroughly enjoyed a great day out in the mountains.
Final thoughts - (1) The ridge is more exciting and difficult than Kelso Ridge. I think it's a nice step up for anyone wanting to go that route. Start early since an exit route is essentially impossible down either side of the ridge if storms come in; a lot of cliff bands and bad rock on the slopes. (2) Go slow down the slope off of Paiute's summit. It's like a mini-quicksand slide with each step, so be careful. (3) Take in the sights the entire way. It's gorgeous:
Many tundra plants in full bloom. Amazing.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):