| Arapaho Traverse for our 10th wed anniv
South Arapaho Peak (13,397')
North Arapaho Peak (13,502')
About 8.3 miles round trip (about .7 between the two peaks)
About 3,600 feet of gain, in total.
This route is rated Class 3, but I'm sure we did at least a couple low Class 4 moves here and there.
To celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, we decided to do the Arapaho traverse. Even though this climb was on our "B" list, Jen has wanted to do it for many years. I've been wanting to do it since reading Roozers42's trip report last summer.
Because this climb requires you to be above tree line and on an exposed ridge for quite some time, we wanted to get an early start so that we'd have a better chance of avoiding any afternoon thunderstorms.
We had hoped to be on the trail by 5 a.m., but we had to settle for 5:40.
With my brain still partially sleeping and some rarely-used muscles aching from the previous day's yardwork, we started up the trail under a clear sky with a pleasant temp (about 40 degrees). The trail was completely snow-free, though it was wet like a rainforest in some places.
The sound of waterfalls emanating from the valley was omnipresent.
Here was one particularly beautiful waterfall across the valley, with an alpenglow-splashed peak in the background:
Wildflowers were bountiful. These columbines were hungry for the rising sun:
We only came across one other hiker (who was heading up to the Arapaho Pass area) near the Fourth of July Mine. From there, we could see a few climbers prepping to do Skywalker (in the following pic, you can barely see one guy at the base)..
It was shaping up to be a beautiful day (no clouds; rich blue sky; nice temps; only a light breeze) and we were both feeling pretty good (albeit tired). By the time we made it to the base of South Arapaho, I felt like we had a good chance at the traverse.
South Arapaho (left) and North Arapaho (right):
North Arapaho looked "so close" ... yet most people require at least an hour to get from South to North (and another hour back).
At 8:10 a.m. we gained the summit of South Arapaho. Even though we climbed South Arapaho Peak a year earlier, the views still felt new and fresh. It sure is a beautiful area.
Looking down toward Arapaho Glacier:
Indian Peaks Wilderness, with Longs Peak in the distance:
After hanging out and resting for about 10 minutes, we started the traverse to North Arapaho Peak. The first quarter-mile or so was pretty easy and straightforward.
Here are a couple photos stitched together, taken from South Arapaho:
Both of us must have been hydrating really well because it seemed like we peed every five minutes. Don't worry, Boulderites, I didn't pee into your water supply on the Arapaho Glacier side.
I had read about some orange painted arrows designating the route, but we only noticed two of them (on the entire traverse) and they were pretty worn away. They were also the exact same color as some of the lichen (most of the lichen was green, but there was some orange as well), so they were hard to spot. We also noticed a few cairns here and there. Aside from those occasional markers, we ended up doing most of the routefinding ourselves.
The crux of the route, according to most, is a slab of rock you have to climb along the ridge. It's a little awkward, but it does have some nice cracks and it's not that exposed.
Here's a photo of Jen approaching the base of the crux:
Here we are on the slab (photo of Jen taken on the descent; photo of me taken on the ascent):
Beyond that crux, there seemed to be a few more cruxes (or cruces, if you prefer). I know that contradicts the term, as there can really only be one "crux," but I thought there were at least a couple other sections that were just as challenging, if not more so.
Here's Jen (bottom) with more of the ridge before us:
At times, we didn't think we were taking the easiest way, but when we were in doubt, we just stayed high on or near the ridge crest.
I can't remember the order of the obstacles we overcame (so don't hold me to this), but at one point we did cross a rather exposed and airy section of rock. It wasn't too narrow and the rock was solid, but it still woke me up as it demanded attention.
At another point along the ridge, we cliffed out, where a small overhanging ledge stopped our progress. Turning to our left, we easily found some slabs to down climb. Beyond that, there was one particularly steep and loose gully to traverse, and it kind of reminded me of South Maroon.
Eventually, we ended up on the final gully (facing the Arapaho Glacier), which isn't far from the broad summit area. Even though this is the standard way, I didn't trust the large boulders in this chute, especially this time of year when a lot of rocks are sliding and shifting. Thus, we quickly zipped up this section and soon found ourselves on the summit at 9:10 a.m. (It ended up taking us about 50 minutes to get from South to North ... and another 50 back.)
North Arapaho's summit is rather flat and large, and on its southeast side, vertical cliffs drop steeply to the glacier below. The views from up there were striking – Winter Park to the southwest, Grand Lake to the northwest, IPW and Longs to the north ...
After enjoying the summit to ourselves, we started our reverse route back to South Arapaho at about 9:20 a.m. This is about the time when we saw a solo climber making the summit. As we descended the gully, he passed us and cruised on down the ridge.
On our way back, we more or less retraced our steps.
Here's a shot of the route back to South Arapaho; Jen is at the bottom of the photo and the other climber is ahead of us, circled in red:
Some of the climbs on the return were just as interesting as they were on the way up.
Here's Jen climbing some cracky slabs:
Remember that exposed section I mentioned earlier? Here are some shots of it on the return ...
In this one, you can see the climber ahead of us crossing the exposed part:
Here's a close-up shot of Jen fearlessly crossing the "catwalk":
Our remaining route before us (the solo climber can be seen on the ridge):
I think this where we descended about 50 feet or so down a loose gully to bypass a gendarme on the ridge:
As we neared the top of South Arapaho, just after 10 a.m., a fighter jet ripped through the sky at a low altitude.
I managed to quickly snap this pic of the jet with South Arapaho in the foreground (even though it looks small in the photo, the jet flew by pretty damn close!):
Beyond South Arapaho's summit, the hike back down to the Fourth of July Trailhead was pretty straightforward. I remember it being particularly hot and crowded.
We made it back to the parking lot a few minutes after noon and found the lot to be completely full. It was overflowing, actually, as cars lined the narrow road for miles – many of which were illegally parked. It was unbelievable how many people were up there. I doubt we'll be going back to that area anytime soon, or at least during the popular summer months. Way too packed!
In Nederland, we mealed on some savory beef brisket and drank some tasty beers (Hop Diggity IPA and Stone Smoked Porter) at Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery. Great post-hike place, BTW.
Overall, it was a fantastic climb. We couldn't have asked for better weather, I couldn't have asked for a better climbing partner (and life partner), and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):