| The Flowers of Apache Peak - the East Ledges Route
Apache Peak (13441 feet)
Indian Peaks Wilderness
Trailhead: Long Lake (10515 feet) at Brainard Lake Recreation Area
Route: East Ledges
Round-trip Distance: 11.3 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 3394 feet
Start Time: 5:45 AM
Summit TIme: ~11 AM
Finish Time: 5:18 PM
The forecast for Saturday was "clear and sunny" - a rare event during this stormy summer. My plan was to climb Mount Meeker and Longs Peak via Sandbeach Lake in Wild Basin. I reserved a backcountry site next to the lake for Friday and Saturday night. I packed my backpack on Friday afternoon and lifted it to my shoulders. I was ready to go. Everything changed in the 100 feet from my apartment to my vehicle. Simply - I realized I didn't want to carry this heavy pack 4-1/2 miles into the RMNP backcountry so I could climb a big mountain via some obscure route that required a mile of bushwacking through dense forest. Instead, I turned to Indian Peaks.
I called the RMNP Backcountry Office and canceled my reservation. I then turned to Roach's guide book on Indian Peaks and flipped through it like a deck of cards. Eenie, meenie, minie, mo...the page that it stops on nobody knows. It stopped on Apache Peak. I scanned the pages and quickly identified the East Ledges route as the most feasible for my solo adventure. With luck, the wild flowers would still be vibrant.
17 hours later, I stood beneath the towering Apache Peak. I wish I had brought my crampons.
I stood there jealously as two climbers disappeared into Queens Way Couloir. I didn't expect this much snow to still be around. Heck - I had even left my ice axe at home. A year ago, when I started on this mountaineering adventure, I swore to myself that I would never ever leave my ice axe at home. What was I thinking? So - without crampons and axe - I stuck with my plan: climb Apache Peak via the East Ledges route as shown in the guide book.
It turned out to be a great route with some tedious scree sections above the ledges. But for the most part, the talus and boulders all the way to the top were solid and stable. I took the path of least resistance going up. I turned up the difficulty on the way down as I followed a more direct path down the ledges. I don't believe I exceeded class 3 although I down-climbed three ledges facing in.
Indian Peaks continues to amaze me. Look deep into the wilderness and there is solitude, summer snow, wild flowers galore, and countless learning opportunities - all close to home. Now I'm working on a new goal: summit the seven ranked 13ers in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (excluding the two off-limits peaks). North Arapaho Peak is going to be the tough one - that traverse from South Arapaho doesn't look easy. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I'll keep having a good time on the easier peaks. Next up sometime soon: Niwot Ridge to Navajo Peak.
Warning: The trip report contains photos of airplane wreckage. If that bothers you please look no further. Thanks.
Captions on top of images.
This is my GPS track of the East Ledges route as shown in Google Earth. My ascent is shown in green, my descent in red.
This sign greets me like an old friend - I know I'm in for a good time. It's 5:45 AM.
Behind me the darkness fades to light.
The light unveils hidden gems. From left to right: Niwot Peak, Niwot Ridge, Navajo Peak, Apache Peak (the broad shouldered mountain at center of photo), and Shoshoni Peak.
A surreal moment - the trail glows in the soft light of morning.
The flowers rise into the sky trying to be stars. If only they weren't confined to a life so close to earth.
I arrive at a junction. The path on the right continues towards Apache Peak.
Flowers decorate the side of the trail like lights in a Christmas Tree.
I emerge from the trees at Lake Isabelle. Navajo Peak and Apache Peak stand tall at the rear of the valley.
I was happy to see countless bees feeding on nectar and pollen.
The twin buttresses of Shoshoni Peak stand guard to the north.
I arrive at the unnamed upper lake. From this point the route can be easy or hard - it's up to you.
I scramble up a gulley and across a boulder field reminiscent of Longs Peak. I now stand in the basin beneath Navajo and Apache Peaks. Navajo Peak, Navajo Snowfield, Apache's East Ledges, and Apache Coulior are visible here (from left to right).
Apache's East Ledges. Get creative.
I follow the path of least resistance on the ascent. I took a more difficult and more enjoyable line on the way down.
The ledges can be used as ramps for an easy ascent of the mountain. Turn up the fun factor by climbing the more difficult pitches. I followed the grassy ramp up. Now, after reviewing the photo, I could have taken the staircase at center-right of photo.
Wildflowers grace the ledges.
Halfway up the peak the trail turns into scree with some solid sections.
I gain the broad shoulder of Apache Peak. Apache's twin south summits crown the far end of the shoulder. Navajo Peak stands on left, North Arapaho Peak stands further back on the right.
The summit of Apache Peak. Longs Peak in distance.
The view into the Lone Eagle Cirque. Triangle Lake is below, Mirror Lake is further back in the trees. The pointy summit of Lone Eagle Peak is visible above Triangle Lake, near the top-left of the photo.
Longs Peak and Mount Meeker dominate the view north.
Looking towards the northwest, Iroquois Peak is in the foreground. Mount Achonee is at rear. Granby Lake is in the distance.
Looking towards the south, North Arapaho Peak dominates the view. To the right of North Arapaho are Jasper Peak and Mount Neva.
The view towards the east as I begin my descent from the summit. Lake Isabelle and Long Lake are in the distant valley. The fun-looking Niwot Ridge is on the right. Niwot Ridge will be my route for Navajo Peak sometime in the near future.
Wildflowers on the descent.
I made things more interesting on the descent. I down-climb the ledges instead of walking the ramps.
I down-climb this section.
Traverse across a steep slab.
I follow this crack down while wishing I followed this fun route going up.
I walk across this narrow ledge to the slab below.
I traverse the slab by hugging the wall on the right.
I walk across this grassy ledge and then descend the staircase below.
My crux for the day: two six-foot ledges. Whew - never done this before. Well - at least not since childhood.
With the ledges behind me I give a sigh of relief. That was a blast!
The last ledge drops me into the center of a snow slope. Using a silly trekking pole, I glissade slowly and with great caution down the hard snow slope.
I walk to the base of Airplane Gulley and find remains of the crashed aircraft.
The day was a hot and bright - I am sun baked. I cool off in this cascade beside the trail.
A stroll past Lake Isabelle on my way down the mountain.
A flower shines brightly in this amazing wilderness called Indian Peaks.