| Shadowplay - Autumn in Indian Peaks
Old Baldy (ranked, 13,038 ft.)
Indian Peaks Wilderness, Arapaho National Forest
I had 6 hours free on a snowy Saturday afternoon. Hmm - what to do? How about climb a mountain!
It was snowing in the town of Boulder so it could be really fun or scary nasty in the nearby Indian Peaks. A quick review of Summitpost and Roach's IPW Guide told me what I needed. Old Baldy - the easiest of Indian Peaks 13ers - was my goal. I would drive past Eldora, hike to the Fourth of July mine, turn towards the glacier, hike up to the saddle with South Arapaho Peak, and then take the path of least resistance to the summit of Old Baldy. There has been a documented avalanche death on these slopes but the slide occurred off-trail. Being solo, I planned to play it conservatively and stick mostly to the well-beaten trail. Once I got there, I realized avy danger would be the least of my worries. The constant 30 mph wind with higher gusts would be the day's biggest challenge.
The drive up the canyon was harrowing. The road was slick - some people drive way too fast and some drive much too slow. I like to think myself somewhere in between, but today didn't matter. I wasn't moving an faster than the slow guy that was twenty vehicles ahead. I rounded the final curve on the road and Nederland came into view. The storm clouds parted and the sky above the town was blue. I had my window of opportunity...
Hike Distance: 7.68 miles
Hike Elevation Gain: approx 2,900 feet
Captions on top of photos.
The Fourth of July Road.
The Fourth of July Trailhead. My destination: Arapaho Glacier Trail - 2 miles. I start the hike at 1:05 PM.
The trail rises through the Middle Boulder Creek drainage.
Snow covers the shady sections.
Jasper Peak and Mount Neva come into view.
Life is in a time of transition.
The striking east face of Jasper Peak's northeast ridge appears through the trees.
After two miles of easy trail I arrive at the upper flats and the Fourth of July mine.
There is some ice on the trail.
At the sign I turn right.
The Fourth of July Mine rests at the base of South Arapaho Peak.
The climb starts in earnest at the mine. I find a few cairns to start me on the way.
And soon the cairns give way to deep and soft snow. I sink to my knees.
The Skywalker Couloir on South Arapaho Peak.
After some minor thrashing I get through the willows and locate the trail. The trail climbs gradually up the south slope of Old Baldy. The snow is ankle to shin deep.
The view behind me is spectacular. The tallest peak on the left is Jasper Peak, near the center is Mount Neva, and on the right is Arapaho Pass. The trail to the pass is snow covered but visible.
A spider struggles to survive in the harsh conditions.
A giant cairn marks a switchback. Old Baldy comes into clear view.
The Middle Boulder Creek valley spreads out below. The runs at Eldora are visible on a distant ridge.
The south slope of Old Baldy.
Alpine plants frozen in ice.
South Arapaho Peak looms to my left. The fast-moving clouds put on a natural light show with striking shadows. It was an absolutely beautiful day to be up high.
The wind was howling. I estimate a constant 30 mph with gusts considerably higher than that.
I arrive at the summit of Old Baldy . It's looks tranquil but it's not. The wind is ripping. I remove my glove for a minute and my fingers start to burn terribly.
The GPS - my data collector for the trip. Just over 4 miles to the Old Baldy summit from the trailhead - 2 hours of hiking and 1.3 hours for taking photos and eating.
To the west, North and South Arapaho Peaks frame the Arapaho Glacier.
To the north is the North Boulder Creek drainage and the Boulder Watershed. In the distance in Longs Peak and Mount Meeker.
It's 4:30 PM, time to start down. I follow my ascent route back down the South Slope of Old Baldy.
Menacing clouds guard South Arapaho Peak.
The shadow and light show is fantastic.
I arrive back at the Fourth July Mine just 45 minutes after departing the Old Baldy summit. An unknown peak towers above the mine.
Regrettably, I picked the most direct path to the flats and started postholing to my knees.
It took a bit of work to get out of the snowy willows. Once on the trail it was quick hiking back to my vehicle, arriving at 6 PM. The clouds, the wind, the sun, the shadows, blue sky, and the warm colors of autumn created a sublime autumn hike that was short but beautiful.