Peak(s):  Paiute Pk  -  13,088 feet
Post Date:  08/07/2010
Modified:  07/14/2015
Date Climbed:   08/07/2010
Posted By:  kimo

 On the Nature of Daylight: Paiute Peak, Indian Peaks Wilderness   

Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

- James Wright, in A Blessing

On the Nature of Daylight - Paiute Peak, Indian Peaks Wilderness

Summit name, elevation: Paiute Peak, 13088 ft.
Trailhead name, elevation: Mitchell Lake, 10525 ft.
Route: Southeast gully
Distance: Approximately 9 miles roundtrip
Hike Date: August 7, 2010

I've enjoyed the last four weekends in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and I've only scratched the surface of possibility in this great wilderness. Combined with the Park, I feel lucky to have the fortune to live so close to this very special place. So here goes another sublime adventure in Indian Peaks, this time up 13er Paiute Peak. I purchased a Tamron macro lens for my Nikon a few days before this trip. I was excited to practice with it. The photos are straight from the camera - no edits. Captions on top of photos.

I walk through a grey forest. It's six a.m. Behind me are many others - chatting, laughing, preparing - in a parking lot that will be filled with cars by eight o'clock. I splash through deep puddles - the ground is saturated by recent rains. I am satisfied that I am the first person to walk this trail since last night came and went. I am the first of what will surely be hundreds of visitors today. I smile back at the rested forest. Above, the east ridge of Pawnee receives the day's first light.

The still forest suddenly quakes. Phantom elk bolt through the shadows. I hear and feel them - they seem close enough to touch - but I do not see them.

The flowers slowly emerge from the darkness. They strive to be seen as stars in the day.

The sun sets the stage.

And the forest breaks into a symphony of color.

John Lennon celebrated, "Yeah we all shine on like the moon, and the stars, and the sun."

Shine on.

It's not long and I arrive at Mitchell Lake. Mount Audubon's massive southern flanks rise high above the trees.

The disciples of daylight.

I approach Blue Lake. Paiute Peak emerges from shadow.

Blue Lake is crowned by the impressive east face of Mount Toll. Paiute Peak is taller, but more shy and reserved.

I follow the primitive trail around the north shore of Blue Lake.

The elegant Indian Paintbrush.

The ubiquitous Aspen Daisy.

The trail comes to an end not far past Blue Lake. I hike a half mile across talus and boulders towards the base of Paiute Peak.

There seem to be as many flowers as there are stars in the dark sky.

An Aspen Daisy.

These are known as King's Crown.

Purple Fringe Flowers.

The angle steepens as I ascend the talus slope. The rock is solid and progress is easy. Mount Toll towers on my left.

The rocky slope is graced with splashes of color. Here are more Aspen Daisies.

And the comparitively rare Columbine makes a welcome appearance.

After hiking stable talus I reach the upper basin. Mount Toll is in the foreground. The rotund summit of Pawnee Peak is behind.

From here, the easiest route to the summit of Paiute Peak is a straight climb up the gully on the left (crowned with the snowfield at top). At photo center, the class 3 ledges look like a lot of fun. I'm alone and decide to be cautious - I ascend the conservative gully route.

The gully is filled with unpleasant scree. I scramble up more stable rock along the right side of the gully.

I make great ascent time and stop for only a few pictures. This the view towards Blue Lake and the east ridge of Pawnee (Little Pawnee).

Although no one is above me, I don't enjoy hanging out in loose gullies. I quickly turn to my left and snap a pic of Mount Toll. Beyond the near ridge and across the Lone Eagle Cirque are the peaks of Iroquois and Hopi.

Soon I'm at the top of the gully. From here it's an easy hike to the summit of Paiute Peak.

The scree turns to talus. The summit block appears.

Signs of life, shine on.

Purple mountain majesties.

I approach the summit of Paiute. To the east is the ridge connecting to Mount Audubon. There is a group of hikers on the ridge approaching Paiute. Over the past two years I have summited nine peaks over 12K ft. in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Remarkably, for being so close to Denver, this is the first summit I will share with strangers.

This is the summit of Paiute Peak. Longs Peak and the mountains surrounding Wild Basin fill the northern horizon.

A close-up of Longs south face. The south ridge of Mount Meeker perked my curiosity - I might have to try that sometime.

I turn towards the south. The view in this direction is arresting. From front to back are Mount Toll, Pawnee Peak, Shoshoni Peak, massive Apache Peak (broad shoulder, dual summits), the unique summit block of Navajo Peak, shy Arikaree Peak, the dark north face of North Arapaho Peak, sun-drenched South Arapaho Peak, and far in the distance, the Mount Evans massif.

I turn towards the southwest. The view in this direction is my favorite of them all. The peaks of Apache, Iroquois, Hopi, and Lone Eagle are joined by jagged ridgelines and spires.

This photo of Hopi (on left) and Mount Achonee (on right) provided great beta to me. Six days later, I backpacked into the Lone Eagle Cirque and bushwacked up a grassy ramp (near center of photo) to the scree-filled gulley that intersects the ridge between the two peaks. I realized great satisfaction in doing my own recon prior to attempting the obscure route.

The rugged west face and summit of Paiute Peak is seen. I took this photo from the top of Hopi on August 13.

Paiute Peak has two summits of nearly the same elevation. The twin summits are separated by a short, blunt knife-edge ridge. I visited both summits.

This is the view down to the north while crossing Paiute's summit ridge.

Satisfied with my time on the summit, I carefully descend from Paiute. The view to the south is spectacular.

I pass vibrant wildflowers on my way down.

Many hikers are taking advantage of today's beautiful weather.

I take an hour and savor this sublime moment.

I hike down to the wetlands surrounding Little Blue Lake. I turn and give thanks to Paiute Peak for safe passage.

I enjoy the afternoon in the upper basin, taking photos using my new macro lens.

These flowers are called Queen's Crown.

The Tamron lens is reknowned for the quality of its bokeh (out-of-focus blur). Creamy is a good word.

Imagine a world without bees. I can't.

This little guy was dedicated to a single Queen's Crown. I enjoyed his persistence.

Shine on little man.

Aspen Daisies - or maybe asters?

The elegant Arctic Gentian.

Purple streaks swirl like mixed paints.

The sweetest pollen.

In search of nectar.

Where little things reign.

The anatomy of an open flower.

The Elephant Flower.

Beautiful Columbines.

The stars of the day - a galaxy turned upside down and at my feet.

A Painted Lady at work.

I stop and admire the show. And then I keep walking. It's nearly four p.m. Time for a beer.

Shine on.


  • Comments or Questions

The little things...     08/18/2010 04:35
I often find I get so consumed with the sweeping views of peaks and ridges that I completely overlook the tiny details right under my feet. Your photos are an excellent reminder to stop and look down every once in a while! Thanks for posting a really exceptional report that showcases both the big and little things equally well.


Thanks!     08/18/2010 04:53
This really, really helped.
I've been thinking about combining Audubon and Paiute for a small cirque, and your photos provided some good beta of the area.

Brian C

Love your photos!     08/23/2010 14:48
As always, your photos are wonderful. Thanks for sharing. That is a very fun route with great views.


outstanding     08/18/2010 12:57
Very nice report & photos.


Awesome!     01/05/2011 17:27
Now i have to go there and climb Paiute by myself?

Excellent as always!


Shine on!     08/18/2010 15:05
I read this TR last night right before bed and was speechless - didn't know what words would match the beauty of what you show us in text and photo!
This is stunning. My eyes don't even work as well as your lens!
I could sit and stare at these flowers and bees, but I wouldn't see the detail your lens provides.
Thanks for taking us along your journey!
Move over, John Fielder!!
And I had John Lennon playing in my head last night and again now - not a bad song to get stuck in my head...


Macro FTW!     08/18/2010 15:09
Wow, this is beautiful. Thanks for posting all these great pictures, you have a great way with words. I really need a macro lens for my camera! Bravo Kimo!


Transcending the trip report     08/18/2010 16:17
Kimo, there's really no one else who can put my feet virtually on the trail in the IPW like you do. It's like I can smell the pine, hear the streams and feel the breeze on my face and the rock under my feet when I'm looking at these images.


Wow     08/18/2010 16:21
Each time you put out a report, it becomes a new favorite of mine. This one is no exception. Fantastic photos, Kimo.

Sen, I'll go with you! Although I wonder if these photos are even better than seeing it with my own eyes.



Macro     08/18/2010 17:43
Yes, I need a macro lens now too for my tiny camera. Though your photos make me want to carry my 7lbs of DSLR around again, just so I have all the lenses.

Awesome photos! The Arctic Gentian is my fav


Awesome Photography     08/18/2010 20:02
All I can say is wow. Looks like you had a great day of solitude in a beautiful area and had a ton to show for it, including the summit of course . Nice work!


Just like an addict ...     08/18/2010 20:24
I was WAY overdue for my ”Kimo fix”. 8) Wow ... so many stellar photos and wonderful captions:

- A galaxy turned upside down and at my feet. (How do you come up with that?!??! ... it really does capture the moment.)

- Purple streaks swirl like mixed paint ... your words are as much like the effects of paint as your photos.

- Shine on little man ... yes, indeed, shine on.

- It's time for a beer. Well, that's exactly what I was thinking after that trip report (errr ... or maybe, it was ”it's time for a cigarette” if you know what I mean ).

Keep it up, my friend. Happy trails!


Many thanks...     08/20/2010 06:23
wooderson - It feels good to open wide and let the big blue sky flow in like an intoxicating elixir. And then when that's not enough, those peaks and ridges over there are our Opium Den Express. It's hard to resist going for the ride. But sometimes a stumble and fall is good for us, at least when the fall is on to a blanket of flowers. I'm glad you enjoyed the report. Thanks for your nice comment.

Emma - The Audubon/Paiute ridge makes a fun and varied route that is very manageable in a day. I suggest going up Paiute and crossing over to Audubon and taking the trail down. Blue Lake is an amazing place to see when the sun first rises. I'm happy that you found the report useful. Enjoy your travels!

saxmotor - Thanks for the comment. I've enjoyed your reports too. Just the other day I was reading your Little Matterhorn report. That route in the Dave Cooper book caught my eye and your report fills in some of the blanks and make it look like fun.

jrbren_vt - Thank you. I see you were tenacious for a while with your Cascades climbs. Sorry to see Rainier was elusive. I bet every trip was just a blast though - in that strange masochistic mountaineering kind of way that we all enjoy around here. I hope your next attempt is a successful one.

Sen - Hahaha, sorry man, but I feel absolutely no guilt for going without you. I'm jealous of where you were that day! I hope you tell us about it.

sunny1 - I like the visions of John Fielder but John Lennon is the man, a visionary beyond our time. It's easy to take a picture from the outside, but Lennon, he tried to show us the beauty from within. Thank you for your nice comments. I'm happy that you enjoyed the photos.

Mark - Macro opened some big doors into tiny worlds. The flowers have been special, but it's the insects that really take the cake. I've spent a lot of time with bumblebees in the last month. And not one of those fuzzy little beasts gave me a hard time even though my obnoxious macro lens was interrupting their nectar-laden feasts. I love big mountains and big vistas, but those pinacles are just the cherry on top of a much bigger cake.

Kapelmuur - I need those simple moments and I want to hold on to them for as long as I can. It's hard to let go of the real thing, but it always seems to slip through my fingers. Photograpy is my way to hold on the best that I can.


...continued...     08/20/2010 06:07
Derek - That was a nice thing to say. Turns out you might enjoy the next report as much or more. I went up to the Lone Eagle Cirque last weekend. I only hope I have brought home some of that breathtaking experience. What a place that is. I know you like the little peaks - put it near the top of your list. There are some great ones up there. As always, thanks for your kind comments. I look forward to enjoying some Elk soon.

Otina - Lol - yes - isn't there always something? But those tiny cameras do pretty good so a macro lens would be a fun little add. I got desperate and resorted to trimming labels and excess straps from all my gear so I could carry 7 lb of kit. I still have a huge deficit to make up and not many straps left to cut. Hmm...

Ben - Everytime I come up here I'm suprised by the solitude that can be found so close to the city. Arrive early, go deep, and relax for a while. People might come and go but the wilderness remains the same. Thank you.

And Presto - What can I say? Sometimes I get lucky. I did this time and it feels good. I'm just glad that you have a very understanding husband.


Wow!     08/20/2010 17:56
I just love this report. The close-ups of the Artic Gentian are wonderful! Thank you again Kimo.

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