Spending three of the last four weekends in the Indian Peaks has made it really easy to watch the seasons change. Fall is hitting up high and I've been trying to get some good scrambling in before the snow hits. One of my usual partners (Mark aka "Scooby Koob") was in town again for the weekend and we decided to hit one of the more solitary peaks in the IPW.
Awesome view of Little Pawnee near Lake Isabelle.
I've had my eye on Little Pawnee for a while but had been a bit leery after the accident about a month ago. After checking the forecast and seeing perfect weather (other than some wind), we decided to give it a go. The plan was to hike Little Pawnee, traverse to Pawnee and then get some other peaks if our legs were feeling good. Deciding to err on the side of caution, we packed a 30M rope, a bunch of webbing and a set of nuts just in case we decided to rappel the crux downclimb or got off-route.
My wife and a friend new to hiking had decided to hike Pawnee via Pawnee Pass and meet us on the summit. We all met at the TH at 7 and hit the trail at 7:15. It has been fun to watch the trailhead get less and less crowded every weekend. We hiked up towards Pawnee Pass together until a bit below Lake Isabelle. Mark and I found what looked like a decent way up through the trees, took a bearing and headed up towards the ridge.
This is where we left the main trail. The trails turns and we kept straight into the meadow.
After a few steep, brushy slopes we came out onto an beautiful open meadow with some cool ponds in it. After passing the ponds and gaining the next hill, we heard an elk bugle and saw the whole herd (20ish and bull) go running through the meadow we were just in.
Cool pond we found on the way to the East Ridge.
The views were excellent and other than a constant 30mph wind, the weather was perfect.
Navajo and Apache.
Gaining the ridge was steep and straight-forward. We were concerned that the ascent would be horribly loose but were pleasantly surprised to find it fairly trustworthy. We chose a gully that reminded us of the gully used to access the "S" Ridge on Snowmass.
We ascended the left gully to gain the ridge.
Soon we were enjoying the expansive views on the ridge. The ridge is very simple at first (class 1+) until we hit the class 3 notch. It was definitely a surprise and we didn't see it until we were peering on down.
Mild ridge for now. Little Pawnee is on the right.
Class 3 notch before Little Pawnee.
We found a simple way down a bit left of the top of the notch. It was steep but never exceeded class 3 in my opinion.
After the notch the scrambling begins and only a bit of class 3 led right to the summit of Little Pawnee. The summit was an awesome perch. The register went back to 2002 and was not even half full. I doubt this summit sees more than 10 parties a year.
Little Pawnee's Summit. Pawnee and Toll in the background.
After a nice break we decided to head on. The wind was also good incentive to keep moving as it is getting chilly up there. The crux downclimb appeared minutes later and is an attention-catcher for sure. Roach says a class 3 route can be found sticking to the nose of the ridge. We found some rappel slings and peered over the edge. Mark cleaned the old slings (marked 2002!) as I started down. I felt the downclimb to be stout class 4 and reachy. In my opinion, it would be low 5th if you were any shorter than 5'9''. That said the holds were there and it was fine for a comfortable scrambler. In retrospect, we were too far south and downclimbed the more sheer rappelling route as opposed to the easier and more broken edge a tiny bit north.
Mark coming down.
We should have been further left out of the photo.
The rest of the ridge consisted of pretty consistent class 3 on decent to loose rock. There was not a single cairn in sight and it was fun to be on a route that the route finding is up to you. We stayed on the ridge and crossed some mild knife edges until forced off north by a series of jagged towers. We climbed down and began traversing across a series of ledges attempting to retain as much elevation as possible.
Traversing an exposed ledge.
Mild knife edge along the traverse.
The last of the towers we had to traverse around.
Approximate route. Photo from Toll.
After the final tower, we were finally able to scramble back onto the ridge crest and breath a sigh of relief to be off some of the less-than-quality rock we had been on. As we neared Pawnee we decided to veer off and head down to the Pawnee-Toll saddle.
Mt. Toll from near the end of the ridge.
After another quick break at the saddle, we set up the slopes of Toll. We picked a straight line up to the summit and were sitting on top before we knew it.
Me on Mt. Toll.
The views from Mt. Toll are excellent. The Lone Eagle Cirque is very striking as are the views towards Granby and Grand Lake. The fall colors are going strong!
Awesome view from Toll.
Still not seeing anyone on Pawnee we set that direction. From the saddle we followed an ascending traverse close to the ridgeline to the summit of Pawnee. I love how easy it is to get between some of the close peaks! As we topped out onto Pawnee, we were happy to see we all summited Pawnee at the same time. My wife's friend was happy to be higher than she had ever been before and it was a huge accomplishment for her. There were also two volunteer rangers on the summit.
Chatting on Pawnee with the first people we had seen for the day.
After another short break Mark and I decided to blast over to Shoshoni and catch up to the other two further down. We flew down to Pawnee Pass and up the other side to PT 12,878. As we cruised towards Shoshoni we soaked up the views. The scenery off the west side of the divide are spectacular plus Navajo and Apache make an excellent backdrop for Shoshoni.
West side of the divide.
On route to Shoshoni.
Towards the false summit of Shoshoni.
The summit tower of Shoshoni is really unique and the views up there are amazing. Sheer drops on most sides and perched above Isabelle Glacier made for a wonderful experience.
Straight down to Isabelle Glacier.
Navajo and Apache from Shoshoni.
After taking it all in we hit out to catch the girls. We backtracked until just before PT 12,878 and then did a descending traverse towards the standard trail in the meadow below the final slopes to Pawnee Pass. The boulders were awesome to frustrating but we made short work of it and caught up at the meadow.
Down some unfriendly boulder. Can you see Mark?
Looking back up our descent route.
Happy to be back together as a whole group we strolled out. As we passed below the awesome ridge between Pawnee and Little Pawnee we admired what we had just crossed. It seemed like an eternity before but was only a few hours. The weather was beautiful and fall is in full swing. It was the perfect end to the day.
View of the traverse.
Rough map of our route.