Peak(s):  Audubon, Mt  -  13,223 feet
Paiute Pk  -  13,088 feet
Mount Toll - 12979
Pawnee Peak - 12943
Date Posted:  08/08/2011
Modified:  08/24/2011
Date Climbed:   08/06/2011
Author:  traderaaron
Additional Members:   Jenna7166
 Getting our Money's Worth in the IPW  

Getting our Money's Worth in the IPW

Climbers: traderaaron (Aaron), Jenna7166 (Jenna)

Route: A loop of Mt. Audubon, Paiute Peak, Mt. Toll and Pawnee Peak, in at Mitchell Lake TH, out Long Lake TH and road walk back to the car. Maximum difficulty, a stretch of sustained class 3 on the Northwest Face of Toll, a few easy class 4 moves, and of course the walk back to the car after a long day.


I actually met and became friends with Jenna through, or as someone described it, the facebook of Colorado. When I got the urge to climb some 12ers and 13ers via some class 3 routes as I do about this same time every summer I was hoping Jenna was ready and willing to step things up from hiking 14ers and I was excited to have a partner to attempt this loop. As is often the case in Colorado you actually step it up by staying below 14,000'. She eagerly said yes (although next time she may think twice). This loop was harder than the miles and elevation profile would have you think, the largely off trail and on talus/boulder route beyond Audubon can really slow things down. It took us much longer than I expected.

We departed from the north side of the Mitchell Lake trailhead parking lot just after 7:00 and proceeded to the easy east slopes route of Audubon. This was a nice warm-up for the day ahead of us. The wind was gusting on Audubon but things were pretty normal for a front range peak really, just a nuisance.


Slopes of Paiute, then Toll and Pawnee from Audubon

Another climber overheard our plans and saw my climbing helmet and I described our plans to head over to Paiute via the east ridge, down to Toll, up the northwest face route on Toll and over and out Pawnee and Pawnee Pass. We were both sort of hoping someone else would be following us just to have some additional company but we were apparently the only climbers of the loop on that day.

Looking back at Audubon from Paiute east ridge

Nearing the top of the east ridge of Paiute

The east ridge of Paiute appears steep, it is, but as is usually the case once you get to it and on it things aren't as bad as they seem, we gained elevation quickly and met a couple class 3 moves on the ridge below the summit. The views down to the lakes below and over to Iroquis, Hopi and Achonee and the snow below them were stunning. We didn't spend much time on the summit though as the clock was ticking and our crux peak of the day, Mount Toll, still lay ahead.

Iroquis, Hopi, Achonee, Lone Eagle Cirque and snowfields.

Mt. Toll from traverse from Paiute. The route aims for those snow patches, avoids the slab and cairns mark a way.

The route over to Toll was slow going, you first confront large rocks to climb around or over and then near the saddle things get smaller and looser. Getting to the route is perhaps as challenging as the class 3-4 climbing once in the actual route.

That's Paiute and the ridge down to the Paiute, Toll saddle, ascending traverse over to our route

Spot the cairns, upper left and upper near right to guide way to and through that ledge and into the gully above.

The Northwest Face, class 3 route, as described on the internet and by some fellow climbers here on 14ers is certainly doable. Exposure is not bad, the slope is not too steep and routefinding, once actually on route, is not difficult. Look for cairns to get you on route. There appear to be two choices, a left and right gully. I had descriptions for both but decided on the larger right gully. In hindsight though this appears to have been more difficult, a little more small and loose stuff to contend with and we encountered a couple class 4 moves as we took the most direct route up. Jenna remarked that she would have liked her climbing shoes here for a couple of the steps and nooks to put your foot in. The left or north gully is marked with a cairn at the top if descending off Toll and down via the northwest face.



We saw our first person since Audubon on Toll and he was kind enough to offer to take our photo. His description of Pawnee as not steep, it's not, was unfortunately not that comforting to us. It was our easiest peak of course but it was also coming at the end of the day and we were running out of mental energy to stay excited about what we had accomplished, not to mention physical energy.


We descended off Toll and just took what appeared to be the easiest and most direct line up Pawnee, rested for a little on the summit and then tried to zone in for the march back down the trail and out. Of course our thoughts were largely on where we would eat dinner in Boulder. (I didn't bother much with pictures as this point, the route from Toll to Pawnee and off Pawnee is straightforward and non-exciting.)


The late afternoon sun was starting to soften the light and we only met a few hikers coming up. I purified some water for the remainder of the hike out with my Steripen and then I think Jenna thought it was death march time back to the car at the Mitchell Lake trailhead. Just getting to the car made things a lot better and pizza and a pitcher or two or three of water (even the waiter suggested we just have water, no beer) at Backcountry Pizza and Taphouse in Boulder sure helped our mood and allowed us to reflect on the day, hopefully with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The day did wind up being much longer than I expected, those that know me tell me I am fast, this climb was more about slow and trying to maintain steady and then safe.

So if you are looking for beauty, fun but challenging routes and at times a sense of isolation on 12ers and 13ers even when the parking lots are full it's possible to find all that in the IPW. And next time Jenna will probably question me a little harder on exactly what's in store. Thanks for helping me complete this loop

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

 Comments or Questions

Nice. Thanks for the report.
08/08/2011 19:11
That's Lone Eagle, btw, just to the left (in the photo) and slightly above Jenna's right shoulder in the pic of you two taken atop Toll.


This is What I Needed
08/08/2011 19:13
...on Saturday. We hit the SE ridge of Audubon and had no clue what the Paiute/Toll saddle looked like. Now you've got me hungry to get back in there. Thanks for the best TR on this segment I've seen yet!


08/08/2011 19:46
This will come in handy in a few weeks.


classic IPW loop
08/08/2011 19:50
This is what the Indian Peaks is all about. Nice work. Good to know about that route up Toll as well. Thanks for the TR, quality stuff.

Doctor No

Great work!
08/08/2011 21:17
Love the photos - looks like a great day in the IPW.

08/09/2011 14:29
great TR aaron! oh, and no worries, i'll go climbing with you again


Thanks for the TR
08/01/2013 22:14
Nice trip report, a great loop in a great area.


A few questions...
07/14/2015 18:26
Very nice loop Aaron! I’ve had this report on file for a few years now and might have the chance to realize it in a few weeks. But I do have some general questions if you don’t mind.

1) In image 5 (6th image in your report), I’m assuming the snow patches you were aiming for are on the right (west side of Toll), correct?

2) Image 12 (8th in your report): is this coming up the SW face of Toll? You describe the NW face route from the internet, but your map shows your actual route as ascending from the SW, corkscrewing around the south to its summit. Just a little confused as to how you actually ended up going and what would be the easier route to the top? I’d prefer to keep it C3 or less.

3) If bailouts are required, do you feel there is a relatively easy way down to Blue Lake from either the Paiute/Toll saddle and/or the Toll/Pawnee saddle? Which would be better in your opinion?

Thanks again for the super report! Looked like a very fun climb! Doug


Answers to Doug’s questions
07/15/2015 08:23
1. Yes.
2. you ascend the nw face route to the summit ridge then up that to the summit, thus the left turn to the summit. There are basically two gullies or routes on that nw face you can take but both go to the ridge I believe then up to the summit from there.
3. I believe you’d have to retrace to the saddle then down to Blue Lake.

This was several years ago but it’s fairly straight forward if you take your time on Toll.

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