Peak(s):  Shoshoni Peak - 12697
Apache Peak  -  13,441 feet
"Dicker`s Peck"  -  13,140 feet
Navajo Peak A  -  13,409 feet
Niwot Ridge  -  13,023 feet
Date Posted:  07/12/2016
Date Climbed:   06/09/2016
Author:  Furthermore
 Checkmate: The Full Kasparov Traverse - Plus   

Shoshoni Peak 12,697
Apache Peak 13,441
Dickers Peck 13,140
Navajo Peak 13,409
Niwot Ridge 13,023

July 9, 2016
~12.4 Miles, ~4,500 Gain
TH: Long Lake TH
Max difficulty: 5.9+
Route: Kasparov - Navajo's North Ridge


The Kasparov, Shoshoni to Apache traverse, is probably the premiere ridge traverse in the Indian Peaks. Just about a mile long, the Kasparov climbs 9 summits/towers along the ridge ranging from 3rd class scrambles to 5.9+ climbs. These towers are referred to as the Chessmen. The traverse seems to be gaining in popularity between peak baggers and rock climbers. Without climbing all of the Chessmen, the traverse between Shoshoni and Apache can be completed at 4th class with some complicated route finding.

I was looking for a more moderate alpine adventure and David quickly agreed to join. The weather forecast suggested 30% chance of thunderstorms so we decided to be on the summit of Shoshoni as close to sunrise as possible to give us the best chance of climbing all of the Chessmen.

We met outside Brainard Lake at 3:00 AM, did a quick gear check and were hiking up the Lake Isabelle/Pawnee Pass trail by 3:20 AM. Both groggy, we managed to slog our way up the trail where we left the Pawnee Pass trail at 11,880. Loose talus guided us to the 12,878-Shoshoni saddle where easy hiking led us to the semi-short summit scramble to the top of Shoshoni where we arrived at 5:40 AM. Right at sunrise; perfect timing.

Sunrise on Shoshoni

After a short summit stay, we galloped down grassy terrain to a notch marking the start of the traverse. We initially stayed on the right (west) side of the ridge as we down-climbed and then transitioned to the left side of the ridge. Exposed knife edge scrambling led us to the notch. Just on the other side of the notch was our first tower; The White Knight.

Navajo and Apache

Start of the technical portion. First light on the White Knight

Starting the traverse just after sunrise (photo by David A)

We stayed on the left side of the ridge and did easy class 3 scrambling until we were directly below the White Knight-Knight's Pawn saddle. Class 4 scrambling led us back up to the ridge crest to that saddle. More fun class 4 scrambling led us to the summit of the White Knight. We returned back to the White Knight-Knight's Pawn saddle and then did an easy class 3 scramble to the top of the Knight's Pawn.

Scrambling downward

Knife Edge scrambling. White Knight towers overhead.

White Knight

Class 4 scrambling on the White Knight (photo by David A)

Class 4 on the White Knight

White Knight from the Knight's Pawn

Returning back below the ridge crest on the east side, we continued toward The Queen. Once on the east side of the queen, we climbed up a class 4 chimney to reach the upper headwall guarding the summit of the Queen. Low 5th class scrambling led to an airy perch on the Queen which overlooked the rest of the towers at the Shoshoni-Apache saddle. The Rook and Bishop's Scepter looked impressive.

The Queen

Looking up at the class 4 chimney on The Queen.

The Rook and the Rook's Pawn

Once back at the bottom of the class 4 chimney at the base of the Queen, class 3/4 terrain led us to the Shoshoni-Apache saddle. The short, hunchbacked tower, The Bishop, just above the south side of the saddle was soloed via its 5.5 east face. A fun slab led to the summit.

Exposed scrambling to the saddle

The Bishop, The Rook and Bishops Scepter.

Slab up to The Bishop.

The Queen from The Bishop

The next tower, The Black Knight, had the worst rock of the entire traverse. Due to a high consequence fall and chossy rock, we decided to rope up for this tower. A rotten 5.5 chimney meandered us to the top. The previous party left an amazingly creative chockstone rappel anchor. Although creative and perhaps funny, we didn't feel it was safe. Since there was an abundance of bomber horns, a quick adjustment of the webbing around a large block made for a much better anchor. Safety third!

The Black Knight.

Chockstone Anchor- Come on brah, we can do better than that. (photo by David A)

Poor quality photo of the back side of The Bishop.

Rappeling the chossy chimney on the Black Knight.

Now for the best summit of the day - The Bishop's Scepter. The climbing was high quality 5.6 to a thin, exposed summit. It would be worth the approach just for this one tower.

Climbing the Bishops Scepter.

Summit of the Bishop's Scepter (photo by David A)

Rappelling the Bishops Scepter.

After the Bishop's Scepter, we hiked around to the base of the east face of The Rook. There was some ambiguity of how hard the climbing was on The Rook. It seemed most people aided the roof guarding the top or that it could possibly be free-climbed around 5.10+ or 5.9.

The Rook

I wasn't feeling the jive for the lead so David took the lead into the unknown. A beautiful hand crack led to the roof. Several pins were placed in the roof which led up and left. David decided to try face climbing out of the roof to the right which worked out to our astonishment very well. Good footwork, excellent protection and only 5.9 climbing led us to the top of the Rook. The most enjoyable climbing of the day was on the Rook.

Starting up the Rook.

Since we were making good time, we decided to tack on the Rook's Pawn which normally isn't climbed as part of the Kasparov. The Rook's Pawn is a short tower on the south side of the Rook. A few easy 5.6 face moves led us to the top. We just down-climbed and back-cleaned our gear off the Rook's Pawn.

The Rook's Pawn.

We were both glad the technical crux was complete. The route finding crux, not to our knowledge, was still ahead. Plentiful class 3 scrambling led us up the ridge towards the King's Pawn where we stayed near or just to the left of the ridge crest. A somewhat loose class 4 scramble led us to the top of the King's Pawn.

Class 4 scrambling up the King's Pawn.

Climbing to the top of the King's Pawn.

The route finding crux was between the King's Pawn and the King. Exposed class 3/4 ledges without the best rock made things complicated. We ended up dropping low on the left (east) side of the ridge and worked our way to the King's Pawn-King saddle. It would have probably been best to stay high or level with this saddle.

Scrambling toward The King.

Once at the King's Pawn-King saddle, really fun, solid rock class 3 scrambling led to the top of The King. Apache was tantalizingly close. After the King, a class 2 slog led us to the top of Apache where we arrived at 10:40 AM. The weather was looking good so we decided to add on Dickers Peck and Navajo's north ridge.

Class 4, most likely off route, en-route to the King.

The King.

The Descent to Dickers Peck was quick and we made short work of the 5.5 pitch which was surprisingly enjoyable. For Navajo's north face, we simuled the entire ridge to the base of the pink summit block and then traversed on the west side of the summit block to intersect Navajo's south ridge. Most of the climbing was 3rd class with a few short sections of 5.0-2. In hindsight it could have easily been soloed. We arrived on the summit of Navajo at 12:20 PM.


Rappelling off Dickers Peck

Familiar ground led us to the Navajo-Niwot saddle. Having never been to the summit of Niwot, I wanted to add this un-ranked 13er to our 14 summit day. We slogged our way to the summit of Niwot and instead of being smart and returning back to the Navajo-Niwot Saddle to descend Airplane Gully, we were stupid and continued east along crappy talus to a time consuming rough section of ridge.

Instead on scrambling through the rough section of ridge, we descended horrendous talus down a gully to reach the trail below Isabelle Glacier. David and I took bets on the number of people we were going to see on the trail back to the car. My bet: 135. David's bet: 65. He thought I was betting way too high. Once we arrived back at the car at 3:15 PM, with no lack of solitude, we counted 129 people! Got to love a weekend at Brainard Lake.

Long crowded hike out.... (photo by David A)

Unexpected road detour home.

Cold Springs Fire

Quick Beta Guide

Semi topo overview of the Kasparov

Select single rack. If doing The Rook, doubles in BD C4 #1-3 helpful.
1) The White Knight - East face then south-southwest ridge - Class 4
2) The Knight's Pawn - Class 4 to saddle, then north ridge - Class 3
3) The Queen - East face chimney to headwall - 5.0
4) The Bishop - East face to north ridge - 5.5
5) The Black Knight - Northeast chimney - 5.5 PG-13
6) Bishop's Scepter - East face - 5.6
7) The Rook - East face crack - 5.9+
8) The Rook's Pawn- north face - 5.6
9) The King's Pawn - north ridge - Class 4
10) The King - north ridge - Class 3

More info can be found on Mountain Project and future Front Range 13er book.

GPX Notes:
-Was not taken on all summits.
-Batteries died on hike out.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38

Comments or Questions
07/12/2016 18:38
Nice work fellas. Looks like quite the outing for one day

07/12/2016 21:10
You don't like to sit around at home playing board games, do you? Excellent climbing guys!

07/13/2016 09:08
That one made my palms sweat. Actually, I think ALL of your reports make my palms sweat....

07/13/2016 10:05
Thanks for taking the time to report

Very Cool
07/13/2016 12:18
Nice one guys. The Bishop's Scepter looks wild

big claim
07/13/2016 13:07
there. Finest traverse in the IPW eh.... I don't know man, Mohling was pretty damn awesome and I feel super uncharacteristic of Colorado. You need to do that one and I this one haha.

Don't most take a splitter up Rook, were you able to find that? Edit: sorry just re-read you took the crack to the roof

Anyways, fine job here gents. Looks worthwhile for sure!

07/13/2016 20:55
is what you are. Those pictures of the fire are pretty harrowing as well. Even though you were in a car, could you feel the heat?

07/14/2016 21:22
Abe - It's a good traverse; it's one of the best in the IPW. We did climb the splitter on the Rook. Instead of climbing it directly (probably 10+), we exited right.
CreekRunner - The fire is pretty sad. I couldn't feel the heat but I never got out of the car either.

Brian C
07/15/2016 09:41
Looks like a fun outing!

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