Peak(s):  North Arapaho Pk  -  13,502 feet
Apache Pk  -  13,441 feet
Pettingell Pk  -  13,553 feet
"Hassell Pk"  -  13,215 feet
South Arapaho Pk  -  13,397 feet
"Old Baldy"  -  13,038 feet
Date Posted:  08/17/2016
Modified:  08/11/2019
Date Climbed:   08/16/2016
Author:  Mtnman200
 Pettingell Peak & Indian Peaks  

South Arapaho Peak and North Arapaho Peak from the South Arapaho - Old Baldy saddle. Arapaho Glacier is just below North Arapaho Peak

There are only nine tricentennial peaks north of I-70. I'd climbed the five tricentennials in Rocky Mountain National Park (Chiefs Head Peak, Hagues Peak, Ypsilon Mtn., Fairchild Mtn., and Pagoda Mtn.) with my dad in 1970 and 1972 (yes, I know I'm showing my age), and the two of us climbed Mt. Parnassus in 1997. I had three climbing days available and decided that this would be a good time to go after the other three tricentennial peaks: Pettingell Peak (about 7 miles NNW of Torreys Peak) and North Arapaho Peak and Apache Peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. I decided to start with Pettingell Peak because I knew being in the Indian Peaks Wilderness on a weekend was a bad idea.

Saturday, August 13.
After enduring the parking lot that is I-70, I finally reached the Herman Gulch Trailhead (Exit 218) about 6 PM. No way did I want to put up with the I-70 traffic noise here, so I grabbed my backpack and headed up the trail to the first good campsite I found. At 10,800', this site was close enough to the creek that the sound of the flowing water drowned out 95% of the highway noise. I could live with that.

Sunday, August 14.
When I woke up, it seemed awfully light outside for 4:30 AM. That's because my alarm didn't go off, and it was now after 6 AM. Arrrggg! I got moving as quickly as I could, but I didn't like being an hour and a half behind schedule, even if the forecast called for only a 10% chance of afternoon rain.

Pettingell Peak (just right of center) comes into view from the trail to Herman Lake

The pleasant trail ended at scenic Herman Lake, and I had a decision to make: either head northwest more or less directly toward the summit of Pettingell Peak, or climb north from Herman Lake to a saddle and then follow the ridge west to the summit. The ridge looked more entertaining, so that's what I did.

I headed up the grassy slopes just right of center and then headed toward the saddle

A look at the broad couloir as it climbs to the saddle

Herman Lake from the same location as the previous photo

Once on the ridge, I bypassed the occasional obstacles on the south (left) but stayed on the ridge as much as possible. The rock was generally stable, which was nice.

Looking west along the ridge toward Pettingell Peak's summit

Nearing the summit of Pettingell Peak (taken by another climber I was surprised to meet on the ridge)

Looking SW from Pettingell Peak toward The Citadel (13,294') and Hagar Mtn. (13,195')

After taking a break on the summit of Pettingell Peak (13,553'), I headed back the way I'd come.

"Hassell Peak" (13,215') is about 1.5 miles NE of where I initially climbed to the ridge. It was too tempting to pass up

About 3/4 mile NE of where I'd climbed to the ridge, I picked up the Continental Divide Trail as it headed north to the summit of Hassell Peak.

Looking back at Pettingell Peak from the ridge to Hassell Peak

The summit of Hassell Peak, with the Continental Divide Trail visible at the right of the photo

I spent some time relaxing on the summit of Hassell Peak because I could descend by taking the Continental Divide Trail to its intersection with the Herman Gulch Trail and then following the Herman Gulch Trail to my campsite.

The Continental Divide Trail as it descends from the ridge between Pettingell Peak and Hassell Peak

I knew Herman Lake was a popular destination, but the trail was absolutely crawling with tourists heading uphill as I descended. Definitely my least favorite part of the day!

I broke camp, backpacked to my car, and found to my dismay that I-70 was a parking lot again. Once I finally exited I-70, I drove north to Nederland and then west past Eldora to the end of the road at Buckingham Campground, which is run by the City of Boulder and has 10 campsites. Happily, I had no trouble finding a nice campsite. Even better, the campground is free, although the only water available is from North Fork Middle Boulder Creek.

Monday, August 15.
I headed NW on the Arapaho Pass Trail to the Fourth of July Mine at 11,240' and then turned right onto the Arapaho Glacier Trail.

The Arapaho Glacier Trail as it climbs to the pass between South Arapaho Peak (13,397') and Old Baldy (13,038')

The view of Arapaho Glacier from the 12,720' pass between South Arapaho Peak and Old Baldy is impressive. Because Arapaho Glacier is the City of Boulder's water supply, the basin is off-limits under threat of heavy fines, so don't get the bright idea to swim in the lake below the glacier.

South Arapaho Peak and North Arapaho Peak from the South Arapaho - Old Baldy saddle. Arapaho Glacier is just below North Arapaho Peak

A nice climber's trail heads up the ridge to the summit of South Arapaho Peak.

A closer look at South Arapaho Peak from the pass between South Arapaho Peak and Old Baldy

Now the fun begins! The ridge between South Arapaho Peak and North Arapaho Peak provides some fun scrambling, route-finding, and exposure. In general, the idea is to stay on the narrow ridge when possible and bypass obstacles to the left (west).

The crux of the traverse is this block on which someone painted an arrow to remind you that you have to climb up the block

Another view of the ridge. Yes, you climb up and over, but it's not as hard as it looks

Some more fun scrambling on the ridge to North Arapaho Peak

Eventually, a climb through an obvious notch brought me to the home stretch. After climbing a steep gully, I stepped onto the spacious summit area.

The summit of North Arapaho Peak has a surprisingly large summit cairn

The summit cairn on North Arapaho Peak, with my daypack (in the shadow) to provide scale

The east face of South Arapaho Peak still holds a lot of snow in mid-August

Given that the South Arapaho - North Arapaho ridge wouldn't be safe in a storm (there are no bailouts), I didn't spend too much time on North Arapaho's summit before heading back to South Arapaho. Just as I reached the relative safety of South Arapaho's summit, hail began falling. I scowled at the sky, which apparently got the message because the hail stopped within five minutes.

Old Baldy (13,038') from South Arapaho Peak

From the 12,720' pass between South Arapaho Peak and Old Baldy, I couldn't resist the extra credit stroll to the summit of Old Baldy, where I had nice views of South Arapaho Peak and North Arapaho Peak.

South Arapaho Peak from Old Baldy

North Arapaho Peak from Old Baldy

After having lunch on Old Baldy, I headed down the Arapaho Glacier Trail and Arapaho Pass Trail to my campsite. Just like yesterday, the trail was swarming with tourists heading uphill as I descended. If I want solitude, I'll obviously have to find another wilderness area.

Flowers along the Arapaho Pass Trail

Back at my campsite, it was time for a much-needed and well-deserved afternoon nap in my tent.

Tuesday, August 16.
I broke camp and drove back through Eldora to Nederland and then north to the Brainard Lake Road. At 6 AM on a weekday, it was easy to find a parking space at the trailhead. I began hiking west on the Pawnee Pass Trail as it followed South St. Vrain Creek past Long Lake and Lake Isabelle. The water level in Lake Isabelle appeared to be down 15 or 20 feet and I later learned that the City of Boulder had put a proverbial straw in the lake to meet its water needs.

Looking west up the South St. Vrain Creek drainage, with Apache Peak in the center and Shoshoni Peak to the right

Cascades on South St. Vrain Creek

At a small lake at 11,420', I saw a baby moose closely following its mother as they splashed through the water and later wished I'd taken a photo.

A closer look at Apache Peak

The higher I went, the more rustic the trail became until eventually it fizzled out altogether. I headed southwest into a rocky basin ESE of Apache Peak and found several pieces of aircraft wreckage. The smallest was about six inches long and the largest was about 2.5' x 3'.

Wreckage that I assume must be from the January 21, 1948 crash of a C-47 on Navajo Peak, probably carried here by avalanche

I headed up the slabs and rock, aiming for the ridge south of Apache Peak's summit.

Heading up Apache Peak's eastern slopes

The unremarkable summit of Apache Peak

I probably should have aimed for the ridge a bit farther south, but once on the ridge it's a straightforward ridgewalk to a relatively large summit. I headed back down before the weather became uncooperative. Just like the previous two days, the closer I got to the trailhead, the more infested the trail was with tourists. I suppose that's the price for hiking in such a beautiful area. That, and the $10 entrance fee.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Great reports!
08/18/2016 06:49
Looks like a ton of fun!!


What Plikona said...
08/18/2016 10:58
It's been decades since I've been in the IPW. Gotta get back there.

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