Peak(s):  North Arapaho Pk  -  13,502 feet
South Arapaho Pk  -  13,397 feet
Date Posted:  07/14/2008
Modified:  07/15/2008
Date Climbed:   07/13/2008
Author:  Aubrey
 Arapaho Traverse for our 10th wed anniv   

South Arapaho Peak (13,397')
North Arapaho Peak (13,502')
About 8.3 miles round trip (about .7 between the two peaks)
About 3,600 feet of gain, in total.
This route is rated Class 3, but I'm sure we did at least a couple low Class 4 moves here and there.

To celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, we decided to do the Arapaho traverse. Even though this climb was on our "B" list, Jen has wanted to do it for many years. I've been wanting to do it since reading Roozers42's trip report last summer.

Because this climb requires you to be above tree line and on an exposed ridge for quite some time, we wanted to get an early start so that we'd have a better chance of avoiding any afternoon thunderstorms.

We had hoped to be on the trail by 5 a.m., but we had to settle for 5:40.

With my brain still partially sleeping and some rarely-used muscles aching from the previous day's yardwork, we started up the trail under a clear sky with a pleasant temp (about 40 degrees). The trail was completely snow-free, though it was wet like a rainforest in some places.

The sound of waterfalls emanating from the valley was omnipresent.

Here was one particularly beautiful waterfall across the valley, with an alpenglow-splashed peak in the background:

Wildflowers were bountiful. These columbines were hungry for the rising sun:

We only came across one other hiker (who was heading up to the Arapaho Pass area) near the Fourth of July Mine. From there, we could see a few climbers prepping to do Skywalker (in the following pic, you can barely see one guy at the base)..

Skywalker Couloir:

It was shaping up to be a beautiful day (no clouds; rich blue sky; nice temps; only a light breeze) and we were both feeling pretty good (albeit tired). By the time we made it to the base of South Arapaho, I felt like we had a good chance at the traverse.

South Arapaho (left) and North Arapaho (right):

North Arapaho looked "so close" ... yet most people require at least an hour to get from South to North (and another hour back).

At 8:10 a.m. we gained the summit of South Arapaho. Even though we climbed South Arapaho Peak a year earlier, the views still felt new and fresh. It sure is a beautiful area.

Looking down toward Arapaho Glacier:

Indian Peaks Wilderness, with Longs Peak in the distance:

After hanging out and resting for about 10 minutes, we started the traverse to North Arapaho Peak. The first quarter-mile or so was pretty easy and straightforward.

Here are a couple photos stitched together, taken from South Arapaho:

Both of us must have been hydrating really well because it seemed like we peed every five minutes. Don't worry, Boulderites, I didn't pee into your water supply on the Arapaho Glacier side.

I had read about some orange painted arrows designating the route, but we only noticed two of them (on the entire traverse) and they were pretty worn away. They were also the exact same color as some of the lichen (most of the lichen was green, but there was some orange as well), so they were hard to spot. We also noticed a few cairns here and there. Aside from those occasional markers, we ended up doing most of the routefinding ourselves.

The crux of the route, according to most, is a slab of rock you have to climb along the ridge. It's a little awkward, but it does have some nice cracks and it's not that exposed.

Here's a photo of Jen approaching the base of the crux:

Here we are on the slab (photo of Jen taken on the descent; photo of me taken on the ascent):

Beyond that crux, there seemed to be a few more cruxes (or cruces, if you prefer). I know that contradicts the term, as there can really only be one "crux," but I thought there were at least a couple other sections that were just as challenging, if not more so.

Here's Jen (bottom) with more of the ridge before us:

At times, we didn't think we were taking the easiest way, but when we were in doubt, we just stayed high on or near the ridge crest.


I can't remember the order of the obstacles we overcame (so don't hold me to this), but at one point we did cross a rather exposed and airy section of rock. It wasn't too narrow and the rock was solid, but it still woke me up as it demanded attention.

At another point along the ridge, we cliffed out, where a small overhanging ledge stopped our progress. Turning to our left, we easily found some slabs to down climb. Beyond that, there was one particularly steep and loose gully to traverse, and it kind of reminded me of South Maroon.

Eventually, we ended up on the final gully (facing the Arapaho Glacier), which isn't far from the broad summit area. Even though this is the standard way, I didn't trust the large boulders in this chute, especially this time of year when a lot of rocks are sliding and shifting. Thus, we quickly zipped up this section and soon found ourselves on the summit at 9:10 a.m. (It ended up taking us about 50 minutes to get from South to North ... and another 50 back.)

North Arapaho's summit is rather flat and large, and on its southeast side, vertical cliffs drop steeply to the glacier below. The views from up there were striking - Winter Park to the southwest, Grand Lake to the northwest, IPW and Longs to the north ...

Summit shots:

After enjoying the summit to ourselves, we started our reverse route back to South Arapaho at about 9:20 a.m. This is about the time when we saw a solo climber making the summit. As we descended the gully, he passed us and cruised on down the ridge.

On our way back, we more or less retraced our steps.

Here's a shot of the route back to South Arapaho; Jen is at the bottom of the photo and the other climber is ahead of us, circled in red:

Some of the climbs on the return were just as interesting as they were on the way up.

Here's Jen climbing some cracky slabs:



Remember that exposed section I mentioned earlier? Here are some shots of it on the return ...

In this one, you can see the climber ahead of us crossing the exposed part:

Here's a close-up shot of Jen fearlessly crossing the "catwalk":

Our remaining route before us (the solo climber can be seen on the ridge):

I think this where we descended about 50 feet or so down a loose gully to bypass a gendarme on the ridge:

As we neared the top of South Arapaho, just after 10 a.m., a fighter jet ripped through the sky at a low altitude.

I managed to quickly snap this pic of the jet with South Arapaho in the foreground (even though it looks small in the photo, the jet flew by pretty damn close!):

Beyond South Arapaho's summit, the hike back down to the Fourth of July Trailhead was pretty straightforward. I remember it being particularly hot and crowded.

We made it back to the parking lot a few minutes after noon and found the lot to be completely full. It was overflowing, actually, as cars lined the narrow road for miles - many of which were illegally parked. It was unbelievable how many people were up there. I doubt we'll be going back to that area anytime soon, or at least during the popular summer months. Way too packed!

In Nederland, we mealed on some savory beef brisket and drank some tasty beers (Hop Diggity IPA and Stone Smoked Porter) at Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery. Great post-hike place, BTW.

Overall, it was a fantastic climb. We couldn't have asked for better weather, I couldn't have asked for a better climbing partner (and life partner), and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary!

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

Comments or Questions

Very fun
07/14/2008 22:58
I did that same hike last week and was just able to beat a monster storm back to my car. Nice trip!


Happy Anniversary !
07/14/2008 23:11
Wishing you two a lifetime of safe adventures !

Did you give her tin/aluminum?
07/14/2008 23:28
Congrats on your 10th and I love that columbine pic.


This climb
07/14/2008 23:59
and traverse is definitely on my list to do. Excellent report, Aubrey! And thanks for the beta. Happy Anniversary!


good report
07/15/2008 01:06
nice report...congrats on your 10th anniversary! I hit this a couple weeks ago and I thought the traverse was rather short and the exposure tame compared to other scrambles. Overall a pretty fun scramble, but left wanting a bit more. Pictures in general make this look a lot harder than it is.


07/15/2008 01:59
Thanks for the report; I was elsewhere in the IPW on Sunday, and the topic of the South Arapaho-North Arapaho traverse came up. It looks pretty tempting. Your report gives me a better idea of what I have in store for me.


thanks for the notes!
07/15/2008 02:22
Lord: The food at Wild Mtn is surprisingly good! It was my 2nd time there. House brews are OK, but they have some great guest taps and a nice bottle list, especially for Ned.

Freeheeler, mtgirl and USAK, thanks for the nice words!

Dave, no alum or tin, though she did drink a beer from a keg. Does that count? I‘m so lucky that she‘s not into girly-girl pink-perfumey-blingy stuff.

ajkagy, I also thought it was shorter than I anticipated, and I agree, most photos make it look worse than it is, especially the ”crux.” That said, I still think this route demands some attention. The short ”catwalk,” while easy, was rather airy. And some of the loose rock (gully traverse and final gully to the summit) wasn‘t the most secure, in my mind. That said, this route has nothing on some standard 14er routes. I would also say that we probably didn‘t always take the easiest way on this route. If anyone is up for a bigger challenge, there are plenty of opps to make this route tougher than it needs to be. And, conversely, if something looks hairy, there‘s probably an easier way (as in, class 3 instead of class 4) if you just take the time to find it.

Greenhouseguy, you should give this one a try. Mighty fun!


07/15/2008 03:57
Great report and, as usual, great photography. You can always count on an Aubrey report to have terrific photos, as well as a writeup that really gives you a sense of the experience and good detailed info.

A busy anniversary day! The hike, dinner, and writing and posting the report all by 2 p.m.! Congratulations on your 10 years and another fine outing together.

Kind of amusing that a guy who climbs as much as you can be sore from yardwork. I know what you mean by ”rarely-used muscles,” but it‘s still funny. My advice: skip the yardwork.


”... all by 2 p.m.!”
07/15/2008 15:10
Whoops! I had the wrong date on there (we climbed 7/13 ... just fixed it). That would be a long day!

RE: The yardwork. Problem is, we have skipped it for so long that we got a threat letter from our HOA. After spending half the day ripping up dead sod, we decided just to pay someone to finish the job. By that afternoon, we had someone lined up.

Next house: ”Natural,” no-maintenance yard (or no yard) and no HOA.


07/15/2008 15:18
on your 10th wedding anniversary and for celebrating it in style! That is still one of my favorite routes and I‘m glad you got to experience it! Great pics, too!


If that‘s class 3, I want more!
07/15/2008 15:21
Aubrey, congrats on the 10 years! And a great way to celebrate. Great report, too; now I can spare everyone my crappy attempt at one.

Did you really see that many cars on Monday the 14th? Or did you climb over the weekend? If on Saturday, I may have seen you and didn‘t realize it. My Sentra (with a bumper sticker) was one of the gazillion cars parked along the road.

This was only my 2nd class 3 climb (at elevation), and I had a blast! I climbed everything I saw - I felt like a kid on a jungle gym.

And a quick plug for Katmandu restaurant, too. After cold weather hikes, the vindaloo will set you right again.

Chicago Transplant

Way to celebrate!
07/15/2008 21:49
Now that is the right way to celebrate a wedding anniversary
Of course, I can hear Jen‘s co-workers now: ”If my husband took me up a mountain for our anniversary...” Sorry, just piggybacking onto the ”ever happen to you” thread


Well done!
08/28/2008 00:37
Happy Anniversary you two! Way to celebrate it!!!!


RE: Way to celebrate
11/30/2010 17:28
Actually, her co-workers are way more understanding than mine! They all do the Pikes Peak marathon ascent ... they win the Boulder Bolder every year for their class ... they climb 14ers ... ride their bikes 20 miles during their lunch breaks ... She's lucky to work with so many sick bastards. So her co-workers look at her with envy ... and my co-workers look at me like I‘m a jerk for taking my wife on a hike for our 10th.


Wild Mtn Smokehouse and Brewery
02/05/2011 00:22
is the tits, solid wings too. Thats an IPW post climb favorite for myself as well (on the east side of the divide that is). That traverse looks more exposed than I thought, seems like some good rock though, we too, had some serious exposure on Lone Eagle and Cooper Pk over the weekend. Gotta love the IPW!!!

That infamous haze of lately didn‘t seem to affect that region either, blue skies and solitude.

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