Sunday, June 23, 2013

North Arapaho Peak

On every visit to South Arapaho Peak I have looked longingly at the sharp ridge that connects it to its slightly higher neighbor to the north. It is impossible to take a dog along this ridge because there is some rock climbing and scrambling - very easy - that is impossible for a dog to navigate. Today, after a long day yesterday, I was on my own and my only thought leaving the trail head was whether snow conditions would be favorable. I needn't have worried.
Jasper Peak to the left with Mount Neva center

At this time of year there is still plenty of snow for snowboarders and plenty technical ice climbing available and it was no surprise to see so many cars at the 4th July trail head. Most had been there overnight as ice-climbing requires a start in darkness before the warming sun softens the ice. There was a 34 degree difference between the temperature at home and at the trail head. As I tightened the laces on my running shoes it was 29 degrees F. I wore a long sleeved shirt and a teeshirt but once I got underway it didn't feel too cold.
The huge bulk of South Arapaho Peak with 2 ice climbers at the top of Skywalker Couloir

One advantage of the cold was that the water on the trail was frozen in places and my feet kept dry until I reached the trail junction at the 4th July Mine. Beautiful sunshine warmed my back although it was still below freezing.
Approaching the steep ascent of South Arapaho Peak with North Arapaho to the right

Leaving the Arapaho Pass trail there were some snowy, wet sections before I started to gain altitude and the whistles of noisy alpine marmots were the only thing to disturb the peace. It was a blissful morning, cold, fresh and silent.
Looking across the arching ridge towards North Arapaho - only a half mile away but a tricky route

I hadn't met anyone all morning and when I reached the summit of South Arapaho there was a curious marmot nonchalantly going about its business. I clearly posed no threat, which was understandable given the strenuous nature of the ascent. I looked across the ridge towards North Arapaho and decided it needed to be climbed.
Next to the summit cairn on North Arapaho Peak - Mount Albion is in the background
It was a lot of fun. I passed some ice climbers who had already been out for over 6 hours and I picked my way across the ice ridge and rock. Most of the obstacles are turned to the left and involve loose downclimbing or easy traversing across rock walls. There was never a problem, even in running shoes. Ascending the final buttress to the North Peak I fashioned my way up a steep snow slope and then stepped on to a vertical rock wall which I climbed for 30 feet. It was warm and rough to the touch and it felt precarious to be atop a gaping chasm. But the holds were very good and it felt comforting to be on rock again. When I got to the top I looked across to my left and saw the easier path snaking up a loose gully - but my route was the better line.
View back to South Arapaho from midway along the ridge

There was a snow cap on the summit and it was still frozen so I jogged across to the summit cairn. There were two more ice climbers enjoying the early morning and we chatted for a few minutes. The return was straightforward. I managed to avoid most of the difficulties with traverses and some descents. This would be an awkward place to get caught in a storm and thick cloud.

It was great to get high again and spend almost 90 minutes above 13,000'.

No comments:

Post a Comment