From 4th of July Trailhead
I’d been wanting to do North and South Arapaho Peaks for a while because I heard that they both featured spectacular views and an exciting ridge traverse from one to the other. Both of these rumors turned out to be true. The view from the top, while awesome, is not as impressive as the two peaks themselves from a lower vantage point on “Old Baldy”, a nearby thirteener. From here, the view is unobstructed: on the left you have the sharp pyramid of South Arapaho, and working right you see the jagged ridge and then finally the huge bulky summit of North Arapaho. Between these two, the gigantic Arapaho Glacier is in complete view. This is one of the most alpine views in Colorado. The view certainly rivals, and I think exceeds, the grandeur of the view of Longs and Meeker from Chasm Lake. This is a picture of South Arapaho Peak from the saddle between “Old Baldy” and South Arapaho. While the peak looks difficult, the route is quite easy. We headed up the lefthand ridge in the photo. A few times we looked over the edge of the ridge and had an unobstructed 1000 foot view of the glacier. If you’re afraid of heights, you can still get to the summit of South Arapaho without any exposure at all.
I hiked these peaks with two co-workers: Brian Towell and Bill Snodgrass. Brian and I were both big fans of the Indian Peaks. This was Bill’s first trip ever to the Indian Peaks though he had climbed all of Colorado’s Fourteeners. Bill and I were to meet Brian at the trailhead. Brian, however, was apparently late so we started without him. We decided to make a detour immediately and headed due north and steeply ascended to the wide grassy ridge that led to “Old Baldy” and to South Arapaho.
After finally arriving at “Old Baldy” and taking pictures, we headed for the top of South Arapaho. On top, we met Brian who had hiked up with his two dogs via the 4th of July mine. The three of us set off for North Arapaho. Click here for an account of the ridge traverse and a panoramic picture. I only made this separate because the panorama, while awesome, is a relatively big file (135K). Anyway, after a few challenges on the ridge, we scrambled up to the summit of North Arapaho through a little gully. The summit is flat and features a monstrous cairn.
Here’s a picture of Bill and I on the summit of North Arapaho. Bill is standing on the huge cairn. We were a little worried about the storm you see behind us while we were on the ridge. We felt a few raindrops and realized that North Arapaho would be a very bad place to be during a storm because there’s only one way to retreat and that’s back over the ridge and on to South Arapaho. We were pretty sure that the storm was only packing rain and no lightning so we continued on. When we arrived at the summit, we noticed that the storm was going to bypass us completly…it was heading for South Arapaho. The storm frightened everyone else off the ridge and we had the summit to ourselves.
Here is a picture of Brian on the summit of North Arapaho with South Arapaho and the top of the Arapaho Glacier in the distance. We took pictures, explored around, and Bill even shot some video with his camera that he had hauled up. After staying on the summit for about 30 minutes, we headed back down the ridge in clearer weather. After descending South Arapaho we went back down the standard route which wended its way down to the 4th of July Mine. When we arrived at the mine, another little rainstorm moved in and showered us a bit. And again, after about 30 minutes, the clouds had completely cleared out and there was sun and blue skies.
We were all pretty tired after this long day but the trip had been very successful. Hopefully, we’ll be headed out again for more peaks in the Indian Peaks. Here’s a nice sunset shot of the southern part of the Indian Peaks. North and South Arapaho are on the lefthand side.