Type: Trad, Alpine
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Page Views: 4,757 total · 67/month
Shared By: Martin le Roux on Aug 14, 2018 · Updates
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac, Tyler KC

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Warning Access Issue: Closed Area - City of Boulder Watershed DetailsDrop down

Description Suggest change

This is a traverse of Audubon and all the named peaks on the continental divide between Paiute and South Arapaho Peak. There's lots of Class 3 scrambling, some Class 4, and one or two short 5.0-5.4 sections. It's about 17 miles with 8,500' elevation gain. It's been done in under 7 hours, but most people will take much longer.

There are several variations that avoid a shuttle back to the start. See the Brainard Basin Traverse and Boulder Watershed Traverse below.

1. Start at Mitchell Lake trailhead, and hike up the trail to Audubon. Or scramble up Audubon's SE ridge.

2. Hike across to Pauite's east ridge, and scramble up the ridge.

3. Hike down to the base of Mt. Toll. In mid-August 2018, we found a small pool of meltwater here, one of the few water sources at that time of year. Climb Toll's north "ridge" (really the NW face), Class 4 with a 20' 5.4 corner. See Buzz Burrell's comment under https://www.mountainproject.com/route/105758278/north-ridge and https://www.mountainproject.com/photo/114957967. Or traverse south at the base of the face, and climb a gully on the west side (loose 3rd class).

4. Hike down from Toll and up to Pawnee Peak. In early September 2022, there were a few pools of water at the saddle between Mt. Toll and Pawnee Peak.

5. Hike across the Pawnee Pass to Shoshoni Peak.

6. Traverse from Shoshoni to the start of the "Chessmen", https://www.mountainproject.com/route/105764475/kasparov-traverse. Most of the towers can by bypassed by Class 3 and 4 scrambling on exposed ledges, initially on the west side and then crossing over to the east at the base of the first major tower (the White Knight). Once on the east side, a gradually descending traverse leads to a notch with a good view of the Rook and the Bishop's Scepter. Stay on the east side and make an ascending traverse to a notch between the King's Pawn and the King. Try to stay high; if you traverse too low you'll end up in an ugly, loose gully below the notch. The elevation at the notch is about 12,900'. Once at the notch, climb the King via the ridge crest and ramps on the east side (Class 3). Scramble to the summit of Apache.

7. Hike SE and downclimb (exposed Class 3) towards Navajo. Bypass "Dicker's Peck" on the north side, and follow a ramp across the SW side of Navajo until a deep west-facing gully comes into view. Climb the gully (Class 4) to the base of a short, steep cliff band. Traverse south on an easy ledge, then double back and follow Navajo's SW ridge for a short distance to the top. Reverse the last section to descend.

8. Hike down scree from Navajo to a perennial tarn at the base of a snowfield on the NE side of the Navajo-Arikaree col. This is a good water spot and the only place where the route deviates by more than a few hundred feet from the ridge crest. (Ironically, the snowfield appears to be partially outside the City of Boulder watershed, even though it drains to the east). Alternatively, it's possible to descend the ridge crest until the low point between Navajo and Arikaree. This is considerably more difficult. Tommy Caldwell did it this way in August 2020.

From the tarn, scramble up the north ridge of Arikaree, staying close to the crest (exposed Class 3, recommended), or bypass the ridge via ledges and ramps on the east side.

9. Hike down from Arikaree and across a flat section, then go up and over Point 12,887 until the ridge narrows. Follow the ridge crest for several hundred feet to a notch. At this point, there is an old airplane wreck. According to https://planecrashmap.com/plane/co/N609Z and https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19631207-0, these are the remains of a Curtiss C46 cargo plane that crashed in December 1963. Climb gingerly past the wreckage and up a corner to a ledge (Class 3). Traverse along ledges on the east side below the ridge crest, and drop down to a notch at the base of the north ridge of "Deshawa" (unmarked on USGS maps). Alternatively, from the notch near the wreckage, downclimb to the east (loose Class 3) towards a small tower, traverse south along ledges at the base of steep cliffs, then climb up to the notch below "Deshawa". The latter variation may be covered by snow until late summer. Either way, once at the notch below "Deshawa", climb a short 5.0 corner near the ridge crest, then a Class 3 ramp on the east side to the summit.

10. Scramble across to the base of the NE ridge of North Arapaho Peak. Where the ridge steepens, climb Class 4 slabs on the right side of the ridge crest, move back left to the ridge crest, bypass a short vertical step (very exposed), then move back right, and climb more slabs to regain the ridge crest where the angle eases off. Follow a long Class 3 ramp on the east side until one can cross over easily to the west. Hike a few hundred feet up scree slopes to the summit.

11. Follow the well-trodden Class 3 traverse to South Arapaho Peak, https://www.mountainproject.com/route/105756721/south-ridge. Run, walk, or hobble down the trail to the 4th of July trailhead.

GPX track: https://caltopo.com/m/RAVVS.

Anton Krupicka's trip report: http://antonkrupicka.com/blog/audubon-to-arapaho/..


Brainard Basin Traverse: After Navajo, a variation that returns to Mitchell Lake Trailhead is to head east on Niwot Ridge. This provides almost 3/4 mile of Class 3 scrambling before the ridge turns into a broad, grassy shoulder. Once on the grassy shoulder, pass a weather station (Point 12,284 on USGS maps), pick up a rough jeep track, and follow it east for about 2 miles before turning north onto the USFS Niwot Ridge Trail. Follow the trail down to Long Lake and the trailhead. Part of the jeep track crosses into the City of Boulder watershed, but presumably Boulder's okay with that, since their "no trespassing" signs are all to the south of the track.

Boulder Watershed Traverse: Start at the Sourdough Trailhead, and hike past the Mountain Research station to the weather station at Point 12,284 on Niwot Ridge. Scramble along the ridge, and continue up Navajo's SE side to reach Navajo's SW ridge a short distance from the top. Summit Navajo, then continue as described above to S. Arapaho Peak. Follow the Arapaho Glacier Trail past Old Baldy to Rainbow Lakes Trailhead. Run, hike, bike, or drive for 4.5 miles down Rainbow Lakes Road back to the start.

Location Suggest change

Start at Mitchell Lake Trailhead (Brainard Lake area), and end at the 4th of July Trailhead below South Arapaho Peak.

Protection Suggest change

If you think you need protection on easy Class 5 then this route probably isn't for you.