So this is one I've been wanting to write up badly. The problem is I've been just waiting and waiting to complete the climb first. Last year I climbed the Arapaho Peaks in the Indian Peaks Wilderness several times including the traverse between them. What I really wanted to do was to climb South Arapaho's premier couloir, "Skywalker". However last fall the route was out of condition and my gear was sorely lacking. By spring I had acquired the requisite gear and experience but the route was still under more avalanche danger than I cared to deal with. Then came the Tour Divide and I thought maybe I missed my window of awesome snow conditions. Well I may have missed the perfect conditions but I decided to take my tools for a walk yesterday morning and see how the couloir looked anyway. 4am saw me awake and I was hiking up the trail by 5:30am.
Dawn was just breaking and the sky was clear. Temps were cool but not cold and I hoped the wind and clear skies had hardened up the snow.
I had a little over an hour of walking before I would find out.
From far down the trail the route looked steep and lean. I was nervous I was going to have to turn around.
I made my way to the base of the couloir, further up the slope than normal. Oh well, that was low angle ground so I didn't worry. I sat at the base of the route, ate some peanuts and some CarboRocket and put on my crampons. This little guy and his buddy sure were interested in what I was doing. He must also climb as his claw marks went a good way up the first section.
And soon I went a good way up the first section, the snow was FIRM! Crampons gripped really well and with one tool out I went up and up really fast on the 40 deg snow.
Soon I hit the first melted out section. Ideally this would be all filled in but today it was rocks. Luckily the climbing was easy in my crampons and soon I rejoined the snow.
Here the snow steepened and I took out my second tool from my pack. I didn't really need it yet but I didn't want to "need" it and have it be hard to get to. I passed another short rocky section and a fragile snow bridge to gain access to the top part of the route. It looked totally filled in from here and I was excited.
Near the top I decided to stop for a quick rest before the final 55 deg slope and crux section. I was aiming for the Princess Leia finish which is the direct finish at the top of the photo above.
Ah dad there is a crevice!!!
I finished off my CarboRocket and hit the final section climbing directly through the rockband above. It was verglassed to the left but the right was fine and I drytooled through it.
Looking back down the slope.
Near the top of the climb where it gets really steep there was a surprise waiting for me. Part of the route where it gets really narrow had melted a lot leaving a big gap between solid snow sections. I didn't like the looks of the vertical soft snow so I decided on a quick mixed traverse on the rock to the right to get back on good snow. I carefully climbed the last section of really steep snow above the traverse and hightailed it to the top. Looking down from near the top.
Only a few feet to go!
I sat down in the rocks at the top, took off my crampons, stowed the tools and sent Marni an OK message with my SPOT. A few minutes later I scrambled up easy talus to the summit of South Arapaho!
Looking over at the traverse to North Arapaho. I briefly thought about heading over there but it was our Starbucks date morning so I decided that would delay my coffee and danish too long.
Instead I signed the register, ate my summit candy and jetted down the standard ascent trail.
I must have passed 50 people headed up on my way down including a huge group of Japanese tourists.
Looking back at the route.
I was trying to make it down by 10am but there were just so many pretty flowers.
I had to stop.
Again and again.
I crossed the final rushing waterfall and shuffled quickly to the car.
4:30 round trip from 10.2k to 13.4k and one heck of a good time!