Peak(s):  Nokhu Crags - 12485
Date Posted:  08/17/2015
Modified:  12/05/2016
Date Climbed:   07/25/2015
Author:  MtnHub
Additional Members:   ChrisRoberts, Fishdude, dpage, sunny1, cougar, 12ersRule, MtnHub
 Can you spell 'Nokhu Crags'?   

Can you spell 'Nokhu Crags'?

Nokhu Crags from Hwy 14.

Nokhu Crags (12,485')

July 25, 2015

Lake Agnes Trailhead (Never Summer Mountains)
Elevation Gain: 2,450'
Round-trip Length: ~4.5 miles

Climbers: 12ersRule (Dave), ChrisRoberts (Chris), dpage (Derick), cougar (John), sunny1 (Nancy), Fishdude (Joel), MtnHub (Doug)


Last year Dave and Nancy introduced me to the Gores with Keller Mountain. We had hopes of connecting once again this year, so when I gave Dave the dates I would be out in CO again, he suggested Nokhu Crags, something he was planning to attempt.

Being unfamiliar with these mountains, I did some research on them. The Crags lie in the Never Summer Mountains, just NW of Rocky Mountain National Park. They are a unique set of volcanic spires and get their name from the Arapaho language: Neaha-no-xhu, meaning Eagles Nest.

Somewhere during my research I discovered that its name was frequently mispronounced or misspelled in the past, even on some maps. There was even a comment saying it might be more difficult to spell it than it is to climb it. Well, as tricky and unusual as the name is, I can attest that it is definitely more difficult to climb this 12er than it is to spell it.

Getting There:

The trailhead for Nokhu Crags is at Lake Agnes, about two miles west of Cameron Pass. From I-25, take Hwy 14 west at the Fort Collins exit. It is roughly 60 miles west of the Hwy 287 intersection, a gorgeous canyon drive following the Cache La Poudre River.

The Climb:

We all arrive at the trailhead together, Nancy, Joel, and I in one vehicle, and David and his posse of Fort Collins buddies in the other. The Crags tower directly above us, so close and yet so far.
The Crags rising above us in the parking area.

From the parking lot, we bushwhack through the brush until we hit the Michigan Ditch Road. Here we are joined occasionally by several runners participating in the Never Summer 100K. As they pass us by, we offer words of encouragement to them and cheer them on which I think they all appreciate.
Along the Michigan Ditch Road.

Walking along the road, Dave scopes out a couple of drainage chutes to ascend to get us to the high ridge. He finally decides on the best one, and the rest of us follow his lead.
Heading up to the ridge.

It is a very steep grade, and we need to stop and catch our breath several times.
Dave checking back on us stragglers.

Derick and John waiting for the others.

This slope is steep!

When we're finally out of the trees, we hit a grassy slope, bypassing a couple of short cliff bands. Looking back down we can see Hwy 14 snaking below us. Many of the rocks we see are covered with bright colored lichen. It's beautiful!
Looking back at Highway 14.

Colorful lichen on the rocks.

We finally gain the ridge leading up to the Crags. From this vantage point our route is quite obvious. The North Crag lies directly in front of us.
Derick, John, and Chris discussing the rest of the route.

The Crags, with our goal in sight.

Looking back down the slope we ascended.

Upward progress.

MtnHub ascending the slope. (photo by Nancy)

The parking area below us can be seen here from the ridge.

Up until this point the route has been very straightforward. When we near the craggy rocks we can tell that that will change quickly.
Coming up to the Class 3 stuff.

Dave and his crew have done the major route research, mainly relying on a TR by Brian C in 2013. I am simply a follower today and just along for the climb. I'm leaving it entirely up to them to find a good way through the rocks.

Before heading down into the notch, they look over their printouts for a quick review.
David and John confer and make a final check of the route before descending through the notch.

... and then they drop down.

Doug, and Derick follow Dave down to the notch. (photo by Nancy)

The terrain changes instantly. The rock is very crumbly and loose, and much care must now be given for each step, each handhold. We weave through various towers and spires aiming for a particular gully.
Joel and Nancy descending a chossy section.

MtnHub following the lead crew scrambling over to another gully. (photo by Nancy)

(photo by Nancy)

But it is also very beautiful, a regular rocky wonderland! And some of the views it offers are amazing! Many of the rock formations and pinnacles we encounter remind me of my climb up Mt. Sneffels last year.
Peek-a-boo through the spires.

Beautiful spires! Reminds me of Sneffels.

Progress is much slower now as, climbing up steep sections and gullies, we frequently need to go single file in short spurts to avoid the risk of rock fall on each other. The 'posse' stops on several occasions to discuss the landmarks that identify the correct way up.
Derick waiting for the group to catch up.

We still have to climb up THAT!? (photo by Nancy)

Avoiding the loose scree by staying on the more solid rock.

But eventually we succeed, and the final push to the summit is attained.
The final push to the summit.

Coming up to the summit.

Now is the time for celebration, and we reward ourselves with some food and drink and take pictures from the summit.
Nancy flashing her victory 'thumbs up!'

Snow Lake in the cirque below.

Mt. Richthofen and Static Peak.

Longs Peak in the distance.

From the summit, looking back down the slope we ascended.

Some of the crumbly, but beautiful spires.

Our descent is also marked with slow and cautious downclimbing. Again, we frequently need to go single file to keep from dislodging rocks down the chutes.
Starting our descent. (photo by Dave)

MtnHub coming down a steep section with sunny1 right behind. (photo by Dave)

Once we reach the grassy ridge, we can move more quickly. We find a good avalanche chute to drop down to the road again. It is filled with wildflowers.
The avalanche chute we descended. Beautiful flowers!

Dropping down the stream bed to the ditch road.

This time we take the road all the way back to the trailhead. It passes by an old mine shaft at the stream crossing. The Fort Collins gang climb up and check it out. Since this is the first hike of my 2015 vacation, I'm content with the climbing I've done already.
Once again looking up at Nokhu Crags from the parking lot.

My thanks goes to David for organizing this trip and including me in the fun. It was great to meet the other climbers too!

Please also check out Chris Roberts' report.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Good day!
08/19/2015 16:09
Perfect weather, perfect company, perfect views. Cameron pass area is amazing. Thanks for the write–up, Doug! We still need to hit Arrowhead–>McHenrys, and other fun scrambles up north!

08/19/2015 17:16
That was a delightful read. Well done, Doug! Thanks for posting.
Glad we were able to connect with you, it was a superb day.
My favorite climb of the year to date – great company, conditions, scenery. All a treat.
Hope to connect with you next summer (do we have to wait all year?!)

I particularly enjoyed this comment: "David and his posse of Fort Collins buddies"
Quite the competent bunch!

08/19/2015 19:53
I’m not sure about that Sunny1...but it was loads of fun.

08/19/2015 20:09
dpage, you gave me a pointer to help me unfreeze myself on an exposed, awkward ledge. That’s competence and team work!

Eagles Nest indeed!
08/19/2015 20:35
Fun hike with a good group! Nice TR, Doug!

Neat report
08/19/2015 21:28
This looks like a fun and very different day out. Good mix of route–finding, scrambling, different terrain, and camaraderie here. Thanks for the write–up!

Howdy folks
08/19/2015 22:17
Glad to share a great day in the mountains with some friends! Cool TR Doug, looking forward to the next one

hipster convention
08/19/2015 23:17
Great report and amazing pics Doug! Great day on a mountain that had a totally different feel and a solid group of climbers. The rotten rock was actually really fun

Ha Cool!
08/20/2015 09:22
Nice shot looking over to Richtofen and nice TR. I think that traverse has not been done; I was planning to just rap a headwall and claim all the glories.

Thanks for the report. I’m going to be working up on Michigan Ditch road the entire next week and figured I’d tag it during a break – timely report.

awesome looking peak
08/20/2015 09:22
from numerous vantage points – except close up. Volcanic choss pile. I remember driving over Cameron Pass like 15 years ago and noticing that imposing mountain from CO–14.

Those ski lines (Nokhuloir and Grand Central) have been on the to–do list for a while. Never Summers are just a cool range, period. Nice job on a complex mountain. Looks/sounds like you had fun.

Thanks for your comments!
08/20/2015 16:09
@ 12ersRule: Yes, I still have AH/McH on the backburner. Unclegar is also looking at that and was thinking of scoping it out later this summer. Maybe next year!

@ sunny1: "David and his posse" -- I was actually quoting you from our climb. No wonder you liked it.

@ Monster5: Ryan, when you write up a report for that traverse, let me know! I’d like to see that! But you can have all the glory; that’s not something I ever want to attempt!

@ Helmet: Yes, it has a very unique appearance and is hard not to spot. Not your typical pyramidal peak by any means. Thanks for reading!

@ Joel, Derek, Chris, John: great meeting you all! Thanks again for the company!

Hey now
08/20/2015 23:13
Doug, I completely missed this TR. what a great trip and crew you put together. Welcome back! Nice work to all of you!

Brian C
08/21/2015 06:06
You think it would go? Last time I did it I was hoping to traverse just the 2 summits of Nokhu but it seemed doubtful it would go, even with ropes.

Also, nice report! I love that peak.

Nice one
08/21/2015 08:31
Special area - great set of peaks up there. Thanks for the route info. Glad you got out and stretched your legs with a good group. We’ll catch you next time.

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