Peak(s):  Iroquois - 12799
Mt. George - 12876
Apache Peak  -  13,441 feet
Navajo Peak A  -  13,409 feet
Niwot Ridge  -  13,023 feet
Date Posted:  09/11/2018
Date Climbed:   09/09/2018
Author:  drotar447
 The LIGANN Traverse: Lost Tribe Lakes, Iruqois, Mt. George, Apache Peak, Navajo Peak, Niwot Ridge   

As the weekend approached I was faced with my usual predicament: where haven't I been that's within an hour of my bed? On the Pififfner Traverse, bad weather on day 5 forced me to take an all trail bypass around the Crater Lake cirque and also meant that I would miss Lost Tribe Lakes behind Crater Lake. I toyed with the idea of simply doing the route I planned for the Pfiffner Traverse in reverse but I wasn't excited about descending the loose-dirt filled NE Gully of Mt. Achonee.

I was skimming the relevant section of Gerry Roach's book "Colorado's Indian Peaks" and noticed the following description of Mt. Iroquois/Lost Tribe Lakes:
"This is one of the most remote climbs in the Indian Peaks. If you are looking for solitude, this is it.(Lost Tribe Lakes) is the most pristine place in Indians Peaks is reserved for those willing to work for it. The views (from the summit of Iroquois) will knock your socks off."
It seemed that Roach had my simplified decision making considerably. He had a throwaway note in the route description for Iroqouis about an "Extra Credit" option to traverse over to Mt. George, which he described as a "long and arduous" adventure. Why not keep going to Apache? While your at it, you might as well include Navajo Peak. Once'd you've picked up an acronym, there's no cost to include Niwot Ridge.

âThis route samples some rarely seen, and arguably some of the best scenery in all of Indian Peaks Wilderness. Even the vanilla "on-trail" portions on Day 1 near the Arapaho Glacier Trail, Arapaho Pass, views of Mt. Neva, and Caribou Lake are world class. However, due to the superior scenery in the off-trail portions on Day 2, I have named this route the LIGANN traverse after the 6 primary objectives:
  • L: Lost Tribe Lakes
  • I: Iruquois
  • G: Mt. George
  • A: Appache Peak
  • N: Navajo Peak
  • N: âNiwot Ridge

âI started at Rainbow Lakes and moved towards 4th of July Mine and then to Arapaho Pass. After dropping down to Caribou Lakes, I headed towards Coyote Park and then Wheeler Basin. I was worried about Wheeler Basin being a time-consuming bushwhack but there is actually a spectacular unofficial/use trail that goes several miles. The bushwhack/scramble up to Lost Tribe Lakes is definitely tough but reasonably straightforward. The next day was mostly known scrambling routes combined into one very long route on a ridge. The only real unknown about it was the section between Iruquois and Mt. George: all I knew was that Gerry Roach claimed it was class 3, and a singular mention of a "class 4 downclimb" in Peter Bakwin's trip report on the Mohling Traverse. The traverse from Mt. George to Apache is easy. The approach to and final climb up the "west chimney" on the back of Navajo is probably the most technical section but it's reasonably well traveled and doesn't hold many surprises. The last section between Airplane Gully and the end of Niwot Ridge was surprisingly tough. I was thinking this would be simple talus hopping and would serve as the "dessert" after a hard day. LIGANN had other plans and and deployed her boss. It's probably all class 3 but there's 1.3 miles of it and the route finding wasn't always obvious. I was very happy when it transitioned to tundra.

Advertisement #1: While this route is extremely highly recommended, it's not for everyone. It's over 32 miles/ +9000' vertical gain and features two mandatory sections of class 4 scrambling. Easily my hardest two consecutive days yet. It could be broken up into more days with possible camps at 4th of July Mine, Caribou Lake, or in the bowl north of Niwot Mt. However, given the intensity of the scrambling required I'd probably try to do it with as small of a food carry/pack size as possible.

Advertisement #2: This route skirts the boundaries of the Boulder County Watershed. Officials in Boulder will often bend the rules to support people with adventurous spirits but this seems to a serious exception. Staying out of the watershed requires 7-8 miles beyond what the geography would support. It also requires a lot of discipline...

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