Peak(s):  Apache Peak  -  13,441 feet
Dicker's Peck - 13140
Navajo Peak A  -  13,409 feet
Date Posted:  10/05/2018
Modified:  10/10/2018
Date Climbed:   08/04/2018
Author:  LSUExplorer03
 Pursuit of the Peck   


Once again, Gerry Roach's book "Colorado's Indian Peaks: Classic Hikes and Climbs" inspired me on this one. I've been talking about this trip since last winter and even bought a thin alpine rope specifically for this trip. That's all I had to do was wait for summer and for Apache's east ledges to dry up a bit. Now fast-forward to August, 2018 and it's time to find a climbing partner. Luckily my buddy Dave was available and up for the adventure! I'm not 100% sure on the mileage, but Gerry Roach says it's 9.8 miles RT without Navajo. I figured we did about 11 miles in total. It took us about 12 hours, but that includes 3 summit breaks, a lunch break, and ample time for picture and video taking...and gearing up/down...and slightly getting lost on the descent down "airplane gully" (more to come on that). Overall, we had an epic day with danger of weather, but no issues to be told.

Getting There:

I picked Dave up from Boulder around 4:30am Saturday morning. We made it up to the Long Lake TH and were packed up and ready to hit the trail a little before 6am. There was no one at the booth when we entered the Brainard Lake area at this early hour, so luckily we had cash and stopped to pay for our day use permit. It was a beautifully crisp morning, but we knew there was a decent chance for afternoon thunderstorms, so we attempted to make good time up to the base of Apache. We did get distracted a few times to visit with some locals and take in the beauty of Lake Isabel and the wild flowers!

The locals didn't seem to mind our presence as they grazed about 20ft away
Early morning light on Lake Isabel

Follow the trail around the north side of Lake Isabelle, then navigate through some marshy area where you'll have to cross a small creek a few times. I imagine if you hike through this area in the spring, it may be quite difficult due to the increase of water flow. We had no issues keeping our boots dry this time of year, however. We made it up to the unnamed tarn around 11,400' within about 2 hours I believe. You really get some amazing views from here of the cirque and about 95% of your entire route. Above tree line before the trail peters out, we just looked ahead and determined the best way through the talus.

Unnamed tarn around 11,400'

At the unnamed tarn, we noticed a few snowfields directly in front of us (west), so we decided to follow a well-worn trail to our right (north) up a hill (see above photo). This route was OK, but we realized a little later that we added a bit of distance by going a bit too far north instead of directly up the talus biggie.

Starting up the east ledges of Apache

The talus begins to steepen and the going gets a bit tougher. At this point there is no trail and it's time to just look ahead, evaluate the slope, and pick your line. Our general direction was west/southwest to the wall in the above picture, then when you get above this feature, you will start angling west/northwest. As I read other TRs before this trip, I was trying to find a detailed description of the route up the east ledges, but I couldn't seem to find anything. Now I know becomes pretty obvious of your general route because there is a deep gully to the northeast, and steep walls to your west. So just head towards the summit with the best looking path and enjoy the scree!

Navajo Peak center, Dicker's Peck just to the right, Navajo Snowfield center, Apache Peak out of the photo on the right

Above is a zoomed out view of our general path. Some of the slab sections were wet with a light stream of water running down, but the majority of these wet sections were easily avoided. However, if you do get your boots wet, things can get very slippery in this early section of the east ledges.

Angle northwest through the scree and talus
Here's Dave enjoying a flatter section

There were a few groups of people heading up towards Navajo, but we only ended up seeing 1 person climbing the Navajo Snowfield (small dot in the above picture). The snowfield doesn't look too big until you get some perspective of a human on it. Then you realize just how massive it is! Navajo Snowfield is definitely on my list of things to do next summer!

Follow the blue line to the summit

As we neared Apache's summit, the scree turns to talus and everything was very loose! It looked as if the summit was further away to the north (following the red line above); even though we were absolutely loving the loose talus (sarcasm), Dave was over it and suggested the summit was possibly due west of us (blue arrow) instead of further off to our northwest. "I sure hope so" I we tried it out and Dave was right. Boom! One summit down, 2 to go.

I've been on many summits in the IPW, but I think this one is my favorite to date. The views are outstanding and there is so much land in so many directions to check out. You can see directly down into the Lone Eagle area and Triangle Lake, you can see up to Pawnee and Toll; the views over to Shoshoni via the Chessman are insane (would love to tick that traverse off one day), and then the views over to the north face of N. Arapaho are breathtaking as well.

Path over towards Navajo (N. Arapaho is middle, right)

We grabbed some pics up on Apache, but we couldn't spend too much time taking in the views...we still had a lot to accomplish! And the wind had really kicked up when we got onto the exposed ridge. The hike across the south ridge went by quickly as it's simple class 2. We skirted around the hump in the ridge to the right (west) and then headed down towards the notch between Apache and Navajo. Gerry Roach calls this ridge class 3 and until we started heading down towards the notch, I thought we missed something. But then it gets a little spicy. There are 2 spots on the downclimb that you need to concentrate on and be careful.

We followed the blue arrow

Here is where the class 3 comes in. It's a little hard to see in the above photo, but there is a bulge in the rock that you must go around. I started heading around to the right (red arrow), but there is significant exposure off to the right and not a ton to hold onto. I backtracked, checked around to the left and it looked a little better, but not much. There wasn't as much exposure to the left (blue arrow), but it was more of a slab, without a ton of features. We skirted around this bulge to the left and continued our descent to the notch.

looking back up at the slab downclimb

The above picture is below the section I just described. The dark bulge just below the center cloud is what I described. Once you get below the slabby section, the rock becomes more blocky and broken and there are plenty of features to use.

Final 20' downclimb

The final 20' before the notch is the most difficult, however if you take your time, there are plenty of holds. I would almost call this closer to class 4. Not because of difficulty, but it is close to vertical climbing (again, with plenty of features). I actually thought the slab section above this was slightly sketchier...but that is right in line with my climbing style...I hate slab and would much prefer bigger holds on an overhanging route!

Let the fun begin!

We've arrived at the notch and above us looms Dicker's Peck! With a unique name like that, how could we not climb it? I'd be lying though if I said we weren't a bit apprehensive at this point. The wind was howling through this narrow notch, we were pretty cold even in our puffies, and then there was the building clouds. We did the math...about an hour for both of us to climb the Peck, take pics, and hour to the summit of Navajo...and then a good 45-60 minutes back down to the relative safety of the cirque below. It was about noon at this point and we had about 3 hours until we were off the summits and ridges...and the clouds were quickly building. Hhmmm...we both hesitated, but then one of us broke the silence... "F it! We hauled up this gear and all this rope...who knows when we'll be up here again and have this opportunity...there is still plenty of blue sky...let's do it!"

The rope shows our general line up the Peck

Dave took the sharp end (which I was totally fine with seeing that I have limited trad experience), geared up, and was off. This was our first alpine climb and although the conditions were probably very typical for these types of climbs (very cold, approaching storms, etc.), this definitely had a much different feel than that of Boulder Canyon or Eldo on a warm summer day! But that's all part of the excitement!

"Climbing!" ... "Climb on Dave" I shouted over the wind. Dave plugged in the first piece of pro about 10 feet off the deck, then about 15 feet later I yelled up, "Dave, you gonna place another cam?" He knows what he's doing, but my nerves were getting to me. Another move or two later, 2nd piece of pro was in. A few minutes later Dave got to the ledge I had read about on MountainProject. He began climbing directly up the slightly overhanging face and I yelled up, "Dave, I think you have to traverse a bit to the right before you head up the face...there's a crack over there." He took my advice and was out of sight. A few minutes later and a faint yell came down "Off belay!" Now it was my turn. I was both excited and a bit anxious. By now my fingers were almost numb...I quickly took off my warm merino wool socks and shoes and strapped on my rock shoes. Here goes nothing! The climb was very straight forward...nice jugs the whole way up! Although the last 10 feet were a bit spicy. There is a bit of an overhang just before the top out and the hand holds above the little roof get better as you move left...but as you move left, the exposure increases dramatically as you're peering down onto the Navajo Snowfield. What an exciting climb!

On top of the Peck (N. Arapaho in the background)

We clipped in with our PAS's at the top, celebrated with some high fives, grabbed a few pics, then rapped off. If you find yourself on top of the Peck, check and double check (maybe even triple check) whatever piece of webbing or rap ring you use. There is a lot of tat up there and some of it is severely frayed and shouldn't be trusted with your life.

Next objective...Navajo Peak via the West Chimney. We got back down off the Peck, swapped shoes, organized our gear, re-coiled the rope, and plotted out our next moves. At this point, we were right on schedule -- it took us about an hour to get up and down the Peck. The big question mark was weather or not we needed to rope up for the scramble up Navajo. To be honest, from on top of the Peck, the ramp from the notch up to the start of the west chimney looked like it was narrow and sloping away from the mountain (towards the massive gully leading down to basin below). It looked intimidating!

General route up the class 3 ramp
Easy route-finding up the ramp

But once we scrambled over to the base of the ramp, it was actually very low angle with lots of broken rock and very safe -- easy class 3 with minimal exposure. The view from the top of the Peck was very misleading -- must have been something to do with the lighting at the time? It's pretty obvious where to go at this point. There is a class 4/5 wall on your left and a very steep, seemingly bottomless gully to your right. So we headed up the ramp and soon saw the West Chimney.

West Chimney

We turned the corner and there it was! As we were turning the corner, another chimney came into view first (on the picture above, it's the chimney to the right with the large block/chock stone wedged in at the top. I thought to myself, "we've gotta get up through THAT chimney and over that block?!? That looks impossible!" But then as you continue to make your way around the corner, the left Chimney quickly comes into view. It is steep, but looks much more welcoming than the right chimney. In Gerry Roach's IPW book, I believe he describes these 2 chimneys from above. He mentions taking the right most (northern most) chimney/gully (from above view) if you're descending from Navajo towards Dicker's Peck.

Looking up into the West Chimney

The chimney looks pretty intimidating from below, but once you start climbing, there are plenty of jugs and ledges along the way to stop and rest. At the bottom, we were debating on whether or not to take out the rope, but decided to start climbing without it and if either one of us felt uncomfortable at any point, we would rope up.

Looking down from half way up, you can see the steepness

There was a lot of loose rock throughout the chimney, so I had to be very careful not to kick anything down on Dave. In any really loose sections, Dave stopped and waited for me to climb 15 or 20 feet, then I would stop and wait for him to catch up. We made quick work on the chimney and before we knew it, we were topping out and were withing about 80 vertical feet of the summit.

Just out of the West Chimney, looking back at the top out

In the above picture, you get a good look at the route if you were to descend down the West Chimney. Notice the 2 gullies/chimneys -- you would want to descend down the right (northern) chimney. As you can see, the clouds were really starting to build now and there wasn't much blue sky left.

Just above the West Chimney, the remaining route

Above picture is the remainder of the route to the summit of Navajo. If we had more time, we would have loved to climb this crack (red arrow) up through this white rock. It looked like a low-ish angle finger crack and lead right up to the summit. Instead, we decided to stay unroped and head up to the right, following the blue arrow. There was a ramp to the south that we scrambled up, then turned to the north for the final 50 feet of scrambling.

Final 50 feet of scrambling

The above picture shows where you turn north after scrambling up the short ramp. I believe this is where you would join up with the Airplane Gully route up to Navajo Peak. This section was pretty exposed, especially since I was thinking we were done with the more difficult scrambling after the chimney. The grade stays at moderate class 3 here though.

2 minutes later we were on the summit...we made it!! Couple high fives, pictures and we were ready to get the hell outta there. It was clear there was rain all around us, especially to the north where we could no longer see Longs and the northern IPW. A few minutes later we began hearing distant thunder. We were really cuttin it close!

Class 3/4 chimney off Navajo

We headed off Navajo to the east and quickly hit the other chimney that I had read about. Gerry Roach describes this as a class 3 chimney variation to the standard Airplane Gully route up Navajo. This chimney was much shorter and a bit narrower than the West Chimney we had ascended earlier. It had one section that was a little tricky to down climb as it was slightly overhung and I couldn't see where my feet were going. After we got down the chimney, we were back to a light trail/scree. It began drizzling a bit so we picked up our pace down the ridge.

View down the ridge after the chimney

The above picture shows our route in blue, which we later found out was NOT the correct route we were intending to descend down. For Airplane Gully we should have gone a bit further across the ridge to the 2nd (I think) gully seen in the above picture in red. It was misleading because there was a very well worn trail leading down into this first gully...we just assumed we were heading down Airplane Gully.

Looking back up the ridge towards Navajo

The 1st gully (blue arrow), and Airplane Gully (red arrow) further east

Above is a picture of the 1st gully as you head down the ridge. As you can see, there is a well worn path leading down this gully and the first couple hundred feet down were very straightforward. But then we soon got cliffed out and had to improvise a bit.

Looking back up our descent gully

When we realized our gully was not our intended route

The above picture shows the view about 1/3 of the way down our gully. To this point, the gully was a bit loose, but wasn't horrible. Plus, I have heard that Airplane Gully was super loose and not very enjoyable, so I assumed to this point we were still on track. As you can see in the picture above, the red X shows where we got cliffed out. We had to back track a bit up hill and head left/west. There was a little, 7 foot up climb that you can see in the picture, then we kept traversing west across easy terrain until we found a suitable place to begin our descent again. This is where it got a bit hairy. As we descended further, we got into some slabby ledges that were very was almost as if we were descending the lowest part of this gully and this is where the water was running. There were several mossy, very wet sections. There was one or two spots where I had to down climb a slab that had almost no holds and was wet. Granted it was only a 5 foot down climb to the next ledge, but a slip here would not be fun. After a rather stressful 20 minutes, we both got through this wet, slabby section and back onto the much more enjoyable loose, talus.

Looking back up the 2 gullies - Airplane Gully (red), our gully (blue)

It was funny because the entire way down the gully, we were continuously searching for the airplane wreckage! We actually didn't realize we were in the wrong gully until close to the bottom. Oh well, we made it down safely and it added a little twist to the descent. I'm not sure how loose Airplane Gully is, but once we got down to the talus, it was SUPER loose! I kicked a rock down on Dave twice. He was able to dodge the first one, but not the 2nd. Luckily it was only rolling for about 25 feet and didn't have enough time to pick up too much speed, but it was probably the size of a football and could have done some serious damage!

Back down to the unnamed tarn

After we got through the loose talus and scree, we finally got back to a place where we felt safe taking a well deserved break; we stopped for about 15 minutes to fill up some water and refuel a bit. It was crazy...we looked behind us to the west and the sun was starting to break through the clouds. 5 minutes later it was blue skies and sun if there was never a threat of storms. About 45 minutes prior, we were sure we were going to get drenched in a downpour and likely lightening. The mountains never cease to amaze me!

Looking down to Lake Isabelle

The rest of the hike back to the car was uneventful. After the unnamed tarn we crossed a small snowfield and arrived back on the main trail. It was a beautiful hike back to the car with some cloud cover and a nice breeze. I think we got back to the TH around 6pm. We were surprised at how many people we passed, still heading up to Lake Isabelle and beyond. There were definitely still some storms in the area, so I was happy to be heading back to treeline.

Overall this was an epic hike/climb. Dicker's Peck was a great first alpine climb that I am definitely planning on coming back to next summer and leading myself. I would love to climb the Navajo Snowfield and link it with Dicker's Peck and the North Face of Navajo Peak. Cheers!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Alpine trad: Weather? Check. Numb fingers? Check..
10/08/2018 13:27
I chuckled at your description of the Dicker's climb, it brought back fond memories from my ascent many years ago (I too did almost the exact same set of climbs (Navajo, Navajo Glacier, etc). Glad you had a great outing!


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