Huron Peak - 14,003 feet
North Apostle - 13,860 feet
Ice Mtn - 13,951 feet
Huron Peak - 14,003 feet
North Apostle - 13,860 feet
Ice Mtn - 13,951 feet
|Huron to 2 of 3 Apostles|
Huron to 2 of 3 Apostles
TLDR: Scouting trip with justiner of the Three Apostles Traverse from Huron. Planned to hit all three and skipped West Apostle due to weather concerns. Fun and challenging route with very time consuming ridges, we would have saved a lot of time and hit all three Apostles if we remembered the details of past trip reports of this route!
Stats: 12h50m, 16.8mi, 6,700ft vert
First things first, if you plan on doing this route I suggest you also read the trip reports from ridge runner and Marmot72 for more good info. I read them some time before doing the route to know it was passable, but if I had remembered their descriptions of getting around a few major obstacles we could have saved a lot of time and effort trying to make them work ourselves.
As with my trip with Justin a few weeks ago (Independence Pass to Red Mountain B via Continental Divide) this was a scouting trip to see one of the difficult portions of a larger route, Marshall to Tennessee Pass via the Continental Divide. I met up with Justin the evening before and we drove through Leadville to the Huron 2WD trailhead, arriving around 10:30pm. Here I got to try out my new bivy and sleeping pad for the first time. I slept fairly well, but we had good weather and the real test of how much you hate your bivy seems to be when you have to actually zip it up instead of just sticking your head out all night. We started moving at 4:30am the next morning and reached the summit of Huron in 2.5 hours.
Weather and conditions were excellent, we saw one early bird hiker coming down near the summit and passed one more on our way up. Otherwise we were alone until we got back into Apostle Basin.
Off in the distance from the summit of Huron we could see Grizzly Peak A and and the bright color of Red Mountain B from our last adventure, which was pretty cool.
The descent from Huron to the south ridge is rocky but easy class 2, certainly the easiest off trail section of the day by far. This goes to a grassy saddle around 13,100. From here the work begins!
Going back up from the saddle conditions become much rockier and a bit loose in places. Moderate class 2 with occasional easy class 3. At Peak 13,472 the terrain becomes rougher and progress slows down, with more class 3. Getting through the saddle of 13,472 to the intersecting ridge with Peak 13,517 is the first tricky part of the day. We were trying to stay on the actual ridge as much as possible, which wasn't always the easiest way. Just before the saddle of these two points is a large tower that is not climbable. We spent a fair bit of time fussing around to find a way around it to the west, then up high to the east (just zoom in on our gpx track there). Eventually we realized the only way around it was to drop down a fair bit to some grassy ledges to the east, then go back up to the saddle past the tower. Had we remembered the details of the previous reports linked above we could have done this from the start, saving a lot of effort.
After the saddle below the tower there is a little more class 2/easy 3 before reaching Peak 13,517 along the Continental Divide. I think it took us about thee and a half hours to reach this point from the summit of Huron. I quickly removed Huron from my mental list of "bonus peaks" I was considering tagging along a future CD route. Peak 13,517 to the saddle just below the north ridge of North Apostle was probably the slowest and most challenging section of the day. The ridge from Huron had some loose rock, but this section was steeper, looser, and more crumbly, making progress extremely slow. Again we tried to stick to the ridge proper where we could, but this wasn't always possible, requiring some backtracking and slow and careful downclimbing. This section of ridge is very time consuming with very poor rock and requires a lot of caution. I brought my helmet and was happy to put it on once on this ridge as a precaution.
One point in particular to be aware of is labeled as 13,070 on the scanned USGS topos, which connects a minor ridge to the north. We made our way up it to try and regain the ridge proper but it is not passable due to steep terrain and very poor rock. We ended up dropping down below the rocky area and crossing the steep and loose slope. Had we remembered this section from previous trip reports we could have just stayed low from the start and saved a good bit of time and effort.
Eventually we made it through this section to the minor saddle before the climb to North Apostle. While the rock here is still loose, it is more like the Huron ridge and far better than the crumbly section we just finished, which was a great relief. It finally felt like we could make good progress again! The climb up to North Apostle is sustained class 3 with some limited exposure, we were able to pretty much stick to the ridge and go directly up to the summit.
At the summit of North Apostle we took a short break to enjoy the view and Justin flipped through the summit register. It seems to be getting a few people a week lately and we saw a few familiar names. From here the summit of Ice Mountain looks pretty close, although the route isn't readily apparent. The drop to the saddle is pretty quick and easy, followed by some easy scrambling up the first part of the ridge. Eventually if you keep your eyes open you'll see a faint path with occasional cairns that curve around a little below (northwest) the ridge. These lead to a steep gully that is loose in places and and requires a few easy moves, but quickly dumps you out at the summit.
The summit register on Ice showed most of the same names as these are usually done as a pair, but only a few coming from Huron or continuing to West Apostle. Our plan was to continue along the ridge to West Apostle, then to Lake Ann Pass, following that trail back to the Huron TH. Over the last couple hours, however, clouds had been building, with a few looking pretty dark. A couple started to drop rain at this point and we decided it was best to call it good from here instead of spending the next couple hours scrambling on an exposed ridge.
Instead we went back the way we came to the Ice/North Apostle saddle and dropped down from there. We started getting occasional rain sprinkles at this point and heard one bit of thunder, but it ended up not getting any worse and actually partially cleared up. Oh well. The descent down starts with a steep and loose gully, then into grassy terrain. Once we met and crossed the stream we eventually ran into the Three Apostles Trail (not where our GPS shows it, instead closer to the stream), which eventually joins with the Lake Ann Trail and leads back to the Huron TH. Once on trail it was easy cruising to the car, where I had (unmelted!) chocolate peanut butter cups and Justin had Cheetos, both purchased from the Leadville gas station as healthy recovery food the night before.
After a quick dinner stop in Leadville we continued home.
Overall a solid day. It would have been nice to be able to get the full route including West Apostle, but in the moment it was good to play it safe on the weather even if in hindsight it wasn't an issue. Had we known more going in we could have saved time on a couple of the obstacles and gone around them from the start, potentially saving enough time to hit West Apostle, but I suppose that does take a little of the adventure out of it! Now I'm thinking about going back to do West Apostle and Ice Mountain from Lake Ann Pass just to fill in that gap. Can't be too mad about having an excuse to go back to a nice spot!
Higher resolution images can be found in this imgur gallery.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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