On Sunday, September 9th, 2014, Suzy and I started out from the Beaver Creek Trailhead at right about 7:00 AM heading for the summit of Mount Audubon in the Indians Peaks Wilderness Area. The weather had been pretty crappy most of the week, but this day was supposed to be better, mostly sunny we thought, so we went for it. The morning sky was as clear as it gets when I stopped to remove my jacket, at 7:20 AM, and take this shot looking up at the south side of Mount Audubon.
30 minutes up the trail, the trees on the downhill side of the trail provided enough of a gap for this cool view looking S-SW towards Navajo Peak. I plan to ascend this peak too some day via Airplane Gully.
Above timberline now, at 8:15 AM, I couldn’t pass up this shot looking north up into Rocky Mountain National Park at (left to right) Chiefs Head Peak, Pagoda Mountain, Longs Peak and Mt Meeker. I’ve probably done more hikes and snowshoe trips around these mountains than any other group.
While I assume nothing, I presumed that the trail went straight up Mount Audubon’s East Slopes (shown in the picture below); however, I was wrong. The trail actually works up to the right (north) and ascends the final rocky slope on the northeast side. If I had read the route description or looked at the map closer in our book ( Colorado’s Indian Peaks: Classic Hikes and Climbs), I might have known this.
As we stood at the bottom of the final rocky section up the northeast side of Mount Audubon, at 9:40 AM, I turned around to get
a photo of the
area of Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ve been playing around a lot in this area the last two or three years, and there is still a lot
I want to do.
Note: I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but with hindsight, I can see in this photo that the weather was quietly starting to turn ugly.
We were singularly focused on the summit now, only 15 minutes away at 10:10 AM, but I had to stop for a shot of the north side of Paiute Peak before going on. I could see a cloudbank creeping in from the west, and we already had scattered clouds building overhead, so I knew the sunny photo opportunities were coming to an end soon.
On the summit at 10:25 AM, the wind was strong with a cold bite. I raced to put on my raincoat as a windbreaker and get a few shots before we lost the sun. This shot looks west towards Paiute Peak with Mount Toll, at 12,979 feet, to the left (south).
Looking south, this picture shows most of the eastern Indian Peaks Wilderness, with Navajo Peak (left) and Apache Peak back and center.
Zooming in on Navajo and Apache Peaks, you can see the formation known as Dickers Peck at the bottom of Navajo’s west ridge. Years ago, Suzy climbed this with a CMC group after ascending the snowfield, but that was before we met.
We were in a hurry to get down closer to timberline now. The weather was getting worse, and while there was no sign of lightening, we were not in a good location if there had been. Just 5 minutes after taking this hurried shot showing the storm moving in from the north, at 10:57 AM, we were hit hard with graupel. Luckily, we were just off the rocky slope where the trail turns east (with our backs to the wind now), because this stuff can really hurt your face.
Twenty-five minutes later, we weren't completely out of the storm, but we were further down and more protected from the wind. I turned around to get a shot of Mount Audubon disappearing into the storm when I noticed the group behind us moving directly down the East Slopes - no doubt, they turned east just below the summit, rather than descending N-NE on the trail, to avoid the pain of the wind driven graupel.
At 12:52 PM, we were not out of the woods yet (ha), but we were well below timberline, and the storm had moved out. There were still clouds moving around, but the afternoon looked like it was going to be mostly sunny and warm, like the morning started out to be. Moving into a pretty mix of dead and live trees, I got one more shot of Suzy moving down the trail.
At 1:45 PM, we had made it back down to the car, changed into clean clothes, decided to eat an early dinner at the Pumphouse Brewery in Longmont, and we were driving out when we saw two bull moose about 40 yards off the side of the road - the same two that had been standing right in the road early in the morning when we drove in.
GPS stats: trailhead to trailhead in 6 hours, 27 minutes; a round trip distance of 8.13 miles; a total elevation gain of 3,373 ft; with a max elevation of 13,282 ft, a whole 59 feet higher than the official height of Mount Audubon, indicating a low barometric pressure - hence the fast developing storm.
Indian Peaks Wilderness @ SummintPost.org
Colorado's Indian Peaks: Classic Hikes and Climbs
Hiking Colorado's Indian Peaks Wilderness