Niwot Ridge, Oct 21 2012

We weren’t able to get an alpine start, so I picked something that would make for some fun half-day adventure.  The first real peak I hiked in Colorado after moving back in 2001 was Navajo Peak with my brother, Mark.  Since then, I’ve been back to the Brainard Lake area many times for climbing, hiking, skiing, and cycling.  The area really is spectacular.

I had noticed on a map that there is a trail that runs up onto Niwot Ridge from the Long Lake Trailhead.  I figured we could check that out, get some views into the forbidden City of Boulder Watershed, and try scrambling over to Navajo Peak.  With a little bit of snow, a late start, and not feeling so great mentally or physically, we turned around at the false summit of Niwot Ridge.  Here is the story.

We rolled into the Brainard Lake Recreation Area around 8:30 and were hiking by 9:00.  Only a few minutes from the Long Lake Trailhead, the Jean Lunning trail breaks off to the south and the views of Niwot Ridge, Navajo Peak, Apache Peak, and Shoshone Peak open up:

About half an hour later we were pretty high on Niwot Ridge and the Blue Lake area peaks came into view:

Kiowa Peak is very prominent in the North Boulder Creek drainage:

We hiked by the familiar Tundra Laboratory with the now-defunct Tundra Cam:

Our objective came into view, the Niwot Ridge traverse to Navajo Peak:

But we still had a ways to go.  From the trailhead to the end of the easy terrain is about 5 miles:

The towers on the ridge between Apache Peak and Shoshone Peak are known as “The Chessmen”, and they present an impressive profile from Niwot Ridge:

There was still some snow left from Xena Warrior Princess about ten days prior:

Arikaree Peak and Green Lake 4 in the forbidden City of Boulder watershed:

The ridge steepens and narrows dramatically:

And soon we were scrambling:

One more notch to the false summit with an enormous cairn on top:

Unfortunately, the view from the false summit included the most difficult terrain of the day:

Nate poked around a bit and confirmed what I felt.  We should have brought a rope:

So, we had lunch, turned around, and rolled back to Boulder for drinks at the Southern Sun:

So, this was another “fill-in-the-blanks” type trip that almost panned out the way I was hoping.  The new views of a familiar area, perfect weather, and fun scrambling made for a great day out.  I would have liked to have finished the ridge and summited Navajo Peak, but that can wait for another day.  Some actual climbing practice and/or a rope and we’ll make it across..




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