Shoshoni & Apache Peaks 12,967 ft and 13,441 ft

Kasparov Traverse, class 5.6, ~13 miles, ~4000 ft, September 2007 (Jared, Jen, Brian Hynek, and Rebecca Cardennis)

Click Here For A Larger Version Of The Above Panorama


For detailed beta on the individual towers click look at Mountainproject's Description or Bill Wright's (the guy who named the towers) fantastic trip report. The table below is taken from Bill Wright's trip report and gives his ratings for the individual towers. Given the multitude of ways to the tops of some of them your mileage may vary.

Summit Difficulty
White Knight 4th class?
Knight's Pawn 4th class
Queen 5.2?
The Bishop 5.5
Black Knight 5.5 S
Bishop's Scepter 5.6
The Rook 5.10+/5.11- ?? 
King's Pawn 4th class
The King 3rd class

If you need to bail it looked possible to do so at the low point in the picture below (right where you pass the bishop). Also, once you are past the bishop if weather is threatening there is a very obvious ledge system down low that is almost entirely 2nd class talus. The picture below shows the line of least resistance past the Bishop in red and the line we took in yellow.  The yellow line required a good bit of extra 4th and 5th class scrambling and would be a bad choice if storms were imminent.


After a lousy few weeks of weather and injuries keeping me from climbing the routes I wanted to it looked like Labor Day weekend was going to turn out well.  I had originally been planning on hiking up Mt. Wilson but the lack of pet sitters and the thought of another long drive to the San Juans made the idea less attractive.  I want to finish my last two peaks with San Luis and it looks like the weather will turn soon.  Since I want a beautiful day with beaver damns, flowers, and wildlife to mark the end of my 14er quest I figured I'd skip any more until next summer.

I tend to troll through the alpine route pages over at Mountainproject from time to time to see what new and interesting things are out there.  One thing that I noticed was called 'The Kasparov Travers' which is really the ridge running between Shoshoni and Apache Peaks which is punctuated by several interesting towers dubbed 'The Chessman' by Gerry Roach..  The ridge and all the towers on it was named by Bill Wright and Mark Overson who were the first (public) guys to cross the ridge and climb all the towers on the route.  I had been thinking about doing the traverse for some time and was finally prompted by a trip report from Forrest Thorniley  to go give it a try.  My first attempt was with Jen on August 25th and failed because of the winds.  Being somewhat thick headed I decided to try again the following weekend.  As it turned out my friend Brian Hynek and his girlfriend Rebecca also wanted to do it so our outing turned into a foursome.  We all met up aright outside of the Brainard Lake Recreation area fee station at 4:45 in the morning of September 2nd 2007 and headed to the Long Lake Trailhead.

The plan was to ignore most of the towers but aim for the one called the Bishop's Scepter which was the second hardest one on the route.  The hardest one goes at 5.11 and was past our ability.  We figured that a group of four trying to climb a bunch of 4th and low fifth class towers would take us too long and put us in danger of storms but we did add the goal of trying to  stay as close to the ridge crest as possible to maximize the scrambling fun.

The hike up to Pawnee pass was very casual and easy as usual.  Whoever made that trail has a clear affinity for switchbacks because you almost don't notice gaining a couple thousand vertical feet.  We cut off the trail right before the pass to avoid having to scramble over a hump on the divide and crossed annoying talus until we reached the divide right before Shoshoni's summit.  Since I am also somewhat of a peak bagger and these two peaks represented the last in the area for me to climb I wanted to head over to the summit.  We all made the brief detour and were happy we did.  Shoshoni's summit was a very neat little chimney like structure with great views of the Isabelle and Navajo snowfields.  

After a brief bit of time on the summit we headed over to the start of the traverse.  I noticed Jen was getting pretty grumpy but she tends to do this when faced with long days.  Her mood always brightens as the sun gets higher so I ignored it  (actually it was a bit funny to see how grumpy she looked and I couldn't help but laughing a bit) and we kept going.  

The start of the ridge let us know that we would be scrambling for the whole thing.  We had to do a tricky little downclimb into a notch immediately and then this was followed up by a 4th class traverse up and over a minor bump.  We all made pretty decent time to the low point on the ridge.  Brian and I would scout out different routes until we found a good one then point the way for the girls. The climbing stayed primarily 3rd and 4th class with the occasional fifth class move until we reached an easy stretch which lead to the low point of the traverse.  Brian and I had been tooling around with the idea of trying some of the towers but the far off weather let us know we had limited time.  At the low point I snapped a bunch of pictures and headed over to the Scepter while Brian freed the Bishop.  The moves over to the Scepter (at least the way we went) required a short but delicate bit of  5.4 traversing over about 20 feet of air.  

We arrived at the scepter and hung out while Brian down climbed the Bishop.  Apparently this was sketchy for him so I'm glad I didn't do it because the thought of down climbing 5.5 is not appealing to me.  At first I had been planning to lead the Scepter but when I saw the thing I changed my mind.  The whole tower looks like some giants played Jenga with rocks and as far as I could tell it would take a whole lot less protection than I would be comfortable with.  Brian popped onto the front end and lead the tower quickly.  He then rappelled back down and Rebecca and I took turns top roping it.  As it turns out we used exactly two cams and two slings.  My twelve cam, 20 nut, 10 sling rack was not needed but at least it got to go for a long walk.  Jen wasn't very happy with being on the ridge because of a semi-phobia she has about weather and wanted to keep moving so declined to climb it.  

From the Scepter we all headed back up to the ridge proper.  We passed the rook on the left and tried to stay as near to the top of the route as possible but came to several dead ends that forced us to make excursions to lower portions of the traverse.  The scrambling was fantastic and we were treated to a ton 3rd, 4th, and 5.0 class.  We continued on and stayed on narrow ledges close to the top of the King's Pawn and the King.  The trickiest move of the traverse required a sort of smearing/mantle move to get around an exposed corner, it was definitely a 5.4-5.5 move but after it was over a series of narrow ledges, some blocks, a very wide ledge, and finally talus lead to the end of the ridge.  This final portion of the traverse, the part from the King's Pawn to the end of the King was the coolest part of the trip.  It was exposed, required a good bit of routefinding, and had great views of the whole route back to Shoshoni.  I've posted a bunch of pictures of Jen coming across this stretch to show how big the thing was.

By the time we were done with the ridge the weather was starting to deteriorate. It was storming over Longs peak and clouds were building to the south. Brian and I both figured we had about an hour before the storms really were a problem and we turned out to be dead on.  We all ran up the final class two (but very cool) ridge up to Apache's summit. We hung out for a bit and admired all of the views on the west of the divide but Jen was pretty insistent that we go.  She didn't believe us that the repeated lightning strikes and thunderclaps over Longs would not make their way to us.  

The hike down was pretty straightforward.  Forrest had warned me via email a few days ago that descending the couloir was terrible and to find another route. The route we picked was the East Ledges route and was mostly scree and talus and grass which followed a clear path to the base of the Navajo Snowfield. There was a bit of scrambling down wet slabs but all in all it was a painless descent.  The really annoying part was the final descent to the upper lake and I managed to break a Leki pole on the way down (thank god I bought it at Return Every Item).

We took a few minutes to relax and filter water and grab a bite at the upper lake but it was getting cold and starting to drizzle.  The path from the upper lake is quite easy and we were moving at a relaxed pace until we entered the marshes.  At this point it began to rain and Brian and I took off (a move which irritated the girls) and practically sprinted down to treeline.  Lake Isabelle was so dry that we cut a good bit of the return hike off by walking across its banks.  Once Brian and I were at the trees we hunkered down under some evergreens and waited for the girls to show up.  It was beautiful but wet, cold, and miserable. When the girls caught up we all headed down the final part of the trail and took several excursions into the trees to look for edible mushrooms.  

We got back to the truck around 5:45 which made for a 12.5 hour day.  All of us were pretty tired and headed home.  Brian and Rebecca had the luxury of a hot tub at Brian's house while Jen and I had to settle for showers, Advil, and beer.

I feel like the curse of not getting up technical stuff might have lifted and have tentative plans for five more technical and semi-technical peaks over the next month.  I'll be ecstatic if I get three.  All in all it was a great trip and everyone moved pretty smoothly through the sketchier sections.



Not Sure What Is Going On Here, We Must Have Had Vodka In The Camelback

Heading To Shoshoni

Apache And Navajo Peaks

Iriquois and Hopi

Me Looking At The Traverse

Shoshoni's Summit

The Kasparov Traverse (Apache's North Ridge)

Starting The Traverse

Climbing Onto The Ridge

The Rook

The Bishop's Scepter

The Black Night

Brian Mugging For The Camera

Brian Leading The Scepter

Brian Topped Out

Rebecca On The Scepter

Me On The Scepter

Pretty Views

Climbing Towards The King's Pawn

Jen And Rebecca After The Scepter

More Of The Traverse

About Halfway Through The Traverse, Shoshoni Looks Far Away

Jen Scrambling

More Pictures Of Jen Scrambling

Even More Pictures Of Jen Scrambling

Jen And Rebecca On A Tricky Section

Jen And Rebecca Coming Up The King

Ledges Leading Upwards Near The End

Shoshoni Looks Farther Away

Jen And Rebecca Coming Up The Ledges Near The Top Of The Ridge

Not Quite There Yet

Almost But Not Quite

Finally Done With The Traverse And On A cool 2nd Class Ridge To Apache's Peak

Navajo, Dickers Peck, And A Crummy Snowfield

Weather Building

Nearing The Summit of Apache

I Don't Sign Them But Here Is A Picture

Brian exhibiting Extreme Caution With Loose Rocks

Coming Down Apache's East Ledges

Almost Down To The Trees

Jen And Rebecca At The Upper Lake

A Pretty Stream

Back To My Other Mountains Page