Little Pawnee Peak 12,466 ft

East Ridge, class 4-5.0 , ~7 miles, ~2200 ft, June 2007 (Jared and Jen)

The summer is approaching and I am back in full on alpine mode.  I've already been out a good few time and have rather ambitious plans for the next few weeks. They are as follows- Little Pawnee and Pawnee via the East Ridge, Zowie via The South Face Route, Uncompahgre, Handies, The  Notch Couloir on Longs, Mt. Rainier, and then the four 14ers in the Chicago Basin.   Of course all of this depends on weather so if I get half of this list I'll be happy.  

The plans begin with an attempt on Little Pawnee and Pawnee Peaks in The Indian Peaks Wilderness (IPW).  I really love the IPW and try to get up a few peaks in it yearly.  Jen and I decided we'd skip a long drive and head to The Brainard Lakes Recreation area on Saturday, June 9th, 2007 for a shot at these peaks. The really nice thing is that they are one hour from our front door and it makes the drive pretty easy for an alpine day.

We arrived at the fee station at 6:00 AM and, as usual, it was closed and I did not have correct change. This happens every time I hike here and I know that they always leave a note on your car saying to pay on the way out so I went on.  The road to the actual Long Lake Trailhead was gated so we parked by some trees and headed out.  The closure really only added a half a mile round trip but it pisses me off that A: a for profit company is running public land and B: is to damned lazy to plow a small bit of snow that I could clear with a shovel and a days work.

Once we reached the trail we found it to be covered in hard pack snow.  

Starting Out From Long Lake Trailhead

The hike in was uneventful and we reached the East end of Lake Isabelle in an hour or so.  From here we could see three options to gain the East Ridge.  We could backtrack and hike some easy slopes, we could aim for a band of snow with a bit less backtracking, or we could climb up a short stretch of snow and then negotiate a few cliffs before heading up talus.  Since we didn't have crampons and I hate backtracking we choose the third option.  

The snow was easy enough to hike up and we found our way through the cliffs with ease.  The only annoying portion of the ascent was hiking up loose talus for 500 or so vertical feet.  The day itself was gorgeous and we could not have asked for better weather or views.  

Some Snow On The Way To The Ridge

Navajo, Dicker's Peck, Apache, And Shoshoni

Navajo & Dicker's Peck

I noted a moderate looking couloir coming down off of Pawnee and figured this would be a great glissade and speed our descent (see picture below).

Pawnee And Little Pawnee

After a while we gained the beginning of the ridge.  I stopped to take frequent pictures and was marveling at how perfect the weather was compared to every other trip I'd been on this year, maybe the relentless storm fronts might finally be subsiding for a month?. 

The ridge itself started out as a class two hike which was punctuated by the occasional stretched of third class scrambling.  After a stretch we came to a notch which had to be down climbed.  Jen's knee was bothering her or else we would have just jumped onto the snow six or seven feet below.  As it was we traversed to the left and down climbed a bit of 3rd class.  After the notch there was considerably more 3rd class scrambling before we finally arrived at the summit at 9:20.

Starting The East Ridge

Easy 2nd Class At The Beginning

Just Past a 3rd Class Downclimb Into A Notch

Little Pawnee's Summit

We took some time at the summit to enjoy the views and have a bite to eat.  After about 10 minutes we continued on towards Pawnee.  The difficulty increased right away and we found a good bit of 3rd and fourth class scrambling in our way.  The crux of the ridge was an interesting downclimb which took some doing to keep at 4th class.

Heading Towards Pawnee

The Crux Downclimb

After the downclimb I figured we might be through the tricky part but turned out to be wrong.  There were a few more tricky (but easier) sections before we found ourselves on one side of an icy gully.  The other side of the gully contained the easy ledges which marked the end of the tricky part of the traverse.  I told Jen to hold on and did some tricky down climbing into the gully.  The snow was icy and steepened immediately.  Given that we only had on Montrails, had no rope, and no crampons, and that the sun would not warm this portion of snow for hours we found ourselves out of luck for the day.  I did cross some of the snow to a tower to see if it could be negotiated but it looked like we would need a 10 or 15 foot rappell.  I spent a bit more time traversing around and decided it was stupid to continue without crampons or rope.  Our one option was to descend several hundred feet on easier stuff and then climb back up but I was way to lazy for that.  I can always come back another day.

Stymied ( The Easy Ledges Were Just Out Of Reach)

Other than wanting to finish the 14ers I don't much care about turning back and was actually glad we would get to climb up all the stuff that had been tricky to downclimb.  We reversed the ridge and headed back over the summit of Little Pawnee Peak.  Rather than descend the talus we headed across the ridge towards Long Lake.   The weather was holding wonderfully and we were treated to a variety of interesting cloud formations on the hike down.  We even saw a cumulus cloud with a lenticular cap but I forgot to take a picture of it.  The formations shown below hung around over Audubon for quite some time.

Cool Clouds 

More Cool Clouds

We continued down the East Ridge and aimed for the far end on Long Lake.  A We were lucky to find a few snow fields to glissade on the way down.  After we had traverse a ways we angled right and began to bushwhack through the trees and snow.  After 15 or so minutes of this we found ourselves back on the trail and headed to the car.  As expected there was a  request to pay on our windshield.  We drove to the station, paid the 8 dollars, and headed home.

Jen Glissading

Heading Down Towards Long Lake

All in all it was a fun day.  I'll probably come back this summer and do Pawnee Peak first.  I'd say this traverse was easier than Neva's North Ridge but required more route finding, required I not be lazy about carrying certain gear, and would best be done from Pawnee to Little Pawnee if people are not used to down climbing sustained 4th/5th class stuff.  The IPW has an endless supply of wonderfully 4th class to mid 5th class climbs.  Almost every peak has a good scramble on it.  It is also a remarkably beautiful area close to Denver.

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