South Arapaho Peak

7 Jul 2001 - by Jim Ippolito

Saturday July 7th:

Steve and I arrived at the Fourth of July trailhead at 6:30am near the town of Eldora. We strapped our gear and we on the trail within 10 minutes time. We reached the 4th of July mine at 7:10am and headed up the right fork of the trail which winds its way up the gentle slopes of South Arapaho Peak's southeast ridge.

Within a little less than a half of mile we detoured off the main trail northward towards the base of the Skywalker couloir - a not so prominent snowfield (at this time of year) on S. Arapaho's south face. The couloir is approximately 1000 verticle feet this time of year. We noticed that the couloir was melted out about 1/3 of the way up. We decided to strap our crampons on anyway instead of hiking up to the melted-out portion.

After some finagling with the crampons, more breakfast, water, etc., we were on our way. The lower portion of the couloir is gentle - approximately 35 degrees. We reached the melted section and upclimbed the rocks to the left. And then it was back in the snow. As we ascended the grade became noticably steeper. About 2/3 of the way up the couloir is approximately 45 degrees. Nearer the top it angles to 55 degrees. Since we were heading straight up, we decided to climb a small sliver of snow called Princess Leia.

Princess Leia's lower portion was also melting out, and to avoid this section we had to climb 5.0 - 5.2 rock. We stashed our crampons in our packs for this section. Always fun climbing this type of rock in plastic boots! We managed to circumvent this lower section, strap the crampons back on, and upclimb the last 100'. The steepness in this section was similar to the upper portions of the main couloir, and then laid back as we got closer to the withering snow section higher up.

We lost the crampons once again and scrambled up the last 200' to the summit to be greeted by 15-20 people. Sort of anticlimatic, but that's what getting out is all about. We summited around 11am. We came down the normal (SE ridge) route and back to the car.

If anyone is ever interested in climbing this couloir, I would suggest going in early to mid June to avoid melted out sections.

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