My hike up Glacier Ridge towards North Arapahoe Peak was for two things: time with my mom, and a visit to document the current state of the Arapahoe Glacier, oh and to become totally engrossed in the tundra micro landscape… (10 images)
It was a late start after poor sleep the night before, but a nice drive up and onto the trail by 10ish. A brisk walk through the sweet smelling forest – dry, dirt, pine, slight vanilla. It is fall up here and glowing yellow aspens with red burning cousins greeted us on the dirt road in. We shed layers, but the sun was weak between the passing clouds. We stopped to enjoy some dried out log forms, a massive pine tree, and to note the contorted krumholz. At tree line we paused in the shade for a snack, and Nicholas was almost lost to magic of rocks and tundra. The horizon was hazy, and layered in many hills, ridges, and peaks of the Front Range – took a while but we did identify Boulder’s peaks.
Into the tundra we continued, winding our way up. As the continental divide appeared, there were glimpses down into Boulder’s watershed along north Boulder creek’s chain of lakes. North Arapahoe Peak, a few un-named peaks on the jagged ridge, the sharp Arikaree Peak (with Navaho hidden behind it), a steady rise up toward Kiowa Peak, and before us to the right Mt Albion with Niwot ridge emerging from behind and extending onward and downward (not in the image). These sights, and a glimpse of Mt Meeker, would soon vanish as we wound around the ridge. Replaced by a grassy alpine tundra expanse filled with tiny bursts of texture. A path of tiny flowers, dried little daisy like flowers, red lichens, curly lichens. The ‘grassy’ texture interrupted now and again by fields of lichen covered stone (boulders/rocks). Once a gaggle of little birds dashed out to flit in the sky, chirping a while before settling down again in the tundra. I bet they were munching on some of the giant Crickets we saw. No pika or marmot’s today.
While the wind wasn’t as bad as reported on previous trips, it did press occasionally and encouraged warmer layers. After a time the way seemed endless and we were unsure if we would make the top, having eaten our snacks and now holding out for lunch at the end. The map showed us farther than we wanted, but only firmed our resolve to continue our way around Balde. Looking South and eastward we wondered if Mount Evans was visible. Jasper and Neva Mountains appeared, and we could spy down to see their company of hanging lakes. And finally, down the trail and across the tundra, there rose South Arapahoe Peak! We dashed up into the shelter built under a projecting rock face and enjoyed some good ol’ hummus and almond butter banana bread.
There it was I took some shots of the Arapahoe Glacier, to track it’s current state of melt during these warming years. The rock face under North Arapahoe Glacier has some wonderful curving veins to use as reference markers.
The way down was sweet, building clouds were raining to the north. They seemed to lack volume and so we weren’t rushing to avoid lightning. The cloud cover descended and thickened, temperature dropped several degrees in short minutes, and a few drops of rain spit on us. As we rounded the last switchback before the krumholz tree line 5 blasts of thunder rolled down off the tundra above. Walking back through the forest seemed to take too long, but was pleasant. Some spats of rain, fresh wet smells of the forest.
A sweet trip, 11 miles round and some 2500 ft of elevation! How!
Arapahoe Glacier Comparison