American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Apache Peak, Northwest Face; Shoshoni Peak, Mass Wasting

United States, Colorado, Indian Peaks

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2008

Indian Peaks guidebook author Gerry Roach describes the northwest face of 13,441' Apache Peak as “steep, broken, and uninteresting.” Maybe so in summer, but in the spring, with lots of snow and some ice, it becomes an attractive alpine route. Greg Sievers and I made the probable first ascent of this face on June 3. From the closed gate on the Brainard Lake Road, east of the mountain, we rode mountain bikes to the Long Lake trailhead, then walked through snow to Isabelle Glacier. We climbed one of the southwest couloirs on Shoshoni Peak to reach the plateau west of Shoshoni, at about 12,800'. From there we headed northwest to a steep couloir and descended about 2,000 vertical feet to a camp at Triangle Lake, just east of Lone Eagle Peak. This took most of a day.

The next morning we followed the line of least resistance on Apache’s main northwest face. We started with a 750' gully (containing the route’s mixed and water-ice cruxes), then a pitch of steep rock (5.7). Easy mixed ground led to a long traverse to the right (south) to skirt a blank headwall. After turning a prominent see-through buttress, we climbed steep snow and easy ice bulges to rock ledges 100' below the summit. We measured 2,000 vertical feet from the start of roped climbing to the summit. We did 10 pitches with a 70m rope, plus 750' of simul-climbing: IV 5.7 WI3 M4+, with lots of 40° to 60° snow. In a snowstorm we downclimbed the steep Apache Couloir to the east to return to our cached snowshoes and eventually our bikes. [Editor's note: This face had been climbed in summer conditions, by various lines, more than once.]

Harder mixed lines on Apache might come into condition in late spring or early fall, but the face is well-hidden, and aspirants will have to risk the long approach to see if anything is there.

During our approach to Apache, Sievers and I had spotted a steep rock line on Shoshoni Peak, and on August 19 we returned and climbed Mass Wasting (III 5.10b). This five-pitch route climbs the steep west face of the eastern of Shoshoni’s two buttresses, right above the trail to Isabelle Glacier. Jeff Lowe once soloed a route on this buttress, somewhere to the right of our line.

Dougald MacDonald, AAC

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