Tough Day on the Arapaho Traverse

July 9, 2016 by

For a classic alpine scramble with a minimal approach, the North-South Arapaho Peak traverse is hard to beat. I habr done this enjoyable route several times over the years, and when it was suggested by Jordan Holquist, an up-and-coming leader in training in the Boulder Group, as a trip to satisfy a trip leader requirement for his requirements to become a CMC trip leader, I readily agreed. He had done the route a few years back himself, which was a good trip leader practice to follow.  I was game, we set a date, and got the trip posted on the state website for June 18, 2016. The available four tickets filled in no time; the trip needed to be kept small due to the semi-technical nature of the route. I knew each of the participants — Chris Marotta, Neil Purrett and Chris Bamat — and each were well experienced for this trip. This was also a co-lead for Chris Bamat, who had also completed the Leadership Seminar and the Wilderness First Aid course offered through the CMC earlier this year.

Though rated of only moderate difficulty in Dave Cooper’s Colorado Scrambles, and in Gary Roach’s Colorado Indian Peaks, there are several Class 3 sections (and one I would call Class 4), so some rock climbing experience is almost a required skill. And due to presence of snow on the route at this time in the season, we took ice axes and even microspikes; of course, helmets were a must as well. Otherwise the 8.3 miles roundtrip length, and 3,600 foot elevation gain, does require a certain effort and level of conditioning; still, this is likely the most popular scramble in the Indian Peaks, so one must expect to encounter others on the route. Finally, the weather must be good, due to the prolonged exposure above tree line. To our delight, the forecast for Saturday, was perfect, with zero chance of precipitaion. We met in Boulder at 6AM, and carpooled up to the Fourth of July road to the Arapaho Pass trailhead. I was pleased to see that there were available parking spots at the upper parking lot at that time of the morning, though most of the camping spots in the surrounding Buckingham campground seemed full.


Photo: Neil Purrett


Still chilly enough to nip at your ears and fingers when we started around 7:30AM, we quickly made our way in the morning light. Fortunately, there no ice at the stream crossings across the trail, which were gushing at the maximum during the spring runoff.





Due to the snow cover, staying on the exact trail became problematic as we neared the old mine sight, where the main branch of the South Arapaho Peak trail takes off from the Arapaho Pass trail; but we tried our best, and basically it was easy to see where the trail needed to do:

The next stage of the route is the long slog up to the saddle on ridge line, visible in the photo to the right, and then beginning the ascent up the ridge to South Arapaho Peak. At this point in the trip, it was apparent to me, as trip leader, that I needed to hand over leadership of the trip to Jordan, because I was hiking too slow due to a persistent cold I’d had for the past few weeks.  We met as a group about , where I explained this and handed over a radio to Jordan around 830am, , agreeing to stay in touch at an agreed time of 11am, with a turnaround time of 1pm. (In other words, if the the team had not reached North Arapaho Peak by that time, Jordan would direct the team to turn around and head back, in order to return to the trailhead by a safe time.) With that, the rest of the group took off ahead of me, but I felt I had done my part to remain responsible for the safety of the group due to the radio contact. I had used these radios ( Cobra CXR725) for some time, and was confident in their ability to operate in the alpine environment.

Reaching treeline below South Arapaho...Skywalker Couloir visible to the left.

Reaching treeline below South Arapaho…Skywalker Couloir visible to the left.


Now that the team took off ahead of me, I proceeded at my own pace…which was definitely slower. When I received the scheduled radio call at 11am, Jordan reported the team was just short of the summit of South Arapaho Peak, but going strong.  I acknowledged, but reported I was not going to make the South Arapaho Peak. I was feeling a strong sense of “lassitude from the altitude”, meaning I was feeling a loss of will, both physically and mentally, to continue upward. In hindsight, I believe my cold symptoms created an increased vulnerability to the effects of altitude. I had not experienced this before this day, but believe that is what was happening.


Not long after receiving the 11am radio report, I decided I should not continue upwards, which was about half way up South Arapaho Peak. I snapped a selfie to document my high point:

By now, 10am, I had earliier turned over leadership of the trip to my co-leader Jordan Holquist because I still had a cold, and was moving slow; at this point they were far ahead. This was near my high point on S Arapaho, near 12,700. But I was feeling the "lassitude from the altitude", and turned around. Fortunately, I had a pair of radios, and gave one to Jordan. Chris Marotta also had a radio, tuned to our channel. These worked quite well despite the alpine environment, and were key to coordinating during a mishap on the return leg of the trip.

My high point, near 12,700

Having turned over leadership to Jordan, and due to my weakened condition, I had to trust to the established protocol. It was a relief to turn back, and return to the saddle to rest.

I found a sheltered windbreak, rested a while, then continued down the trail.






Meanwhile, the team was making good progress towards North Arapaho Peak:





















I hope you enjoy this sequence of photos, taken by team member Neil Purrett.





Meanwhile, I had headed back to the trailhead, assuming all was well. My main concern had been the weather, but now that that had proven not to be a concern on this day, I thought we were in the clear for a safe return.

That was until I received an unexpected radio call from Jordan around 3pm, when I was within a mile of returning to the trailhead, “Rick, we’ve had an accident…”

To my alarm, Jordan went on to relate that Neil Purrett had experienced a severe tumble in a boulderfield during the return from North Arapaho to South Arapaho, due to a large rock he was standing on dislodged. This had resulted in a somersaulting fall, wherein Neil suffered a significant injury to his left hand. The exact extent of his injuries were unknown, but the obvious injury was severe, possibly broken bones in his left hand. But the wound had been cleaned and first aid applied. Most significant, was the news was that Neil was ambulatory, and able to continue on back on the return trip, albeit with some pain in his left hand. On this day alone, having this pair of radios, capable of communicating over an elevation change of a couple of thosand feet and over a mile in horizontal distance.

Furthermore, Jordan informed me that due to Neil’s injury, the team would be delayed returning to the trailhead. I continued on to the trailhead, and judging the time interval involved, concluded that a  “beverage refreshment run” back into Nederland could be easily accommodated. So I informed Jordan via another radio call of this, and made the trip out and back with time to spare.

When the team finally made it back to the trailhead, I was glad that Neil was still in good spirits despite his obvious painful injury.

Poor Neil! He got banged up but kept going...kudos to the team for making it back without me.

Poor Neil! He got banged up but kept going…kudos to the team for making it back without me.

The rest of the group were all well, and I was proud that the team had really pulled together, and used their training to support their injured partner, and make it back on their own. It was a good example of the benefits of the leadership training that the CMC provides.

The team made it back around 5:30, and Neil was in good spirits, despite the pain of his injury.

The team made it back around 5:30, and Neil was in good spirits, despite the pain of his injury.


The Chopsticks Fix

July 2, 2016 by

As anyone who is a regular user of the Ärestua Hut knows, Steve Priem was the hutmeister for many years, and still enjoys getting up there on occasion. But something strange happened when he arrived there one day back in March 2016:


A pair of chopsticks sticking out of the front door where the thumb latch should be! Why was this, he wondered? Looking inside, he saw this:


Apparently, the thumblatch had disappeared (for some vandalous reason), and this was the fix someone had volunteered. Well, Steve thought he could do better, and came up with this:


Which looked like this from the outside:


Not bad…more durable than chopsticks…but on a subsequent visit, Steve then remembered where a spare thumblatch was, and so….


Got it back into working order:


Yet another story in how the Guinn Mountain hut keeps surviving over the years, based on constant care and nurturing from the community of users that keep it going….thanks Steve!

Got gear?

May 15, 2016 by

2016-05-14 15.09.14The Boulder equipment room has gear – lots of it. In fact, so much that it needs to get better organized.

Much of the gear is rock climbing oriented, and we’ve received some recent donations of gear. It would be great if the rock climbing gear could be better organized. One of the best ways I’ve seen is to arrange it on a peg board, like this:

2016-05-15 12.10.17

If you’d like to help work on this project, please send email to We could use your help!

Boulder Group awards 2016 conservation grants

May 13, 2016 by







The Boulder Group has awarded $4,000 in funds to support three conservation projects in 2016. The awards were distributed as follows:

  • $1,000 to the Boulder Climbing Community/Front Range Climbing Stewards (BCC)
  • $1,500 to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance (IPWA)
  • $1,500 to the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV)

The BCC project will be improving the approach trails at the Plotinus Wall in Dream Canyon, which is off Sugarload Road in Boulder Canyon. The IPWA project will improve a trail to Mitchell Lake, which is accessed from the Brainard Lake area. The WRV project will work on the Diamond Lake trail, which is accessed from the Fourth of July trailhead.

Though these awards are a small fraction of the overall budgets of these organizations (for example, BCC’s total 2016 budget will be $120,000), the awards are still deeply appreciated. We are sure every dollar will be well spent, and represents a sound investment in helping preserve the environmental quality of these heavily used trails.

The Boulder Group’s conservation funds come from a $5 charge built into our member’s annual renewal fee. It is the only group in the CMC to do so. I do not know when this was started, but it has been practiced for some time.

The Wilderness First Aid Training Class…first of others to come!

May 10, 2016 by

When the news got out that a two day Wilderness First Aid class would be offered in May for just $35, it was no surprise that the twenty spaces available filled up quickly.


I was as surprised as any when I first learned of the announcement. As the Boulder chair, who usually learns first about such things, I was at first confused, but then pleasantly surprised, at how the course was organized and implemented.  The state office asked the Boulder group if they could reserve the use of the Boulder Clubroom all weekend for May 7 and 8…no problem. And that the cost was only going to be $35 to club members…such a deal! But it was only going to be available for some members of the Boulder group (i.e. there was a cap), and registration on the CMC website was going to require a passcode issued by the state office, and that meant that I had to give them an up to date, accurate list of all of trip leaders, so that they could know who was eligible to receive the passcode. Wait, what? Huh?


This kind of course, a 16 hour, two day course, taught according to certain guidelines, costs at least $200 or more in the private market. That is an expensive proposition for persons volunteering for the CMCThe Boulder Council; but because WFA and CPR training is a requirement for our trip leaders and instructors, we had been able to find local certified instructors who would give the Club a discounted rate. But unfortunately, the last instructor we had been using moved out of state a few years ago.  So, the club officers  had been  find a replacement for this training for a few years, and were quietly despairing as we all watched our WFA certifications expire. Mine had expired last October. The news that we would be able to offer an affordable WFA course was wonderful; but these restrictive rules about signing up seemed confusing. And as far as an accurate list of our trip leaders…well, good luck with that! This has been a weak point of our organization now for some years (more about that later).


Nonetheless, I did what I could, and forwarded to the state office the best trip leader list I could find. The signups proceeded, and I did not hear any other complaints from people about signing up; except that some people who wanted to take it would not be able to since it filled. The good news about that was that the state office said that another WFA class would be offered soon. No date had been set yet, but details would be forthcoming. More good news!


Practicing first aid scenarios outside the Clubroom

As many of you must be aware, the number of trips that the Boulder Group has been leading in the last few years has fallen dramatically when compared to years ago. At least there are always some trips being offered by the Denver group. One of the main reasons for this drop, I believe, has been the aging of the Boulder trip leader population, without a consequent grooming of younger trip leaders to replace them. And, as I mentioned, asking younger people to come up with $200 for a WFA course is a sure way to turn them away. So this opportunity to attract younger members into the Club, who might want to lead trips, was a very welcome development.

2016-05-07 09.38.41

Laurie Normandeau

Having just taken the course, I was impressed with the thoroughness and quality of the instruction and content covered. Our instructors were Laurie Normandeau and Pete Manely, both of whom are on staff the CMC state office.

They essentially created this course based on materials from the Emergency Care and Safety Institute (ECSI) and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and have now taught the course several times. More courses are planned in the future. The executive director, Scott Robson, who attended the April Council meeting, related to us that he had found the funds in the state budget to subsidize this course, which accounts for why it costs just $35 for members to take.


Practicing first aid scenarios

The Boulder Group is looking forward to getting more trip leaders and instructors certified from this effort, and then to hopefully start to get more CMC trips being led by the Boulder Group. To that end, I have been helping on our problem of maintaining an accurate list of instructors and trip leaders by creating an online database that we can use for this purpose. Named, surprisingly enough, the Instructor Database, it is in early stage of implementation on the Boulder website. I hope anyone who was, is or wanted to become an instructor will partake in this, and update their profile on it. To access it, browse to, then select in the menu Group/Admin/Instructor Database. It is password protected, so if would like to know the password, just email me at


To see more pictures of the class at the Clubroom, you can see them on our Facebook page here.




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