Audubon is often the first peak I’ll climb in the summer to just start my season. It sits at 13, 200 ft in the Indian Peaks Wilderness which shares a border with Rocky Mountain National Park. Although not a technical climb, the views are outstanding and you can get a lot of elevation in a short amount of time. I’ve climbed this peak in the Winter, the Summer, the fall, with friends and, this last time, solo jaunt.
I was honored to represent 19 Perthes Kids and 1 Adult on this climb. I hope the photos will take you along the trip with me!
P1. Mt. Audubon is the left most mountain in this photo. The center mountain is Mt. Toll and the Indiana peaks wilderness continues to the left. Right on the other side of Mt. Audubon is Rocky Mountain National Park! You are able to see semi permanent snow pack that can sometimes last all year although it’s been many years since this was the case. When I climb this mountain in the winter time the snow can because as deep as 40 ft or more in some spots from drifting caused by the high winds.
P2 I’m above the tree line (at high enough elevations trees no longer grow due to a lack of oxygen) looking back towards the front range. The high alpine environment is very delicate which is why it is so important to stay on the trail regardless of conditions. The small delicate flowers and fauna has a very limited growth season so it takes a long time for these plants to recover from our damage of walking on it. I remember reading someone that it takes some flowers nearly a decade to grow an inch in this environment so stay on trail and always pack out trash even if it’s not yours. The high alpine thanks you!
P3 Take from the same spot as P2. There’s the Mt. Audubon in the front and center. Audubon is considered a class 2 hike meaning there will be some scrambling on scree/talus on the final summit cone but for the most part is gentle slopes and is not a technical climb. The winter can provide very different conditions than this nice early summer day.
P4 Taken from the same spot as P2. This is over looking the Indian Peaks Wilderness to the west which is also the continental divide which means rains that fall on this side of the mountains will go to the Atlantic Ocean and rain on the other side will end up in the Pacific Ocean.
P5 We see our first permanent snow pack. There is enough snow fall annually and this snow is high enough that it never completely melts. If we were to get lots snow and have a heavy snowpack year for many years this would eventually turn into a glacier and would slowly start to “flow” down the mountain carving a wider, smoother, and deeper path which can be seen by the pulverized rock and carved path. This was once a glacier but has now turned into permanent snow pack. Up we go!
P6 Another shot a bit higher on up on the mountain. We get to see many of the Indian peaks a few valleys over. It’s not uncommon to see big sheep and mountain goats on the higher peaks. On this same climb, I turned the corner about 100 meters short of the summit to see a mountain goat casually grazing. Mountain goats and sheep are incredible climbers and are very comfortable in environments that us humans usually have to train technically and physically for.
P7 This is a natural high alpine spring! Although very tempting, despite it’s very clear waters, it can hosts a number of harmful bacteria that will make you sick if you drink the water untreated. These harmful bacteria got in the water sources by the feces of animals such as goats, sheep, marmots, and birds for a few examples. This is a great spot to fill up your water either with a mechanical filter or using chemicals such chloride dioxide which is my preferred.
P8 Here we are! We are on the saddle (the spaces between two peaks) with the final summit cone of Audubon being on the left. We can see many small yellow alpine flowers that we talked about earlier. We can see
P9 Up and up! We can see the scree/talus field the we have to zig zag through to get to the summit which we can actually see yet. What we actually see is called a false summit which just simply means when we get to the top of what appears to be the summit we will actually have me scrambling to do.
P10 Here we are! 13,200 ft! Made it to the summit in good timing. The weather looks good and clear which is always a concern at high altitude. The altitude can do a number of things to your mind and body over time. Ultimately, regardless of fitness, physical conditions (some people just perform better at altitude), hydration levels, anyone can get sick on any given day. It’s a risk to manage and be aware of. Descending to lower altitudes is always the right answer.
P11 We can see a few glaciers/permanent snow packs in this photo and some previous glaciated valleys. Many thousands of years ago, as the annual temperatures were lower and more snow could accumulate, the snow compressed under its own weight, with the heat from the compression it turns snow into ice. Ice begin to flow very slow and carved out the valley we see before us. We can see polished cliffs which were polished by the “flowing” ice.
P12 Summit ridge! If we were in good enough shape and had planned for it, we could take this ridge and do multiple peaks in a day.
P13 Looking down in to Rocky Mountain National Park!
P14 Waving the flags for 19 Perthes Children and 1 Adult! Thanks for coming along with me and I hope you enjoyed the trip. Endure mindfully my dear friends.