My goal for the hike this weekend was to really test myself, not only physically, but also mentally, as I prepared for my 2019 14er. To accomplish this goal, I knew I needed to get into elevation and I needed a fairly steep climb. I chose the hike to Old Baldy, for two main reasons. First, it was far enough away from town that I thought I had a chance at avoiding Fourth of July tourists. Second, Old Baldy is a Class 1 13er, which I figured was enough to test me, but also not be too crazy. I couldn’t find a track for Old Baldy itself, but using the trail track for South Arapahoe Peak, it looked to be about 6 miles round trip, with about 2500’ elevation gain. Perfect little test.
When I got to Fourth of July road (perfect time to go), it was way later than I planned, about 10:30am, and I was warned by the rangers that there wouldn’t be any parking, but I could go wait for someone to come down. I decided to take my chances. Fourth of July road is pretty rough, and I’m glad I had my Outback, though I saw several sedans making the journey. I wasn’t worried about clearance, but it was rocky enough that I worried about a flat tire. It was about 4 miles of bumpy, rough road before reaching the parking areas and trailhead. There were a few parking areas along the side of the road, and miraculously I found a spot in one of these.
I would guess there were maybe 20 road spots. At the trailhead, there were another 30 or so spots, which were all full. Parking along the street added another half mile, each way, to my journey.
Starting up Arapahoe pass trail, there were several small stream crossings, and it was rocky terrain. There were certainly no “easy” steps. The views were spectacular, and Old Baldy looked ready to be conquered!
The snow melt from our late summer snow created quite a few streams and waterfalls that had to be crossed. I have to imagine later in summer, a lot of these may be dried up. I only had low top hiking boots, which said waterproof on them, but I wish I would’ve had something more waterproof for this hike.
There were several small patches of snow along the way, which were well packed from other hikers, but were also very slippery from the sun melting them. Hiking poles would’ve been a plus today, but I didn’t have too much trouble traversing them.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking for a little while…
Needless to say, the views were absolutely spectacular. There’s not much I can say that could come close to describing the beauty. It was truly one of those moments where you just stand back in awe.
The snow wasn’t too bad, until I reached the turn off for Arapahoe Glacier trail, which split from the Arapahoe Pass trail.
I started encountering pretty deep snow, post holing up to my hip a couple of times. This, combined with the several streams I had walked through, created quite the puddle inside my boots.
Due to the snow and the lack of other hikers, it was incredibly difficult to follow the trail. At one point, I found myself just scrambling to try to find footprints. Shorts and a t-shirt was not the proper attire for this trek.
I stopped at one point on a rock I found, in the middle of a snow field, to take them off and try to dry my feet in the sun. It quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to make it through with my current gear. Not only was every step a challenge, with the threat of sinking three feet down looming, but I knew that I was going to have to come BACK through all of this on the way down.
I ran into a little (I think) marmot on my way down. I got as close as I could, before he scampered down the mountainside.
It was disappointing that I didn’t reach my goal of conquering Old Baldy , but my journey was far from disappointing. I personally think this is, overall, my favorite hike I’ve been on in Colorado thus far. It had off-roading to get there, waterfalls, stream crossings, snow, wild life, and spectacular views. I couldn’t have asked for any more!! You can rest assured that I’ll be back to finish this hike.