Hiking to Pawnee Pass in the Colorado Rockies (2011)


The length of days is dwindling rapidly in the first week of Coloradoís September. And the nights are growing distinctly chilly. Summer of 2011 has flown by in a flash. Iím eager to get in as many hikes as I can before Coloradoís weather puts an end to the 2011 hiking season.

An opportunity to hike Pawnee Pass in the Indian Peaks Wilderness turns up, and I quickly sign up before the group reaches its limit for the maximum number of hikers it can bring along. Iíve heard wonderful reports about Pawnee Pass, and recent reports indicate that the wildflowers remain abundant.

I dress very warmly, as Boulderís high temperature for today is predicted to be a relatively cool 73 degrees, and trails in the Rockies tend to be 15 to 20 degrees cooler than in Boulder (indeed, earlier in the summer the temperature reached 95 in Boulder, yet I found myself needing to wear a coat and gloves during a hike to Flattop Mountain.

The weather as we ascend to Pawnee Pass, however, turns out to be surprisingly balmy, and only a gentle wind greets us.

Pawnee Pass trail54 Sept 2011.JPGSure enough, the wildflowers along our trail are abundant, particularly as we cross streams.

The Pass itself offers spectacular views. Before us in a grand, panoramic view are the mountains west of the Continental Divide.

We decide to traverse the ridge line heading southwest from the Pass. We must scramble over a large scree field of large, jagged boulders made treacherous by their often loose positioning on the steep slope we find ourselves on. We skirt Shoshoni Peak and reach Navajo Peak. Here we find wonderful views of Pawnee Glacier.

On our way back, we decide it would be best to shave off distance by taking a short cut back to the main trail, instead of going back to the Pass. Unfortunately, we underestimate the difficulty of the scree field in front of us, which turns out to be much longer and more difficult than the field we crossed earlier to get to Navajo Peak.

Our elevation gain today, from trailhead to our terminus point, is about 3,000 feet. Our maximum elevation reached is about 13,000 feet above sea level.

Here is a YouTube movie slideshow of our hike:



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