Rock Climbing – Navajo Peak (Attempt), Indian Peaks Wilderness, CO

Navajo Peak and Glacier From Airplane Gully

On Sunday, Doug and I drove up to the IPW to climb Navajo Peak. I was looking forward to the rock climb on Navajo Peak; a moderate route in a beautiful alpine setting. Also, there was the lure of Dicker’s Peck, a tower of rock standing in attention, just waiting to be climbed.

For a variety of reasons, we did not summit: Late start, poor health, poor route finding, bad weather, and crossing a boulder field while wearing crampons. I hyperextended my knee during the crampon bouldering section, and 6 weeks later, it’s still smarting.

We hiked back to the car in a downpour, which just cemented our mutual feelings of utter failure. We vowed to “get it” next time.

Long Lake Trail Head
Long Lake TH, Departure time: 6:30am. This is too late…next time, I’ll leave the TH at 4:30am.

Around 7:15am, we got off route. There were some switchbacks below a lake, but because of high snow levels, one of the switchbacks was covered in snow. So, we kept going straight and missed the turn.

As a result, we ended up having to make two creek crossings and go up a 3rd class gully, to get up to the lake. The detour probably cost us 30 minutes of time.

Pics from the Detour:
Doug Crossing a Stream
Creek Crossing

Routefinding in IPW
We are below the lake, trying to figure out a way up to the lake.

It's a Gusher!
There’s a huge waterfall gushing out from the snow bank!

A Little Bit of Scrambling
Our 3rd class ascent up a gully.

Navajo Peak, Our Destination
Once we get to Long Lake, we take a quick snack break. It took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the lake. We easily find the trail and make decent progress over the next hour.

Navajo Peak and Glacier
Now, we are above Long Lake and getting closer to the destination. We have a lot of ground to cover, as it’s 8:30am. With the high snow levels, it makes the going slower.

The next set of decisions is tricky…crampons or no crampons? Break out the ice ax, or just use trekking poles?

Isabelle Glacier
At one point, we looked over to the Isabelle Glacier and saw groups of climbers heading up Queen’s Way.

By the time we got to the base of the snow climb, leading up to the start of the rock climb, it was 10:45am. We stood there deliberating. Should we give it a shot, or not?

Big puffy clouds started forming as we were discussing options. Finally, Doug admits he’s not feeling well. By this time, my knee is really starting to hurt, from hyperextending it on the boulder crossing.

We decide to turn around, but before we do, I convince him that we should check out Airplane Gully.

According to James Dziezynski’s Best Summit Hikes in Colorado, “The airplane wreckage is from a crash that occurred on January 21, 1948. Three men were killed when the C-47, en route from Denver to Grand Junction, was caught in bad weather and was pushed into the ridge by strong winds. The crash site was not discovered for several months.”

Airplane Gully in IPW
Airplane Gully

Doug and A Wrecked Propeller
Doug and a wrecked propeller.

Motor from Plane Wreckage in Airplane Gully
A motor

Threatening Clouds Lurking in IPW
A piece of the bulkhead

After a somber visit with the plane wreckage, with threatening weather looming, we start heading back to the car.

Doug Glissading in IPW
Glissading was the highlight of the day. I actually had fun for a few minutes!

Our Sopping Wet Return
Descending to Long Lake, the weather finally hit us. Quickly, we add our rain layers and pick up the pace. Even though it was raining, the hike out wasn’t that bad. Our feet got a bit muddy, but the trail held up pretty well.

Last Glance at Navajo Peak
I got this parting shot of Navajo Peak, in hopes for a good time on my next attempt!

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