That's cool, but when you combine accessibility with a bit more of a challenge, things feel a lot more awesome. There's a class 3 route along Audubon's southeast ridge, as described in Gerry Roach's Colorado's Indian Peaks, that ups the ante and makes you feel like you've actually climbed a mountain when you're done.
One week after returning home from my backpacking trip on the AT, I was itching to escape from civilization for a little bit, and the warm weather meant that the higher elevations should be mostly clear of snow.
On Sunday I got a reasonably early start from the house and drove up to the Brainard Lake Recreational Area. I was hoping that the road would be open by now, saving me about 6.5 miles of hiking, but that was not to be. Parking at the road closure, I set out toward the Mitchell Lake trail head around 7:45. The weather was perfect, but I packed some cold-weather gear in anticipation of colder conditions on the summit.
From Brainard Lake, Mount Audubon dominates the skyline.
|Mount Audubon, viewed from Brainard Lake|
Mitchell Lake is about one mile from the trail head, just past Brainard Lake. It was here that I left the trail and made my way around to the north side of the lake. The map said that there would be a gully with a stream running down into the lake, but that's a pretty loose interpretation of reality.
|Mount Audubon, viewed from Mitchell Lake. The ascent begins on the talus slope at the center, with the southeast ridge going to the left.|
A talus-covered slope leads up to the ridge. It was a fun way to start things out.
|Looking up from the bottom of the talus slope|
Once on the ridge, the talus gives way to larger boulders. It's a fun bit of scrambling, and the views from up there are stunning.
|A view of Brainard Lake and Left Hand Reservoir from the southeast ridge|
The most notorious feature of the southeast ridge is a notch, perhaps 30 feet deep, which has to be negotiated. It was by far the best part, actually putting the climbing in this mountain's ascent.
|Looking back at the notch after down-climbing the gully to the left (north)|
After working up the far side of the notch, the terrain eases up into more talus and tundra. I was beginning to feel the effects of the high elevation. My energy was waning, my head ached, and it felt like I should have already been at the top. But I was still having fun.
|Nice views between the ridge and the summit|
From the summit, at about 13224 feet (4030 meters), the views were great and the wind was whipping from the north. There are several wind breaks constructed from stone where I ducked down to rest and have a snack. It was 11:45 when I reached the top, and I was happy to have a jacket and warm hat in my backpack.
|A view of the Indian Peaks and Upper Cooley Lake from the summit|
From there, I took the trail back down. It was frequently doubling as a stream bed for the snow-melt. The trail makes its way through more wide-open tundra, and it was after 13:00 before I got below treeline.
|Looking back at Audubon from the trail. The southeast ridge is on the left.|
I saw several marmots among the talus, both before and after the summit. I have a pet cat named after the 17th-century Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan. I got to thinking that if I had a pet marmot, I would name it Thomas Talus. But I'm going to settle for giving that name to this one.
|Thomas Talus, the Audubon marmot|
It felt great to be hiking in Colorado's high country again. The Appalachians are nice, but this felt like home.
|A cairn tells me that this where I'm supposed to be.|
And of course, no discussion of Mount Audubon would be complete without some kind of word-play, so I'll leave you with this, which has been going through my head for the past few days.