Trip Date: Sept 23, 2018
Caltopo map here: caltopo.com/m/V7LV
The view from Brainard Lake is a true Colorado icon and one of the highlights of Boulder County. It competes with Bear Lake and Trail Ridge Road in RMNP as the most accessible area of natural beauty in the Front Range. While jaw-dropping scenery is available from comfort of your car, off-trail adventures in this area are even better.
My basic goal was a one day affair that hit all the major peaks visible from Brainard Lake. The peaks I actually visited on this trip are in bold below.
With the exception of Mt. Audobon, all of these peaks see fairly low traffic. I chose a scrambling route up Mt. Audobon over the standard hiking route to keep it interesting. Since I was doing a ridge traverse, I couldn't use a standard route for Mt. Toll and this was a great adventure. At this point the part of the route I haven't done is the NE Ridge of Apache. Hopefully I'll finish this one next season.
For only being 13 miles, this one was surprisingly hard. I wasn't feeling too great from the beginning and didn't have much of an appetite. I'd brought nearly 3000 calories but probably only ate 500. This and some route finding at the notch on the SE Ridge of Mt. Audubon and on the western face of Mt. Toll meant I that travel was slower than expected. I got to Shoshoni Peak with a couple hours of daylight left but it wouldn't be enough time to do the remaining scrambling sections.
Mt. Audobon (SE Ridge, Class 3)
This route is documented in Gerry Roach's book. There are strong streams just before the start of the ridge to resupply on water. There are also some pools at the start of route on Mt. Toll. For my route as well the full traverse these are the only two water resupply points.
After the notch it's straightforward talus (class 2) to the summit of Mt. Audobon.
Paiute Peak (East Ridge, Class 3)
Basic route to Paiute Peak from Mt. Audobon. It's easy class 2 talus until the saddle where there's some brief class 3 scrambling on easy slabs. At first I thought the first peak was the summit but I think the summmit in the back is actually ~10 feet higher. Whoever built the summit cairn seemed to agree.
Mt. Toll (West Sneak, Class 4/5??)
The original idea for a plausible route for the Brainard Lake Traverse was based on these two reports:
Andrew's report was actually inspired by Derek's. I looked for more official info on the route in both Gerry Roach's Indian Peaks book and Derek Wolfe's book "Colorado's Front Range Thirteeners" but couldn't find any mention of route up the west face. (FYI, as far as I am aware, Derek Wolfe has no relation to the author of the 14ers.com trip report). There's also some information on this route on Summitpost.
Mountain Project has a page on a similar route, Barbershop Traverse (West Face Spiral Route), but it seems distinct from what I did. I don't think I encountered anything at the 5.3 difficulty so either that route is misrated or there are indeed multiple mystery routes up the west face.
There were good views of Paiute Pass which I'd crossed on Day 5 of the Pffifner Traverse. I didn't think I'd be seeing it again so soon.
Pawnee Peak (S. Slopes, Class 2)
The route up to Pawnee Peak was straightforward class 2 talus hopping.
Shoshoni Peak (N. Slopes, Class 2)
Shoshoni Peak was also pretty straightforward. I thought the talus on the descent from Shoshoni was pretty bad but it could have been primarily just because I was tired and my patience was wearing thin.