West Apostle – 13,597

RT Length: 12.04 miles 

Elevation Gain:  3575’

I was the only one at the Lake Ann/Huron Peak trailhead at 5pm on a Friday, and I was thrilled!  The 4WD road to the upper trailhead was a little rougher than I remembered it, but the drive had been worth it to be the only one there. I jotted down some notes from the days hike, sipped some whiskey, and looked at notes for tomorrow. It was still light out when I curled up in the back seat of my Tacoma and drifted off to sleep to the sound of pounding rain:  that meant fresh snow on the peak tomorrow!

I woke up and things seemed dry outside, which was odd for the amount of rain I’d heard last night.  I put on my winter gear anyway and was on the trail at 5:30am. The trail starts at the south end of the parking area, and continues heading south, towards Lake Ann.  Be sure to take the Lake Ann trail, NOT the Huron Peak Trail

I hiked 4 miles south along a class 1 trail to Lake Ann

Stay left at this crossing

At the second crossing I went right

And crossed a creek on a ‘pretty-solid’ bridge

Finally, I started gaining elevation as I made my way towards Lake Ann

Just after making it to treeline, go left at this junction.

And you’ll arrive at Lake Ann

The goal is to skirt the north side of the lake, and enter the upper basin

Here’s an overview of the route

And some step-by-step pictures into the upper basin

Once in the upper basin I aimed to ascend the amphitheater.  This can be done multiple ways. I decided to stay left on the way up (solid line), and follow (very faint) game trails, and I went right on the way down (dotted line).  The orange arrow is where you’ll eventually be aiming.

Here’s another picture of the amphitheater

Once at the top of the amphitheater I was in another basin.  I turned right, and followed the ridge.  I’m sure the best way to ascend this gully is straight up the gully, but today there was unconsolidated snow blocking that route.  Even with microspikes I wasn’t able to get traction the gully direct, so I took the rocks to the right. 

Here are some closer pictures of the gully

At the top of the gully I went left

Which brought me to the ridge (and a cairn!)

I turned left and followed the ridge northeast.  This is a class 2 ridge, which I was able to stay on the top of the ridge to hike most of the way.

Here it gets a little dicey.  If there hadn’t been snow, I would have taken the ridge all the way to the summit.  However, with the snow and ice today things were slippery, and the exposure was real (to the left).  I decided to dip down to avoid some of the worst of the exposure.  I did this a little later than I should have, as it as getting spicy already.   The area with exposure is circled in red.  This is how I summited West Apostle

Here’s a picture of the ridge

And this is the exposure I was avoiding

So, I dipped down to the right and kept it class 2

I summited West Apostle at 9:30am

West Apostle: 

There was a summit register, but it was a pipe one missing its lid, so I replaced it with a jar. Here’s looking back at the false summit

I headed back the same way I summited, heading west, avoiding the area with exposure

Here’s what that looks like after dipping down

Back on the ridge, I followed it to the saddle.

The cairn was helpful in finding the correct exit from the ridge in all this snow.

I made my way back down towards the gully, staying as much to the west as possible, avoiding the gully direct and sticking to the rocky area.

I then re-entered the basin, and headed west towards Lake Ann

Back at Lake Ann, it was easy to pick up the class 1 trail and follow it back to the trailhead.

I made it back to my truck at 12:30pm, making this a 12.04 mile hike with 3575’ of elevation gain in 7 hours.

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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