Peak(s):  Cherokee (12,130')
Achonee (12,649')
Hopi (12,760'+)
Iroquois (12,799')
George (12,876')
Apache Pk  -  13,441 feet
Date Posted:  07/09/2019
Modified:  07/11/2019
Date Climbed:   07/09/2019
Author:  pbakwin
 "Mohling Traverse 2"  

I was missing Cherokee, Achonee, and Hopi from my Indian Peaks list. It seemed like there should be a way to get all these in a day from the east side (Brainard). My thinking was to huff it over Pawnee Pass and down to Crater Lake, climb Cherokee, and then just dance along the ridge all the way to Apache, and back to Brainard. No problem! Except that I couldn't find a single mention on the entire Internet of anyone having done the ridge between Cherokee and Achonee. Well, that just peaked my interest even more. The problem is, it's really far just to get to Cherokee. Then spending a bunch of time sussing out the ridge only to find it doesn't go would be REALLY disappointing - I'd have to grind back up & over Pawnee. It took me a while to wrap my head around this. I knew that I had to be 100% committed to that super long bail-out if push came to shove - you don't want to do something stupid just because it's a hassle to turn around!

Having done the Mohling Traverse several years ago, which Roach calls "Difficulty UNKNOWN" in his IPW book, this started to seem like "Mohling Traverse 2". Except that this was REALLY unknown, since I couldn't find anyone who had done it. Also, it later occurred to me that if this goes it would allow for a very reasonable "Mohling" from the west: You traverse from Lone Eagle to Iroquois as normal, but then turn right instead of left, do Hopi, Achonee, and Cherokee, and you're back to Crater Lake & out. So how about that, Grand County people?

There wasn't a single car in the parking lot at Brainard when I pulled in around 4:45AM. Unfortunately, the Long Lake lot was closed for some reason, so I got a bonus mile at the beginning and end. I hit the TH at 5:03. There was A LOT of snow - drifts on the trail right from the start. Things started getting a bit annoying below treeline on the west side, as I lost the trail several times in the deep drifts. But, anyway, I made it to Crater Lake and headed up the interesting "Southeast & Northeast Faces" route, as described by Roach. The NE Face had a ton of snow on it, and it would have made sense to put on crampons and tromp on up, but I didn't feel like taking the time, so scrambled close to the N Ridge, which was fine but probably slower in retrospect.

I took just about 4.5 hours from the TH to the summit of Cherokee. I really did not want to have to reverse that, but was prepared to if push came to shove. But, in the moment turned my focus to what came next - the mysterious ridge. Actually, it turned out to be almost entirely quite moderate, with careful route finding. I don't want to spoil the surprises for the next adventurer, but could give a couple tips:

1) Stay on grassy ramps just west of the ridge - mostly class 3 if you're careful.

2) There's 1 hard part that might not be avoidable, and involves a short 5th class downclimb. Shortly after leaving the Cherokee-Achonee saddle you'll encounter a tower that looks easy. Don't climb it - you won't be able to descend off the south side. Instead, work around to the right and find that short 5th class downclimb. After that the rest is easy.

The offending tower on the Cherokee - Achonee Ridge, photographed from the south. The "sneak" is near the small pinnacle to the left.

I think the traverse took me about 1:10, and I saw zero sign of human impact - no cairns, footprints, or trash. How hard can it be from here? Actually, over to Hopi was a stroll. After that, not so much. Just constant scrambling and micro-route finding, made more complicated by lots of inconvenient snow patches. I toiled along - at least I wasn't slogging back up Pawnee Pass! I'd done Iroquios to Apache on the Mohling, but it didn't look familiar. Who would do this twice? I should look at my priorities...

Hopi and the annoying ridge connecting it with Iroquois

Looking back at Achonee & Cherokee from Iroquois. You can see the funky little tower to the left of the saddle.

Getting off Apache was easy - sliding down Queen's Way. From the summit to the TH was probably 80% snow. Incredible for July 9! The whole thing took me 10h36m TH-to-TH, just over 11 hours with the bonus mile on either end. So there it is - "Mohling 2". Hopefully ol' Franz is pleased!

Very Approx splits:

Long Lake TH 05:03
Pawnee Pass 06:51
Crater Lake 08:20
Cherokee 09:34
Achonee 10:42
Hopi 11:10
Iroquois 12:20
George 13:00
Apache 13:41
Long Lake TH 15:39

(Note that the GPX file is from my SPOT, so points only every 10 min at best.)

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3

 Comments or Questions

07/10/2019 07:36
Another long slog to add to the IPW list.


07/10/2019 07:48
Fun to see this report! Amazing that there are new experiences that are highly undocumented this close to the Front Range!

Tagging Iroquois from the East is one of my top priorities this summer. Apache->George->Iroquois and then back. Not much fun?

You've inspired me to consider Cooper/Marten/Martenette from the East again. I was 99% convinced that, for me, start from the west and go to Gourd Lake, hit the 3 and go back the same way. Maybe I want to reconsider something from the East again, something a little more obscure.

Andrew Rose and I hit a few peaks in RMNP from the East last year that are normally visited from the west, if at all, "Fleur De Lis" and Mt Craig. It required basically summiting Isolation Peak twice. Isolation's west side was reputed as pretty tough, but it wasn't nearly as bad as advertised. It was worth the physical toil to explore something that most people never see.

Congrats on this!


Heck yeah
07/10/2019 08:30
That is such a sick looking ridge. A couple years back I climbed Lone Eagle one day and your route up Cherokee the other day. On the Cherokee summit I wondered if the ridge would go - and now we know it does and have some beta. Thanks and congrats!

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