Mt Old Baldy, Indian Peaks Wilderness
Old Baldy is the Alias given to Peak 13,038, which is located just east of South Arapaho Peak. It’s a large round mountain that is not one of the most impressive summits in the Indian Peaks. Old Baldy is also the lowest of the 13ers in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, yet still rises over 3,000 feet from the Rainbow Lakes or Caribou townsite (10,001′). From 4th of July Campground it rises about 2,900 feet. The subtle slopes of this area make it a prime area for long descent lines during the winter. The mountain as a whole does not hold snow until spring for the most part. There are slopes on the south and west side toward the Caribou townsite that hold snow year-round. The slopes behind the Phoenix Mine, just inside the wilderness boundary can be ‘ticky’ during avalanche season. This is a permanent snowfield and bonding layers becomes an issue.
Fun facts The Indian Peaks were visited by Native Americans for several thousand years. Pawnee Pass, Arapahoe Pass, and Rollins Pass are all aboriginal passes dating back thousands of years. Mt Old Baldy resides near Arapaho Pass, and the Arapaho tribe lived and hunted in the area during the summer months, though little evidence remains of their activities.
Mining took place in the 1870s near the Arapaho Peaks and the flanks of Old Baldy. Later, a road was built to Arapaho Pass but never completed. The mining turned up little more than low-grade ore, and the mines were eventually abandoned. The Indian Peaks did not receive protective wilderness status until 1978.
There are several ways to Old Baldy during the summer months to include Rainbow Lakes, Fourth of July, Arapaho Pass, and Caribou. During the winter access to these routes are extended distances. Caribou townsite is an option. Parking at the Caribou towsite, proceed past the gate on FR505. Proceed down the road for roughly a half mile until a marked junction veering right on FR129J. Continue on the road for about a mile past until you get to the PRIVATE Phoenix Mine / homestead. The wilderness boundary begins shortly after this. The slopes to the west are permanent snowfields. The tell-tale signs of avalanche activity are all over this slope (i.e. trees rest at a 45 degree angle). This slope has fantastic lines all the way back to the Horseshoe Creek drainage, but be careful when you are on them.