Gems of the Ruby Range

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Mt. Owen (right) and Ruby Peak from the shores of Lake Irwin.

A little over a year ago I attended a fall wedding in Crested Butte and snuck away for an early-AM jaunt into the hills. Crested Butte is home to a plethora of hiking and skiing options in and around the valley, including numerous low 13ers and high 12ers. One duo caught my eye in particular for their obvious aesthetics and accessibility – Mt. Owen B and Ruby Peak just north of Kebler Pass. What they lack in height compared to other peaks in the area they make up for in stature, looming large above Lake Irwin and the surrounding valley.

With a fresh dusting of snow falling the night before (which turned out to be around 5 inches), I wasn’t exactly sure how the ridge run would turn out. The road was thankfully passable all the way to the campground (and even a little beyond) so I was able to start from fairly close to the base of a large rock formation called the Grand Dyke that sits just south of Ruby Peak.

After gaining a small saddle to the south of Ruby’s summit, I had a nice compacted ridge line to walk up.

Ruby peak’s summit came quickly once I gained its south ridge. I was able to do this by exploiting an obvious weakness in the otherwise stout ridge line between Ruby and the Grand Dyke to the south. Once on the ridge I made good time to Ruby’s summit, where I was granted an awesome view of Owen and the remaining route to its summit.

Owen from Ruby’s summit. A little intimidating for me on this day to be quite honest as all I had were summer hikers and trekking poles.

The ridge from Ruby to Owen got interesting once past the connecting saddle between the two. Though I was able to keep it primarily at class 2, a few class 3 moves were required here and there, mainly because of the snow. In true summer conditions I imagine this route could be kept at class 2.

Looking back at the terrain north of the Owen/Ruby saddle.

…and up at the remaining route to Owen’s summit.

The views all around me started to open up and I spent half my time on the ridge just staring off in the distance at various geological features.

Views of Marcellina Mountain to the west. I was a tad early for prime Aspen season but it was still pretty dang scenic.

At one single point I remember working my way into a class 5 section with sizeable exposure down below. After looking at it puzzled for a few minutes I decided to back track and take a higher line across the ridge, which worked out much better. Overall it seemed that staying on the exact ridge crest made the entire route easier. A few hundred more feet of snowy wallowing and I topped out on Owen B. Some summit scenics:

Owen’s summit with Purple and Afley Peaks visible to the north.

The Bells and Pyramid to the northeast.

Crested Butte (ski resort and town) far below.

After soaking it all in, it was back down the precarious ridge, off the saddle to the east, down to Green Lake, and then on down the road back to the car. From there I was back in Crested Butte helping with wedding venue setup 30 minutes later. You gotta admire the ease of access to the hills this area provides. Certainly beats Denver’s.

Gothic seen from the wedding venue later in the day.

And a final shot of Mt. Crested Butte from the Kebler Pass Road.

I’d like to explore this region some more in the near future. I hear the skiing in the area is quite good too. Thanks for reading…

4 thoughts on “Gems of the Ruby Range

  1. Dana Sanford

    Ben – awesome report man! Great pics. Especially the view of marcellina. Hope you guys are enjoying the holidays.

    1. Ben Post author

      Hey Dana, thanks for checking in. It’s been a relaxing holiday season for us. I hope you’re doing well!

  2. summithound

    Solid report, Ben. I camped by Lake Irwin one September with my parents and it was quintessential Colorado Autumn, so I would like to get there and get those peaks. Love the pun in the title – “gems of the Ruby Range.” My guess is they aren’t emeralds or sapphires! 🙂

    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Steve! That lake is cool and feels tucked away in a unique spot in the Elks, doesn’t it? Yet access is so easy. Brian and I have discussed climbing/skiing Owen and a few lines around that lake in spring as well. I hear the couloirs in that area are reliable and lots of fun. And you are correct – in this case “gems” refers to giant piles of rock. One man’s trash right?
       
      I hope you’ve been doing well man. I’m excited for this summer.

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