The Ripsaw Ridge of the Gore Range

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The bulk of the Ripsaw Ridge, seen from below the summit of “Peak G”.

For a few years now the Ripsaw Ridge has been high on my list of must-do routes in the Gores. This iconic ridge run collects the ranked summits of C and G, in addition to several unranked sub-peaks between them. But even more important than all of that, the Ripsaw is “one hell of a ridge run” smack dab in the middle of one of my favorite areas in the state. With a fresh coat of snow falling in the Elk Range over the weekend, Rick, Steve, and I diverted our original plans for the day to a range we knew would be dry (thanks to our Gore guru friend, Mr. Chalk). Once we made this shift, it took all of two seconds to land on the Ripsaw as our new plan.

The Ripsaw Ridge lies on the dividing line between Eagle and Summit Counties, running north-to-south from “Peak C” to “Peak G” (though one could continue on to “Peak H”, “Black Benchmark”, and beyond if he/she could muster much energy beyond G). The best way to access the ridge is to climb the craggy “Peak C” from the Piney River Ranch, then continue south from there. We set off around 6am and made our way up the Piney Creek Trail to around 10,100′. Fresh off a ski descent of “Peak C” this past March, I was able to help navigate our group from that point up into Tarn Basin below C’s southwest face. Ultimately we decided to just scramble up the gully as opposed to the west ridge as it looked efficient and we knew what to expect.

Approach through Tarn Basin below “Peak C”.

Rick making quick work of the class 3/4 sections on C’s summit block.

Nearly to the top of the CC Rider, we split off left and scrambled up slabs and boulders to the summit of “Peak C”. This is one of the coolest summits I’ve ever been on and was more than happy to visit it twice in a six month span.

Steve on C’s summit, signing everyone in.

Though the views from C are tough to beat, we tried not to linger for too long as we knew we had a long day ahead of us. After reversing our route back down to the couloir, we easily located the southwest-facing gully that grants access to the west side of “C Prime”. At the top of this gully we were greeted with some of the best scrambling of the entire day – a fun slab chimney followed by a few blocky moves to C Prime’s airy summit.

Scrambling up the southwest side of “C Prime”. From here the route we took heads looker’s left up a slabby chimney.

Scrambling up said chimney just below the summit of “C Prime”.

We descended a different route off the southeast side of “C Prime” which made for some easier downclimbing than what we climbed up. The longest stretch of the Ripsaw lies between “C Prime” and “Peak D”, but a lot of it goes quickly as the terrain eases up for a bit.

On the ridge proper between “C Prime” and “Peak D”.

In an attempt to stay ridge proper we climbed up and over a few gendarmes which provided some nice class 4/low-class 5 scrambling that generally wasn’t too exposed. One gendarme just north of “Peak D” however got the better of Rick and I. After climbing up it we didn’t see a great way off the south side, and despite Steve’s best efforts to make the downclimb work, he was eventually forced to give up the ghost and backtrack down and around the west side of the gendarme as well. There’s no shame, Steve. No shame!

The POMRanian in action. In all seriousness this looked like a sketchy downclimb and none of us were too bummed about bypassing it to the west.

After regrouping we finally made it to the summit of “Peak D” after a short, class 3 scramble. A few notes about the “C Prime” to “Peak D” portion of the ridge – as has been said before, if you run into any issues head west and south, not east, as the ridge is far more exposed on the Bubble Lake side than the Piney Creek side. That said, we were able to find a nice route down off the southeast side of “C Prime” which is one of the only spots along the entire traverse I’d recommend breaking the south/west rule.

Summit of “Peak D” with the weather holding perfectly on this fine late-summer day.

Looking back at D from further south along the ridge.

Looking due east at “Peak L”, upper-Bubble Lake, and beyond.

The section leading up to “Peak E” took some time as it required scrambling up and over several towers, which were fun but started to wear on us at the same time. I’d say this section was the mental crux of the traverse for me as I knew we still had a long way to go and the midday heat was beating down on us something fierce.

Scrambling along a ledge on the east side of the ridge with E’s twin summits in the distance.

Steve approaching the false summit of “Peak E”.

Rick and Steve executing some fun moves just below the false summit of “Peak E”.

Rick with E’s true summit in striking distance, “Peak F”, and “Peak G” behind.

We topped out on “Peak E” and took a much needed breather and refueled with a solid view of the remaining route before us. It makes sense to view E as the “hump” of the traverse in my opinion – beyond E it feels like you’re on the homestretch whereas before E it feels like the finish line isn’t even remotely close. If E ever gets named, maybe they should call it “Wednesday Peak”.

“Peak E” summit panorama.

Now this was cool! We broke out the summit register on “Peak E” and were granted a momentary glimpse back in time…

“Peak E” summit register. Incredibly, this one dates back to 1948, at which point in time Vail and I70 didn’t even exist and U.S. Highway 6 had been routed through the valley only 8 years earlier.

After the brief historical reprieve we saddled up and continued along the more straightforward-looking stretch of ridge leading up to “Peak F”. It wasn’t completely devoid of a nice surprise here and there, however.

A cool spire we decided to climb over en route to “Peak F”. That’s “Peak G” back left. Can you spot Steve?

Topping out on the spire in the previous photo with “Peak E” behind.

“Peak F” summit within reach.

Another great segment of sustained, solid scrambling had us to the top of “Peak F” with only one more down and up to go to reach the proverbial finish line.

Steve enjoying the delightful scrambling below the summit of “Peak F”.

“Peak G” from the summit of “Peak F”. It suddenly looked so close.

We descended F’s south side under the waning afternoon sun and made our way up the last peak of the day. Aside from maybe “C Prime”, the final scramble to the summit of G was the the best climbing of the entire day – a nice surprise at the very end of the long Ripsaw Ridge. We took it one at a time, making sure to double check our handholds and footing, and topped out on “Peak G” with big smiles on our faces around 4:15pm.

Rick scrambling up the final section of “Peak G” with Piney Creek far below.

Looking back to the north at the Ripsaw Ridge, “Peak C”, and Mt. Powell in the distance to looker’s right.

We’re tired, but happy to have pulled it off.

Rather than downclimbing our route off G and descending the obvious gully between it and F down into Piney Creek, we elected for a more interesting, albeit time consuming route directly off G’s summit. What started off as a nice grassy descent turned into a series of steep ledge and chimney downclimbs. Oh well, it wouldn’t be a true Gore experience without a few unexpected challenges thrown in I suppose.


The descent off G.

We eventually schwacked our way back to the Piney Creek Trail and walked out under an awesome fluorescent sunset, discussing current events, politics, racism, reverse racism, the planet Jupiter, and the like.

Sunset from the Piney Creek Trail.

We plodded into the parking lot just as the final gasp of light escaped below the western horizon around 8pm, then motored into town for a burger and a beer (I’ll refrain from naming the establishment for fear of Brian’s wrath), the former being slightly more succulent than the latter. But I must admit they were both pretty succulent, especially after a day as sick as this one on a classic route in the Gores with good friends.

Until next time gentlemen…

17 thoughts on “The Ripsaw Ridge of the Gore Range

  1. Michael R.

    Nice job fellas! Looks like we missed you by one day! That old register was really cool, as I noted when I signed it my mom was only 2 weeks old when that was placed, hard to believe it has been sitting up there in that steel tube almost her entire life! Pretty fun ridge, I’m sure we took different routes than you guys did. I remember telling my partner that we could climb this route 10 times and never follow the same route twice. I guess that makes it worthy of a return visit someday!

    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Mike! Yeah we hit it Monday and noted your name in the registers. That’s funny, too bad we didn’t accidentally run into each other up there. That would’ve made for an even better day! I noted the same exact thing about my Dad being born the same year the register was placed. Amazing.
      I agree about the unlimited potential for different routes across that thing. Lots of variance up there for sure. Looks like we got a pair of bluebird fall days up there on a Gore classic. Congrats Mike 🙂 Let’s ski…

  2. Brandon Chalk

    Mighty fine recap of the Ripsaw, Ben! Well done and congrats gents! You guys crushed it this day but then again when don’t you crush? Not all that often, fellas. So cool Mike was up there the day before you guys. I would say not often or never would you see other climbers the same day on Ripsaw. You guys are surely becoming Gore maestros yourselves!

    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Brandon. Would be fun to check out that NW Face/Ridge someday. Your pics of that route look awesome. Congrats on a sweet day on C yourself!

  3. Brian

    Awesome recap Ben. Good to see E’s 48′ register still up there. Amazing that thing can survive 67 years and in relative pristine condition and you open a register on a 14er and its soggy, urine-saturated and in rough shape after a couple weeks. Its a different experience at the ranch from when we skied C and enjoyed ourselves on the empty decks of the ranch, to now – makes you appreciate it all the more. You definitely captured the highlights of this classic ridge run, thanks for the trip down memory lane.
    Now, I’d like to hear more about your conversations on the way out, especially Jupiter. At least its not a big nuthin’ like Pluto… Did you guys see any of the moose that Mike apparently almost ran in to (again) the day before?

    1. Ben Post author

      A different experience for sure, as they’re now routing the summer trail from a parking area a few hundred yards west of the ranch around the north side of the property. Yet another example of our “commodity economics” theory, but like you said, definitely makes me appreciate having the empty decks to ourselves this past March that much more.
      Didn’t see any moose on the trail but it sounds like Mike and Rachael ran into one the day before. Wonder if it was that same monster from 2011.
      Thanks again for all the info and inspiration to hit this ridge run, Brian. It really delivered.

  4. Steve

    Sweet write up, Ben! No shame! (Would’ve liked to have nailed that downclimb, though.) Brian, the only moose we saw was the one Racer Rick nearly careened the car into as we motored down for a much-needed dinner. Not sure if it’s Mike’s moose or another one.

  5. Michael R.

    Ben – forgot to mention that in my earlier post! You of course remember us almost walking into a moose on the trail when we did Eagles Nest- Powell; well it almost happened again! Came around the corner on part of the trail and not 5 feet to the side was a bull just standing there. He decided he wasn’t going anywhere so Rachael and I jumped off trail, crossed the Piney, bushwhacked a few hundred feet, crossed back and hit the trail back below the moose. I wonder if it was the same moose from the last time?

    1. Michael R.

      Sorry, that made it sound like we were 5 feet from the moose, he was still probably 30 feet up trail, but was 5 feet from it so we didn’t feel comfortable staying on the trail at that point!

    2. Ben Post author

      Mike, that’s wild. He nearly trampled you back in ’11 if I remember correctly. All I remember is that I was behind you, and Brain was bringing up the rear, and we heard a sudden loud rustling and big dark mass crossed in front of you (really was about 5 feet away) and continued on down that embankment to the south. We didn’t even realize what was going on until the moose was already gone. That still remains my closes encounter to this day. The Piney moose seem to like you!

  6. Floyd

    Ben, incredible TR and one that moves this one up the list that much farther. Hopefully next summer. If for no other reason, then to check out E’s register. If I do go, I hope to never find myself where that pic of POMR was taken. I don’t think you’d want to be below me if I’m spread eagle on a cliff face.
    We need to figure out a way to get out together at some point. Unfortunately, I don’t climb many mountains on your “tall” list and you’ll be bringing out the planks soon. I guess we’ll have to align happy hours every now and again until the stars align.

    1. Ben Post author

      Scot, thanks! Yeah that downclimb was a “Steve Special”, Rick and I didn’t even attempt it. Nice thing about the Ripsaw is there’s always a way around any difficulties you may encounter to the west.
      We’ll get out eventually, I’m sure of it. I’m not opposed to checking out some cool 12ers sometime, but 11ers, now that’s pushing it 🙂
      P.s. I still need to come by and grab my dog leash…

  7. Ryan

    I thought I’d just skim this TR real quick and then I saw the picture of the POMRanian. That dude’s kinda nuts.


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