| Iowa Gulch Loop
Mt Evans B(13,577)
West Dyer Mtn(13,047)
E. Ball Mtn(12,947)
Mileage: ~12 miles
Elevation Gain: ~4500ft
Stairway to the stars
I knew I had to be back no later than 2:00 in order to let the dogs out at the two houses I am watching this week while the families are on vacation for spring break. Having been up on Pennsylvania Mtn on Sunday I knew that my next task would be a loop of the remaining peaks in the area via Iowa Gulch. This meant a 2:00am alarm, putting me on the trail hopefully by 4:30. The drive to Leadville went quick enough and I arrived at the winter closure right at 4:15. There was a huge pile of snow blocking the road made by the snowplows turning around, but after that the road had melted out quite a bit already. Luckily, I had been too lazy to take my bike out of the car and I quickly made the decision to ride it up as far as possible in order to save time on the descent.
Got on my bike right at 4:30 and was able to make it just over a mile before the snow on the road became too deep for it to be a faster alternative to just walking. I once again locked my bike to a tree and got to work on the rest of the road up to the summer trailhead. Oh how I yearn to write a trip report that lacks these words: winter closure, postholing, and snowshoes. That time is coming very soon though, I can feel it! There was a good trench all the way to the summer trailhead and from there it was just a matter of following the power lines up to the Dyer-Gemini saddle. Since it was so early the snow was very firm and I rarely busted through, and without needing snowshoes.
Dyer from Gemini
Looking northwest from Gemini
While taking a short break at the summer trailhead I was looking up at the stars when I saw what I believe to be a small meteor or comet! I have seen my fair share of shooting stars, and this definitely wasn’t one of them. It lit up the sky and looked like a firework, full of orange and brown light. It was lit up for a good 3 seconds before burning out and I was so happy I had chosen that time to stop for a drink of water. I have also decided that while alone and hiking in the woods or just above treeline in the early morning, that some live Dead, this time from Europe ’72, is the perfect music choice, just perfect.
After the summer parking area I made it to the saddle under the power lines pretty quick, and just as the sun was popping up over the horizon to the east. Here I ditched my bag and headed over to bag Gemini Peak. Making it to the summit at 7:20 I was amazed at how much higher I felt than the neighboring 14er, Mt Sherman, even though I was only at 13,951 ft. Had I no time constraints I would have run over for a third time on Sherman’s summit, but instead I quickly turned around and headed back for my gear at the saddle.
View to Evans B
I shouldered my back after a five minute break to refuel and adjust some layers. From the saddle it is just a quick jaunt up Dyer Mtn, a centennial 13er. From it’s summit I could now see the ridge I would need to cross in order to get to Mt. Evans B. I had heard it was class 2+ with the occasional class 3 if one chose to stay on the ridge top. I got a few short glissades in down to the Dyer-Evans B saddle and once again dropped my pack since I knew I would be coming back that way anyway.
Summit of Dyer
Tower on ridge to Evans B
Fun climbing to Evans B
The ridge to and from Mt Evans B was the most fun scrambling all day, but far from the hardest. My goal had been to make it to the rounded summit by 9:00 and I ambled up just before. From here I could see that the ridge from Dyer to West Dyer looked very menacing, and I wasn’t sure it would go at anything less than low class 5. I decided I would drop through a prominent notch high on the ridge and descend around, avoiding the difficulties since I was alone on the mountain. After taking a few pictures it was time to go and I retraced my route back over the ridge.
Evans B summit looking back where I came from
Evans B summit
Route back to Dyer
Once I got back to my pack I headed up towards the notch and assumed a quick downclimb would put me on easy terrain to meet up with the saddle between the two peaks. Boy was I wrong. I still am not sure what the correct route would have been, maybe just downclimb the hairy looking ridge, but I am pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to go the way I did. I would love to hear from others who have connected these two, and see if it was just a necessary evil. What followed was over an hour of sketchy climbing in a loose gully, crossing some steep snowfields, and climbing over countless ribs before finally being deposited on the saddle. I was very happy to have my ice axe as without it I would have been forced to descend around the snowfields, taking much more time. Finally making it to the saddle was a huge relief and I gazed up at the ridge I had avoided and still don’t think it goes at anything less than class 4, which is not ideal for a solo climb.
Dropped into notch in upper left......
and dealt with this
The day was heating up at this point and I was down to my t-shirt and still fairly warm. Getting to the top of West Dyer Mtn took only a few minute compared to the lengthy ordeal I had just deal with, and I summited at 11:00 on the dot. Here I took more pictures of the route I had taken to get there and kinda just shook my head at what a pain it was, no fun at all. I would not want to be anywhere near those loose gullies with someone above me or when the sun hit them and the melting snow unleashed a barrage of death missiles, I repeat, no fun. Sporty as all get out, but not fun.
ridge from Dyer to Evans B
Descent route from Dyer to W Dyer
close-up of descent route to W Dyer
My goal had been to be back at the car by noon so I knew I had to get a move on if I had any chance of that. My descent route took me over high 12er East Ball Mtn. From there I dropped down the mostly grassy slope to meet up with the road again well below the summer trailhead, leaving only 2 miles back to the car. I hustled as much as possible and reached my bike much quicker than I thought I would.
Evans B, W Dyer, Dyer
The bike ride to the car was interesting to say the least. I looked like the village drunk trying to ride on the ski track. With deep slush on each side of the track, getting off course meant almost going over the handlebars, which almost happened many, many times. The dry parts of the road were pretty muddy, but at this point I didn’t care about all the mud flying up behind me and covering my pack and snowshoes. I carried my snowshoes all day long and never even took them off my pack, still better in my book than cursing myself later if I had needed them. Made it back to the car at 12:10 for a round trip time of 7 hours 50 minutes and was back in Boulder before any animals had accidents! This was a great loop hike and now I only have Horseshoe and Finnback Nob before I am finished with the Mt Sherman area.
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