Peak(s):  Emerald Pk  -  13,904 feet
Iowa Pk  -  13,831 feet
Post Date:  07/18/2013
Date Climbed:   07/07/2013
Posted By:  Kitten

 Iowa & Emerald from Pine Creek TH  

TH: Pine Creek

Campsite: 1 mile past Little John’s Cabin elevation 11,200.
Hours to campsite from TH: 4.30 h (about 8 miles in).
Hours to both summits from campsite and return: 8 h.

Since Mike and I finished the 14ers a couple years ago we discovered that our great passion (more than just peak bagging and finishing lists) is backpacking, just anywhere in this beautiful state of Colorado. We enjoy the approaches and the solitude that most of them offer once you have walked a few miles from the THs.

So, our goal this time was to explore a new area, close to some 14ers and 13ers, which we had never visited before. Once again, we took a look at Roach’s book and found this approach. Ever since I hiked Belford & Oxford back in 2008 I had my eye on Emerald peak, it is such a pretty peak from the distance, one that catches anybody's attention. Being a centennial and being closer to this area we set this one as our 4th of July weekend objective.

We started hiking from the Pine Creek TH around 1pm on Saturday. The trail to where the Colorado trail crosses (around 4.5 miles) is very gentle and easy to follow. It is just a long backpack trip, especially if your pack is heavy and you are recovering from a cold.

Colorado Trail junction

After crossing the bridge it is about 2 more miles to Little John’s Cabin. The views of the valley that opens up are beautiful. On our hike in it was cloudy, so the third picture is the one taken on our return trip but it shows the valley and Emerald peak in the distance.

Valley with Belford in the distance?

Emerald Peak

There were not many campers, considering this was one of the busiest weekends on the mountains. But we decided to push it a bit more and walk another mile or so. We found the perfect campsite: a room with a view!

A room with a view

The next morning the alarm went off at 5.30am and by 6.15am we were on the trail. Pretty blue sky day with some clouds.


We were closer than we thought (1.5 miles) to the split of the trail that goes to Silver King Lake. We took the one on the right that says Elkhead Pass.

Junction with Silver King Lakes trail

Our initial goal was to hike to Emerald and then weather permitting maybe Iowa. But as we got closer it looked easier to follow the approach to the saddle that connects Missouri Mt. and Iowa Pk. rather than climbing the saddle between Emerald and Iowa. So this is the route we took.

Emerald & Iowa. The saddle on the right is the one we ascended

Approaching the saddle.

approaching Iowa summit

Looking back at Missouri Mt.

From Iowa's summit

A view of Elkhead pass.

Elkhead Pass

We made the summit before 10am, it took us almost 4 hours from camp including stops to filter some water and breakfast. From the summit of Iowa, you can see Clohesy Lake (I think) in the distance.

From Iowa's top

Next goal: Emerald Pk. We descended to the saddle and then followed a faint trail that goes to the ridge that climbs to the summit.

Emerald Ridge

Here is the same ridge with the views of Iowa and Missouri in the background.

Looking back at Iowa

Finally the summit of Emerald. Took us about 1 hour from Iowa’s summit. Weather was still holding. We chatted for a while with some folks that came from the Clohesy Lake side (sorry I forgot your names…).

Summit of Emerald

Our descent from Emerald was quick and fast, in part thanks to a snow-bank that was still there. So glad we brought our ice-axes!

Fun glissade

A close up on Emerald showing the snow bank we descended, we descended the ridge right to the top of the snow bank.

Close up of Emerald

We got back to camp in 2 hours and a half from the top of Emerald, a much faster trip that the ascent one. We relaxed at camp and heard the storm coming and thunders and even lightning. All night was like a flash session… also glad we decided to spend one more night.

The next day (Monday) we packed everything and went back to the TH. We picked up a group of hikers that had come from the Clohesy Lake side. Their original plan was to summit Missouri and Iowa (which they did), then Emerald and return via Elkhead Pass and Missouri Gulch. But one of their members had suffered from altitude sickness the night before and they decided to make it down Pine Creek. We gave Corey (sp?) a ride back to his truck so they could all be back where they started. I hope you had many successful climbs the following days, it was nice meeting you and your friends!

As many times as we have been through Leadville and never realized they had these delicious pizzas! If you haven’t tried it yet visit “High Mountain pies”. Thanks for the tip Corey!

Pizza time!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Looks like fun!
07/18/2013 15:01
I think your smiles came pretty naturally on this one.


Nice route
07/18/2013 20:12
I like that side and want to do some backpacking there as well, but haven't got around to it. Every summer I keep saying I'm going to get out backpacking and flyfishing, which is what I used to do before being usurped by the 14ers. I'm just nearly certain there are fish in that alpine lake on that side. I can feel it. : )

Cool route, nice report, and a couple of great mountains!


Pine Creek!
07/18/2013 20:24
We saw you guys walk by our camp on Sat afternoon. Nice area and few peeps! Well done report!


on the agenda
07/19/2013 16:56
A similar trip has been on my agenda for a while now. Still not sure when I'll be able to make it happen, but thanks for the preview! I'll be sure to refer to this TR when the time comes.

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