| The Ruby Creek Sweep The San Juan Jaunt Pt. 1
Pigeon Peak, 13,972
Turret Peak ,13,835
Peak 15, 13,700
Monitor Peak, 13,695
Animas Mountain 13,786
Peak 12, 13,140
Peak 13, 13,705, Unranked
Total stats ~19.5 Miles, ~14,000 Gain.
June 28-July 1
D'Arcy sent me a PM with interest to climb Peak 15 where I couldn't turn down the offer to have a partner for that climb. After getting off work and attending a wedding on Saturday, I made the long drive to Durango where I arrived at 1:00 AM and slept in my car. I woke up 6:30 AM packed my bags, picked up my season pass for the train (only 100 bucks), and met D'Arcy at the train station at 8:15 AM. We took the 9:00 AM train out of Durango where I tried to catch up on some sleep; we arrived at the Needleton trailhead at 11:40 AM and we started up the rough Ruby Creek trail.
As there are many descriptions of the Ruby Creek trail, here is my take. The trail is fairly easy to follow except near Ruby Lake. When crossing Pigeon Creek there are two trails, take the trail to the right heading straight up; the trail looks brutal but is the better way to go. When hiking around Ruby Lake, stay on the north side of the lake, level with the water. Stay low. When on the east side of the lake, hike about 200 yards and look for the trail that heads north up a grassy gully on the west side of a cliff band. If you take the east side of the cliff band, there is plenty of bushwhacking to encounter. I know, I did both. Once at ~11,300 the trail is easy to follow through the willows. Oh, and the tree with the Columbine that Roach speaks of, does not exist.
While we were hiking up the Ruby Creek trail there were a pair of guys descending down the trail that just climbed Peak 15, Animas and Monitor. Boy did they look f'ed up. One guy apparently didn't wear his crampons while descending on a firm snow field and took a wild ride down the slope where he exchanged a rough encounter with some boulders. He had lacerations on his face, arms, and his hand was bandaged up. After he exchanged his war stories with the peaks and marmots, we continued our hike up the Ruby Creek Trail.
We set up camp at ~11,700 and ate dinner. I went to bed early at 7:00 PM whereas D'Arcy went to bed much later; I was sleep deprived from both work and my prior night in my car. It was nice to get a full night of sleep but the alarm at 3:45 AM was rough. We ate breakfast and started our hike up further up the Ruby Creek Basin. Our plan was to climb up the North Eolus- Little Finger saddle which worked out well. The snow was firm so crampons and axes were in order. From the Little Finger saddle, we did a descending traverse west on the south side of Little Finger and Peak 16. It worked out well and we only lost about 200-300 vertical feet. We traversed into the Peak 15/16 couloir below a large notch off of Peak 16's proper south ridge. To make our final descent into the Peak 15/16 couloir, we had to do a short rappel or a short 5.2 down-climb on some real rotten rock. There was a rappel sling, but it looked dicey, so we just wrapped the rope around a large boulder and rappelled.
Once we rappelled into the couloir, we strapped on our crampons and began climbing towards the Peak 15/16 saddle. About 200 feet short of the saddle, was the crux of the couloir. It can be bypassed by climbing west (left) on a ledge and then traversing higher back towards the saddle. We figured this out on the descent. As for the ascent, I climbed up a large block of ice in the couloir which required some mixed climbing and then a short chimney over a boulder. Once at the top of the chimney, I tossed the rope down to D'Arcy and belayed him up.
When we reached the Peak 15/16 saddle we took a short break and then started a traverse west about ~150-200 feet on the south side of Peak 15. As recommended from Victim #1 on our hike in, we didn't take the first gully up we saw. After the traverse, we started climbing up towards the summit where the climbing was 5.0-5.2 on fairly good rock. It felt like slab climbing in the South Platte area. Although the climbing was easy, protection was slim. I placed only 2 cams and a nut on a full rope length pitch. Once we reached a wide ledge, we did another short pitch traversing up west where the rock quality was much poorer. Kitty litter glued together with poor glue is a good description. No pro was placed on this pitch as it wasn't needed. The climbing on the second pitch felt more 4th class. After the second pitch it was a sinuous class 3 scramble to the summit where the views of Turret were sobering. We arrived on the summit at 9:30 AM.
On our descent we did 3 rappels to bring us back to the Peak 15/16 saddle. The first rappel we did was down a small 50 degree gully which took us back to the wide ledge. This rappel could be down-climbed. Once on the wide ledge, we headed toward the east ridge for our next sets of rappels. Both of the rappels were close to the east ridge on the south face and rappel slings were in place. After reaching the Peak 15/16 saddle, we found our ledge system that bypassed the ice step and descended down the Peak 15/16 couloir.
Since I was planning on Pigeon and Turret that day as well, I left D'Arcy at the bottom of the couloir and started my long traverse over to Pigeon. I descended to ~12,000 feet into New York basin and traversed west-northwest below the steep cliffs of Turret. Once I was directly south of Pigeon, I climbed north-northwest to 12,780 saddle where I descended back to ~12,400 into an unnamed drainage. I then skirted the west face cliffs of Pigeon as I circumnavigated into the west bowl below Pigeon's summit. I headed up the bowl avoiding some cliffs and as I got closer, I noticed a problem. The entire standard route was snow covered. Since it was late in the day it was incredibly slushy and soft. Not safe to climb. The route I climbed to the summit I could never recommend as it was scary, exposed and would be hard to explain. My advice? Climb Pigeon when there isn't snow.
After a break on the summit of Pigeon at 2:00 PM, some stratus clouds were beginning to develop. I carefully traced my wild route down the northwest face of Pigeon and returned up and over the 12,780 saddle continuing to the Pigeon-Turret Saddle. When I arrived at the saddle, the weather started to look grim and I waited for about an hour to see the outcome. It rained a bit but there were blue skies to the west. I started my climb up Turret's west ridge during which the rained stopped. I slowly made my way to the summit where I arrived at 4:30 PM. The weather was clearing and there were some excellent views to the west, eh, not so much to the east. I made my way back down to the Pigeon-Turret saddle and was able to do a standing glissade a good portion of the way back to camp where I met back with D'Arcy.
Continued Part 2.
Pigeon on the hike in.
Pigeon from Ruby Lake.
First good views of Peak 15 and Turret on the Ruby Creek hike.
Sunlight on Peak 16 and the Little Finger.
Traverse from the Little Finger saddle.
Neat rock with Eolus on the traverse from the Little Finger saddle.
Short rap into the Peak 15/16 couloir.
Climbing the Peak 15/16 couloir.
D'Arcy climbing over the chockstone on the Peak 15/16 couloir.
D'Arcy at the top of Pitch 1.
Peak 16 and Eolus.
Climbing pitch 2, Class 4 on kitty litter.
Pigeon and Turret from Peak 15.
D'Arcy making the final moves on Peak 15.
Class 3 climbing near the summit.
Class 3 climbing near the summit.
First rap off of Peak 15.
Third rap off of Peak 15 to the Peak 15/16 saddle.
Turret on my traverse from Peak 15 in New York Basin .
Upper slopes of Pigeon.
Peak 15 from Turret.
Pigeon from Turret.
Animas-13-Monitor from Turret.
Peak 15 and Turret on the descent from the Pigeon-Turret saddle.
Animas-13-Monitor descending from the Pigeon-Turret saddle.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):