Peak(s):  Emerald Pk  -  13,904 feet
Iowa Pk  -  13,831 feet
Date Posted:  10/23/2012
Date Climbed:   10/20/2012
Author:  randalmartin
Additional Members:   RyGuy, Brian Thomas, globreal, denvermikey
 Emerald and Iowa from Rockdale   

Key Information

Trailhead: Rockdale
Total Elevation: 4363ft
Mileage: 11.68
Crew: Randy (randalmartin), Britt (globreal), Mike (denvermikey), Brian (Brian Thomas) and Ryan (ACERyGuy007)
Start: 7:05am
Emerald Summit: 11:25am
Iowa Summit: 1:20pm (50 minute traverse after 1hr break on Emerald Summit)
End: 4:30pm


Britt has been working on his Centennial list and posted for anyone interested in Emerald/Iowa. Anyone missing an opportunity to get into the mountains in the Fall when weather is this nice is seriously missing out on the best conditions and so it wasn't difficult to pull together a good group of five.

The Hike

The route was going to be from the Rockdale TH. The lower 2WD trailhead is accessed by driving 9.9 miles up County Rd 390 off Hwy 24 to a small sign on the left posted as 391. We had 4WD capability and were looking forward to driving all the way to the gate closure below Clohesy Lake and save 6 miles RT of road hiking.

Unfortunately just short of a mile up the road we encountered new tree fall. The first picture shows the initial blockage and the second photo a much larger tree about 100 yards up the road from the first. There was no other tree fall along the road. So instead of about a 7mile RT from the gate closure we were looking at a 11-12 mile RT day instead. No worries, it was beautiful weather and so we were in no rush.

Road Blocked from recent tree fall

Road Blocked by Tree #2

We made good time up the road and quickly reached Clohesy Lake. The picture below was taken on the return and so is taken from a higher perspective. Nevertheless it's representative of the beautiful area around the lake.

Clohesy Lake

From Clohesy Lake you hike approximately another 2 miles up the valley before reaching treeline. Here we stopped and fueled up before our approach to the South Slopes of Emerald.

L-R - Britt, Ryan, Brian and Mike

Fueling up at treeline

The next mile is easy terrain as you turn East and head to the base of the Emerald south slopes and the abandoned cabin shown below in the next two pictures. Wind was relatively calm, it was sunny and above freezing. It doesn't get any better.

Cabin looking West

Randy in Cabin

This picture doesn't really do justice to the south slopes. Having been up Columbia's infamous scree laden west slopes this summer I was familiar with steep, unpleasant ascents on loose scree. The Emerald south slopes are shorter (only 600 vertical ft) but much worse in that shortened distance.

Emerald South Slopes

This picture below gives a good perspective on the grade. I almost didn't bring my Trekking poles and fortunately Brian encouraged me to do so. I owe Brian a beer. At a minimum Trekking poles help you mostly avoid the 2 steps forward 1 step back scenario.

Heading up the South Slopes

The grade begins to relent near the ridge and once you reach the ridge you have this view to the Emerald summit.

Ridge to Emerald Summit

Further up the ridge you can see Pear Lake in the background sitting slightly southwest of Emerald Peak.

Ascending Emerald with Pear Lake

Unfortunately in the midst of enjoying the spectaculer day we failed to take a group summit picture on Emerald. Ryan brought his MSR Reactor stove and quickly boiled up some water for several that brought meals or tea. I couldn't believe how fast that stove boiled water. Certainly faster than my 1st generation JetBoil! We spent an hour on the Emerald summit.

The traverse over to Iowa took about an hour at a very easy pace to cover the .7 miles. This image is a look back across the traverse towards Emerald from the south slopes of Iowa.

Emerald from Iowa

The full crew on the Iowa summit. First Row L-R: Randy, Britt and Brian. Back Row L-R: Ryan and Mike

Iowa Summit Group Shot

We had debated a couple of options for descending off Iowa. The Roach route calls for the descent a little ways down the West ridge of Iowa and then down a loose scree field into the drainage below Iowa. However, in my research on SummitPost it seemed to discourage that route by labeling the descent as very loose. The second option was to descend off the low point of the saddle between Iowa and Missouri. USGS topo maps show a trail 1459 from that point but the reality is there is no trail initially. It is simply a scree chute. The next picture shows that very well. We made the mistake of descending from between the two rock bands at the very lowest point of the saddle. This leads you down very loose talus. So we traversed a bit to our right (to the left in the photo) to reach the very obvious scree chute you see being descended in the photo. If you follow the chute to the top you can see that the best approach when on the ridge is to continue a little further into the rocks and come down to the top of the chute. Once you are in the chute it is a quick scree ski the bottom.

Scree Ski

About a mile further down the drainage Britt took this picture of Mike and me enjoying the scenery and weather. We all couldn't believe how warm it was. You can also see trail 1459 as it is labeled on the USGS topo map in front of us.

Lower down Iowa Drainage

I have included the gpx data from my GPS so you can see the exact route details.

It doesn't get much better than this day. An opportunity to meet some fellow members, stellar weather, beautiful surroundings. Thanks for organizing a great outing Britt!!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Comments or Questions

Is that a Starbucks drive thru on Emerald?
10/24/2012 05:50
Kinda looks like it with you in the window of that cabin. Randy...thanks for the TR. Great weather day with a great group of guys. Thanks for writing it up!

Brian Thomas

to Soar on Eagles' Wings
10/24/2012 13:15
A stellar day with an All-Star team, indeed. May the centennial quest continue...


brian thomas
10/24/2012 14:02

looks like a great trip, crew and time of year to hit this spot. well done.


10/24/2012 15:14
Looks like a fun trip, guys.

Randy, you found your new avatar (Image #6.) : )

Love the summit shot!

Hey Britt, you're knocking them out. How many more to go?


10/24/2012 15:27
Same thoughts here. Great day, great hike, great crew. Thanks again guys.


Nice write up!
10/25/2012 02:43
Well done, guys!
Enjoyed the TR.


Great trip!
05/09/2014 12:30
Thanks for the TR Randy! Britt- Thank you for organizing the trip!

should have checked
09/16/2020 16:37
Did Iowa yesterday from Elkhead Pass. On descent we saw, on the map, the nice trail from the low point and decided to go that way, saving the 500 ft climb back to Elkhead. It was pretty nasty for the first 400 feet. No sign of a trail up high. There was lots of new snow in the area, slowing us down, so we did not try Emerald, our main objective. And we just walked the 4WD road, and then the 2 miles back to the car. My partner was 76 so this was a solid day for him.

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