Peak(s):  Ouray, Mt  -  13,971 feet
Date Posted:  09/30/2013
Modified:  10/04/2013
Date Climbed:   09/29/2013
Author:  SnowAlien
Additional Members:   Wildernessjane, ilene, jdorje
 The Ouray Gold   

Route: Tour de Ouray (Northeast ridge up, East ridge down)
Distance: ~8 miles
Elevation: ~4,500 ft (inconclusive due to barometric fluctuations caused by strong wind gusts)
Time: 9 hours (at a very leisury pace)
Group: Jane (wildernessjane), David, Ilene (ilene), Jason (jdorje) and Natalie (nkan02)

Sometimes waiting for the perfect conditions to hike the peak is half the fun. I have heard that Mt. Ouray makes for a wonderful Fall hike, so this weekend the time has finally come to check it out. Jason expressed interest in the hike and Jane, Dave and Ilene jumped on board as well. The consensus was to make the Class 1 hike a bit more challenging, so we picked the NE ridge as our ascent line, and the East ridge (rated *classic* - always a good sign) - as our descent route. The last trip report on the same loop dates back to 2007.

We parked on the north side of the Grays Creek, which makes for a decent camping spot, complete with a fire ring. Had no issues finding the trail at dawn (it parallels the creek) and started hiking at 6.40am. For a change, the forcast called for zero chance of precipitation, with wind gusts up to 30 mph (more on that later).

Right off the bat we knew we were in for a treat. Aspens were in full glory.

After about 1.5 mile approach (short by any 13er standards) we took the shortcut described in the Roach guide book as route 16.3V1. It was surprisingly easy to find. We left the trail prepared for somewhat unpleasant bushwack, but immediately spotted the ridge, which wasn't hard to get to.

Gaining the ridge

The route towards Pt 12,761 becomes obvious fairly soon

Looking back at the beginning of the ridge. Photo credit: David

Jane and Ilene on the ridge to Pt 12,761. Talus didn't become bothersome until the very top of the ridge. We were able to "milk" some short snowfields to save energy

Ilene and Natalie on the ridge. Photo credit: David

Jane and Ilene on the ridge with the Sangres, blazing aspens and bristlecone pine forest in the background.

Devils Armchair and the ridge to Mt. Ouray

Gaining Pt. 12,761 turned out to be a relatively easy task. Gaining the summit ridge to Ouray proved to be a different story. After refueling and putting on extra layers (winds on the ridge really picked up), all 5 of us set off. Jane and I were blown off the ridge almost immediately, so we quickly dropped to the left (east) side of the ridge for awhile.

Despite the winds, Jane is having great time

The ridge quickly becomes a bit more technical, especially with new snow on the north side

Traversing multiple ribs took time. We dropped some ways below the ridge, trying to avoid the wind, but not being very successfull at that.

View of the ridge past the difficulties

The higher we got, the stronger and colder winds got

Ilene was having a bit of trouble on the ridge, feeling dizzy and being pushed around by the wind, so Dave and Jason stayed behind helping her out. I waited for the trio on the saddle, while Jane continued on to the summit battling strong winds.

Jane on the saddle with Ouray

Upon seeing this, I put on a layer #5 - a puffy coat. Jane and I were just discussing that we hiked in t-shirts the weekend before. Where did the summer go?

Meanwhile, the rest of us regrouped and continued on to the summit

I tried to scout an easier line, but it wasn't always the case. The snow and strong winds made things a bit tricky.

Dave and Ilene near the summit

Summit marker

Frequent and strong wind gusts caused barometric fluctuations that marked the summit to be as high as 14,075 ft on my GPS. Ha! I'll keep the GPS in the pocket next time.

Dave, Jane, Ilene, Jason. It felt wonderful to make the summit, and the 360 degree views of snowcapped peaks were stupendous, but the winds were too strong, so we didn't linger for long.

Getting ready to head down

Descending the East ridge route. It is likely rated "classic" for the views. They do not disappoint.

Admiring "Devils Armchair" from a different vantage point

We were not able to find a trail back into the drainage, and picked our way through talus and some grassy patches.

However, around 11,800 ft we spotted some cairns in the basin that led to the trail, and soon found ourserves back in the bristlecone pine forest.

Pine trees

Sometimes the trees don't survive

The road back to the car was paved with gold from Chief Ouray

Mt. Ouray on the drive out

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

Comments or Questions

09/30/2013 16:40
...job on braving those gale force winds. I had the same eastern cirque loop of Ouray on my sights for last Saturday but chickened out on account of those winds. Nicely done!


Great job, crew!!
09/30/2013 17:28
... and very lovely shots, Nat! What a beautiful day! although it must have been a bit chilly with the wind. I've thought of doing this peak several times while out there. Makes me want to move it up nearer to the top of the list. The shot of Aspen leaves on the ground made me think of the bottom of a wishing well with all the pennies and gold coins lining the surface. Thanks for the trip!


Nice report!
09/30/2013 18:30
It was extremely cold, yeah. Ilene had a water bottle hanging loose and it partially froze. A bit colder and my camelback would have been in trouble (I kept the hose free the whole way and did not have problems). It did warm up quite a bit later in the day though; a 6:30 start contributed to the temperatures.

One other comment: I was separated on the ascent, as I continued up the trail with two of the faster hikers (not in any pictures, as we separated near the ridge when they continued up to try to get back to their car by noon). This was a much faster route than the one Natalie's GPX shows (our bushwhack was probably 45 minutes shorter, though partially just because we were faster), and should be clear from the GPX map she posted. We followed the trail to the top of a gully, and bushwhacked a much shorter distance across the flat ground shown on the topo map. Topo maps may lie, but much less often than Roach descriptions!

Great report and great pictures Natalie. I have a few pictures I will send you, but the touch-screen phone camera is not a good combination with cold weather and gloves.


09/30/2013 23:33
Great trip report and thanks again for the invite, Natalie! Mount Ouray was a really good choice for this time of year. Despite those brutal winds---I was still having fun!


10/01/2013 00:34
...for taking off like we did. I didn't know I'd have a time crunch until that morning. Jason - it was nice hiking with you up to the ridge. Natalie - thanks for setting up the gathering. We enjoyed the day very much despite the brutal winds.


10/01/2013 04:03
I never actually caught your guys names in the daylight. But, I think you might have left some pants behind.


04/02/2015 19:45
I was really surprised by this mountain - it has a little bit of everything for everyone - a nice approach, now really beautiful with changing leaves, bristlecone pine forests, a short but fun ridge scramble to spice things up, beautiful summit views, a scenic East ridge route, Devils Armchair amphitheatre - and I am not even going into the realm of skiing, which looks nearly impossible. A clear day with a fun group made for a really enjoyable outing.

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