Peak(s):  Pigeon Pk - 13,972 feet
Turret Pk A - 13,835 feet
Monitor Pk - 13,695 feet
Thirteen, Pk - 13,705 feet
Animas Mtn - 13,786 feet
Date Posted:  07/07/2010
Date Climbed:   07/04/2010
Author:  lordhelmut
 Ruby Basin 13ers - July 4th weekend   

Pigeon as viewed from Animas River

Ruby Basin 13ers :

Pigeon Peak 13,972
Turret Peak 13,835
Monitor Peak 13,695
Peak 13 13,705
Animas Mtn 13,786

Climbers - Mike (Chicago Transplant), Kevin (Kevin Baker), Sarah (Wooderson), Kevin (Papillon)

Mike and I had been going back and forth about heading into Ruby Basin for some time now. At the last minute, I threw out my 4th of July plans to my friend Kevin and his girlfriend Sarah, who just so happened to be taking a week off of work to knock off some San Juan 13ers in the region. Kevin Baker had plans in the region as well, along with a 14erworld group. It was a damn crowded weekend for Ruby Basin standards, I wouldn't be surprised if we set a new record for most people on Pigeon Peak's summit in a day.

Mike and I drove down after work Friday as the crowds were mounting quickly in Summit and Eagle Counties. After a quick meal at Smashburger in Junction, we headed South and met up with Kevin and Sarah, who had kindly let us crash with them at the Rio Grande Best Western, no more than a block away from the train depot. My compensation for them was a 22oz of the Maharaja.

We boarded the 9am train and arrived at the Needleton stop at 11:30am. After the bridge, we took an immediate left, passing the cabins in the region en route to the Ruby Trail turnoff. Kevin and I found a nice stash for the beers in the Animas and then made way for the cut out tree along the trail.

cut out tree after cabins

Mike had input all the integral waypoints from Cooper's description and a distinct beep would go off when we'd reach certain locations. When we reached the cut out tree, 0.37 miles from the bridge, the first beep went off. The approach was brutal. For 4.1 miles, this felt so much longer. Around the first third, we sped ahead of Kevin and Sarah and decided to wait for a bit. We lost track of one another and wouldn't meet up again till camp.

Anyways, Mike and I pushed on, catching up with the 14er world group and packing in with them for the majority of the rest of the approach.

Ruby Lake

As mentioned in numerous descriptions of the route, the trail gets tough to follow after Ruby Lake. When passing the lake, stay low, almost right up next to the lake 99.9% of the time. From the East end of the lake, use careful route finding, there are 3 or 4 different trails that can lead you to the basin, just stay to the left of the creek and don't venture too far from it. No beatin' around the bush, this approach is, as Kevin stated, "as advertised".

looking back at trail east of lake

Mike and I met up with Kevin Baker and Dwight via walkie-talkie once in the upper basin at 11,600 feet and set up camp, with the 14er world group not too far behind. As we were settling in, I noticed 2 heads pop up through the willows, approaching camp. It was Kevin and Sarah, who persevered through some tricky route finding with no gps and no one else to navigate with. I was glad to see them.

campsite w/ Animas in background

Being in an open basin made hanging food a chore. Some of the guys found a wall, set up a rope system and hung their bags a couple feet from the ground. Mike had other plans.

Mike hanging his food

As the day gave way to night, we were presented with some awesome views of the valley, especially Pigeon.

Pigeon in the evening

There was some drizzle overnight, but nothing to get all worked up over. Most of us woke up around 5am, and were on the trail minutes later. When camping as high as we did, there is no approach in Ruby Basin. Within a minute or two, we were climbing straight up the northern slopes to the 13,100 foot saddle between Turret and Pigeon.

Pigeon from the saddle

Pigeon's face was an intimidating sight and the morning light enhanced its appeal. The weather, like clockwork, cooperated with us throughout all 3 days in the basin and then rained would fall around bed time for an hour or so, then stop with some wind here and there. Deep sleep was hard to come by, but the vastness of the region and the appeal to the climbs kept spirits very high.

From the 13,100 foot saddle, you perform a demoralizing 400 foot descending SW traverse to a notch along Pigeon's southern ridgeline along grassy slopes. From the notch, you have to continue on another 400 foot descent, basically circumnavigating the entire mountain. Pigeon is a fortress and will test your endurance, fortitude and motivation. Its got it all. Once you are finally finished losing all the elevation you just worked for, you are presented with a 1500 foot ascent in no more than half a mile.

route up Pigeon after the 800 foot down climb

Around 13,400 the scrambling begins. The groups consensus was that it never exceeded class 3 with a few exposed 3 moves, and easy 4 moves. Since this isn't a guidebook, I'll leave the rest to figure out, just take my word that its fun.

Kevin, Sarah and Kevin scrambling

We reached the airy summit just before 10am with great weather and good vibes all around from both groups. It's both a cool and demoralizing feeling standing atop this mountain. You feel a genuine sense of accomplishment but at the same time, a harsh realization of getting back to the saddle and gaining nearly 1500 more feet to reach Turret.

looking straight down at the saddle from the summit

came you name all of these peaks?

After spending some time on the summit, we finally descended and made the arduous descent back down to 12,400 feet. I couldn't help but think of a Maroon Bell downclimb or something shitty of that nature. My advice, bring trekking poles.

This is what we were looking at when we rounded the first corner.

looking up at the notch. 400 feet above

And we're not done quite yet

and another 400 feet to the saddle

This was a royal pain in the ass, but in reality, the upclimb wasn't as bad as it looked and went by rather quickly and effortlessly when putting one foot in front of the other. After reaching the saddle, it was surprising how quickly we made Turret's summit, which was no tougher than a class 2/2+.

The climb wasn't as exciting as Pigeon, but the views were equally as good.

looking west towards Animas River and La Platas in the distance

Pigeon from Turret

Turret Needles and Pk.15

We all reached camp around 2:30pm or so and took a much needed rest. Well, not all of us. Mike decided 4500 vertical wasn't enough for one day and took off towards Peak 12, while Kevin and Sarah took a nap and Kevin Baker and I hung out in the sun. For anyone who hasn't climbed with Mike, he floats up mountains, doesn't seem to ever slow down and never shows fatigue. Its pretty amazing actually.

Monday proved to be much bigger than expected. When looking at the Animas Group from down in the basin, it looks like a straightforward, 4 to 5 hour day. We set our alarms for 3:30am just to be sure since we had a 3:45pm train departure. Kevin and Sarah decided P and T was enough excitement for one weekend and slept in to give themselves ample time to reach the depot. Mike, myself and Kevin Baker braved the surprisingly chilly morning and were quickly presented with a steep, 2000 foot ascent towards Monitor. This slope was damn steep, definitely worked the lungs and legs.

It was a beautiful morning though.....

30 second delay shot en route to Animas Group

We found the slanted ramp leading to the ridgeline and the entrance to the maze that is Monitor Peak. The name of the game on this day would be kitty litter management. While the climbing isn't extremely tough, its relatively exposed, has some legitimate class 4, sometimes low 5 moves and is filled with loose crap all over the place. Its probably the most methodical climbing I've done to date, up and down.

ridge to Monitor

Twilights with an awsome potential ski line

peak 13 with some classic peaks in the background

Eolus Group

Animas Group ridgeline

The toughest part of climbing Monitor is the 50 foot downclimb on loose rock, followed by a 4th class, exposed upclimb with loose rock. Its more annoying than it is difficult. From there, its simply following the path of least resistance to the summit. We made the summit around 6:45am, admired the views for a little bit, then pressed on given our tight schedule.

Upon regaining the ridgeline, we climbed up to the SE side of Peak 13 and planned out our next move. Our initial thoughts were climb the ranked peaks and try to find a ledge system around Peak 13 without excessive down or upclimbing. Well, it did not exist but luckily we decided it would be a fun climb nonetheless, so Mike pushed ahead and found a way up the maze of ledges. We were presented with an exposed 4th class chimney, which Mike flew right up, I came in at a slow second and Kevin rounded out the trio. Kevin and I were a bit worried about not being able to downclimb this section, had there been no safe passage above, but Mike found a way.

climbing up pk13

Mike and Kevin climbing below

peak 13 summit

Kevin and I followed Mike's lead and made our way to the summit a little after 8:45am, signed the register and immediately continued on to Animas. The downclimb off the west ridge of 13 was easy class 3, but the jagged, crumbling nature of the rocks was wearing on both our hands and psyche. We made quick work of the traverse to Animas, enjoyed some solid scrambling, with some segments of low 5th class moves and finished the trio around 10am.

Animas Mtn

some fun scrambling

our campsite 2000 feet below

all scrambled out

Camp was 2000 feet below and we were running low on time. We definitely picked the wrong way down the mountain. Instead of back tracking to the Animas-13 saddle, we found a loose gully to the NW of the summit and proceeded to downclimb some of the most methodical, slow, sketchy terrain of the day. To make a long story short, we got split up and found our own ways down the mountain and they were anything but straightforward.

We reached camp around 11:45am, packed up fast and made way for the train. Somewhere along the way, mike waited up for Kevin and I agreed to continue along slowly and have them catch up somewhere on the western edge of the lake. I decided to push on past the lake and found myself off-trail soon after. There are cairns all over the place around here and sometimes they do not lead you in the right direction. At one point, there was an option to either go low or high as I was rounding the ridge to head towards the N.Pigeon Creek drainage. I picked the high road and what ensued was the most ridiculous deproach I've experienced. To make a really long story short, I made it to the depot with 5 minutes to spare completely spent from climbing up and over the various ridgelines and drainages of the western Weminuche and forgetting this whole ordeal couldn't come any sooner.

With that aside, on a good note, Kevin Baker was able to nab a ride back on the train despite approaching from Purgatory and I gave him a lift since we were headed up 550 as it was. After enjoying no less than 10 free refills of Coke with the train concession mug, we parted ways with Kevin and Sarah and made the 5.5 hour drive back to Avon. This is one of the those climbs that'll take the rest of the week to recover from, but well worth it.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions
Excellent report!
07/07/2010 12:27
Looks like a bit of everything on those climbs. Nice pics.

07/07/2010 12:55
Looks like an awesome time in the San Juans. Great descriptions and photos. Thanks for taking the time to post this.

route finding nightmare
07/07/2010 14:13
Great TR, Brian. It seems like the Ruby approach is just as bad as N. Pigeon.

We were staring at the intimidating north side of Animas for quite a while this weekend on our descent to the Animas from Molas Pass. Awesome job on getting that one, too.


Well done Brian!!
07/07/2010 16:26
It seems from reading this and Carl‘s TR that my weekend would have been better spent in the SW part of the state, as for some inexplicable reason, I couldn‘t get away from the rain the entire weekend.....oh well. Glad the weather cooperated, and excellent report as usual!!

Kevin Baker
twas a trip to remember
07/07/2010 16:50
There‘s always a few trips each year that will always be remembered, and this was one of them. Fine writeup, Brian. I must say that the Ruby Creek trail was the most rugged trail I‘ve ever hiked on, and that is saying something. I was glad to have Mike leading the way going down since I didn‘t come up it! Note to anyone interested in Peak 15. Don‘t go up New York basin! I agree that the Animas group was underestimated by all of us. Lots of kitty litter scrambling over lots of air!

Chicago Transplant
Good times!
07/07/2010 17:46
Glad this trip worked out so well. I think with the rugged and remote nature of that basin even with the few route mishaps we had throughout the weekend we did about as well as we could have done. Got all the peaks, and got to the train on time. So that is good!
Thanks for the write up, this is going to be a hard to trip to top, and I think that will remain my ”best bear bag” for a long time

07/07/2010 20:34
Great to meet you all up there. You took some excellent photos. By the looks of one on Peak 13 I would say you didn‘t follow that ledge far enough around, the easiest up climb is after the ledge ends. We had the advantage of going the opposite direction and found it downclimbing.

If you ever go up NY basin make sure you go up the west side not the east side.

nice trip
07/07/2010 23:47
Nice TR and photos!
I look forward to the day I can get in there!

twas a trip to remember indeed
07/08/2010 00:56
Well put Kevin. Approaches shall not be underestimated after this weekend from now on. I bought an altimeter since as well, can‘t rely solely on map/compass when dealing with trails like Ruby Creek. Anyways, the majority of the trip was a great time and huge success.

Mike - that bear bag will go down in the books

Dwight - thanks for the tip. We figured it‘d be that way, but the upclimb we performed was a lot of fun regardless. From Kevin‘s description, NY Basin doesn‘t sound all that appealing

Darin - that day shall be soon

07/08/2010 01:34
Super beautiful photos - !

07/08/2010 01:49
Hadcore backcountry badassness.

Nice Trip Report
07/08/2010 02:10
I need to get back there to that basin. Did you have to ditch the beer you stashed in the river? Lets try to hit the Gores sometime this summer.

Nice meeting you all!
07/08/2010 02:14
This is ”Bob”, we met quite a few times. Man, you guys move along uphill.

Mike: The trek over into Twin Lakes basin went quite well; that pic you took and showed us was not of our route, I believe it was the steep couloir just west of Glacier Point. Our route over Twin thumbs was moderate, we got to twin lakes at 7:30 pm, climbed Sunlight and Windom the next morning.

Excellent report and photos!

07/08/2010 15:50
greenwok/doggler - thanks fellas

astro - we stashed the beer in a secret spot, I can‘t reveal its location on the internet. It was still enjoyed at Needleton.

Bob - it was a pleasure meeting you all as well. The vibes with both groups definately set the mood for the holiday weekend. Glad to hear you were able to get into Chi Basin and get those 14ers.

Stephanie - encourage Kiefer to get motivated for some Gore excursions.

Sweet Brian!
07/08/2010 16:15
Those are some AMAZING photos, nice to see some 13er stoke around here .

07/08/2010 16:37
report and pics. I was waiting for this after I learned of you guys‘ plans. I almost joined you all but decided to go shoot boar in TX instead.

Best 72 hours of my life...
07/09/2010 22:38
Thanks for the invite on this one, Brian. It is one of those trips I‘ll be talking about 30-40 years from now when I‘m an old man and nobody will believe a word I tell them.

Still can‘t figure out how we got back on track and made it to Ruby. At one point, I said to myself that if I had to sheepishly walk back to Needleton with nothing to show for it, that I‘d sell all my gear the next day and join a co-ed Wash Park volleyball league instead.

Running into Steph and sdkeil was a blur. You‘re at the lake and you think you‘re there but you have no idea what awaits in the willows and talus and poison ivy and madness of the final 800 feet to Ruby Basin.

It was great hiking with Mike and Kevin. The class 5 food cache, the physical pain of watching Mike walk up Peak 12, the altitude sick folks who decided to hang out at 13,100 all friggin‘ day, talk of mullets and knee-high dress socks, etc., etc.

And a special thanks to dsunwall and/or summit_lounger who undoubtedly saved my tent from a windy disintegration.

Kudos to you guys for persevering and getting Animas-Monitor-13.

07/10/2010 03:17
Great write up Brian. I thoroughly enjoyed that basin as well, but need to go back for the northern bunch. We greeted the new one on Tuesday so if things work out, I‘m up for some Gores in August. In the meantime, it‘s nice to live vicarously through your exploits. Oh.. and yeah, Mike is a little ridiculous to climb with. He embarassed me in Piney Creek last month.

A humbling experience...
07/11/2010 02:32
I don‘t know what was more humbling... the demoralizing approach to Ruby Basin or trying to keep up with the three of you guys!

Regardless, I‘ll echo Papillon/Kevin‘s comments that this trip was one of the high points of my life and an experience I‘ll remember forever.

Brian, thanks so much for the invite. Even though I didn‘t accomplish half of what you guys did, it was awesome just being a part of the trip, and getting the chance to climb two incredible mountains in one of the most gorgeous basins I‘ve ever visited. I have to admit, the walk-up Centennials we did afterward were a bit anticlimactic!

Kevin & Mike - it was great meeting and climbing with you both, and I hope we get the chance to hit some more peaks together at some point!


07/12/2010 16:20
Ben - thanks about the shots, looks like you and Carl had a full weekend in the SJ‘s as well.

Prakash - I think its safe to say climbing in the Weminuche should take precedence over boar hunting in Texas, without question.

Scott - congratulations man. I‘d like to get in the Gores, sooner rather than later. Get some quality family time then shoot me an email when you are ready for some excursions.

Kevin and Sarah - it was awsome to have such a solid group for the long weekend, I was bummed to have it end so abruptly. Matt and I shared our first summit on Meeker on saturday, great day, I‘d be down to get a group outing at some point this summer for sure.

07/12/2010 17:59
Well done Brian and company, a really sweet group of 13ers this is. Amazing photos as well, makes me jones for the San Juans!

11/30/2010 17:28
Well, you all certainly had a great weather window and wonderful success in an area that I just love to visit time and again. Congrats to all of you! Ruby Creek is one of my favorite drainages (you'll find that the more you explore that drainage, the better you can travel without the impediments of getting victimized by vague trails). Pigeon is such a standout climb. And, didn't you think that Peak 13 was sort of like a sandbox? I really enjoyed that threesome in a day when we were there the first time. Nice report, Brian ... thanks for posting. Happy trails!

11/30/2010 17:28
Thanks for the comments

Andy - nice work on Vestal, your husky looks well rested in that one pic at camp. Cool dog. I found the N.Pigeon Creek drainage, but too low and proceded to downclimb down the cascading stream until I got cliffed out and found a narrow ledge leading around the ridgeline. Good times.

Presto - peak 13 is a 13,700 foot sandbox

Matt and Carl - thanks guys, San Juans are a memorable place. Mike's strategic location for his food bag was an critter's nigtmare. We joked about how he was going to be responsible for the deaths of many marmots when they fall off a 50 foot cliff trying to get to his food.

Rick - sometimes you go the extra mile to find the goods. San Juans usually fit the bill.

This year‘s epic
01/19/2011 03:38
It seems you turn in an annual TR to remember from the San Juans.

Ridge runner
nice work!
02/01/2011 00:24
Glad to hear you guys got all the peaks you wanted and under great weather. It was great to meet Kevin and Sarah as we were heading down, it sure was a busy place. Looks like I‘ll be heading back down there with Kiefer in August to hit a few more on his list.

02/05/2011 00:22
Sweet TR,I am thinking about a solo up there in sept. Do you have any other approach info?

05/02/2011 14:23
Wow. Maybe it‘s time I join you on one of these 13er trips. Awesome looking place. The bear bag alone earns this trip report 5 stars.

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