Round-trip mileage: 10.6
Total elevation gain: ~6000'
Time including stops: 8 hrs, 45 min
I first attempted this traverse November 14 but, in the cold and diminishing visibility, contracted a bad case of justdontfeellikeit and turned back. Here are some photos from that outing.
Robeson Pk. This is the best look I got at any of the peaks.
Visibility grew quite poor. These are the mine tailings at 12000' on Woods' NE ridge.
With a promising forecast I returned November 26. The weather was, however, terrible and I left empty-handed, my faith in humanity shaken.
After a month of psychotherapy and with a belly full of Christmas ham I was ready to believe in meteorology again. Plus I'm just a sucker for NOAA. Sunday they called for sunshine and mild winds, so I decided to give them another shot.
Since I wrecked my truck a few weeks earlier, I'd been begging rides to get my weekly fix. But now I needed to go alone: this was between me and the scientists. Without hesitation Sis took my Ben Franklin and her car was mine for the day.
The Deerslayer is a sturdy vehicle, albeit not without vices, most irksome of which are its inferior ground clearance, unresponsive powertrain, and penchant for terminating inattentive creatures. Thankfully Woods Creek Road is plowed year-round, and I was able to reach the trailhead parking area right on schedule at 5:45 a.m.
So far the weather people were keeping their end of the bargain. Under clear, starry skies I snowshoed up the Ruby Creek road, now well-packed from ski traffic. Around 11400' I turned west and began to follow what I could make of an old mining road that switches back up the northeast ridge of Woods Mountain.
Mt Parnassus viewed from the basin.
Moon over the Parnassus-Woods saddle.
Incredible sunrise over the Robeson-Bard saddle.
Soon I emerged from the trees and located the broad "shelf" I knew would deliver me to the ridge crest in relative safety. Only the last 150' or so is steep enough to slide, but the snow here was too shallow to warrant much concern. Shortly before 8 a.m. I gained the ridge, just as the sun climbed over the saddle between Bard and Robeson across the basin.
Left to right: Engelmann, Robeson, Bard, Parnassus, and Woods.
Looking north from treeline.
Hagar Mtn, "The Citadel", and Pettingel Pk.
Pleased at having put away the first 2000' in under two hours, I took a short breather and then started up the ridge towards Woods Mountain. Just below the summit, I startled a large herd of bighorn sheep; they disappeared over the hill and I didn't see them again. I reached the east summit of Woods at 8:50 and, after a quick hike over to the west summit, I turned my attention to Mount Parnassus.
On Woods' NE ridge.
12ers across Woods Creek.
Looking back down Woods' NE ridge.
Woods Mtn west summit.
Nurturing a mild obsession with the massive cornice on the Woods-Parnassus saddle, I made my way down as quickly as possible to get a closer look. The lee wall is probably 30' tall and slightly overhanging, with evidence of slide activity on the north-facing slopes beneath. I curbed my desire to traverse out under it for a better sense of scale, or to peer over the edge, and instead sat down for a snack.
Mt Parnassus viewed from Woods Mtn.
The cornice and Woods Mtn.
From this saddle, the 1100-foot climb to Parnassus is sustained and taxing. I hadn't been drinking much due to the cold, and already my head was throbbing. And I'd left the painkillers at home. This was going to be a treat. After a seeming eternity of snowy tundra and scree I topped out at 10:25. It was windy at the summit and, eager to get on the hairy-looking ridge to Bard Peak, I didn't stay long.
The ridge to Bard Pk viewed from Mt Parnassus.
The ridge connecting Parnassus and Bard is sublime. Though it goes at class 2, the steep drops, outcroppings and cornices, along with impressive views of the jagged north-facing aspects of Mount Parnassus and Bard Peak, left a distinctly class-3 taste in my mouth. For an hour I was in ridge purist heaven, and then I found myself on the summit of Bard with an incredible perspective on the surrounding ranges and particularly its unique view of the Sawtooth.
Panorama on the Parnassus-Bard saddle.
Grays Pk and Torreys Pk viewed from Bard Pk.
Mt Evans, the Sawtooth, and Mt Bierstadt viewed from Bard Pk.
I surveyed the remainder of the route. From Bard, Robeson Peak appears to be little more than a point on the long, curving ridgeline to Engelmann. Skirting the cliffs on Bard's north ridge, I dropped down to the saddle and hiked on fairly dry talus and tundra to the summit of Robeson and concluded this peak is much more impressive to view from the opposing ridge than to stand on. It was 12:30.
Robeson Pk and Engelmann Pk (rear) from Bard Pk.
Treeline east of the Bard-Robeson saddle.
The route so far. Left to right: Bard, Parnassus, and Woods.
Bard Pk viewed from Robeson Pk.
Mt Parnassus viewed from Robeson Pk.
Now I had only to get over Engelmann and find a way down its steep west slopes. My head was pounding as I started across the broad saddle. I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Though it seemed like hours, I reached the summit in a little over thirty minutes to enjoy a rewarding view of the Ruby Creek basin and my route.
Engelmann Pk viewed from Robeson Pk.
Looking west from Engelmann Pk.
Engelmann Pk viewed on descent.
It was still sunny and clear, but I was ready to get down. After slowly descending the slick tundra on Engelmann's west side I was soon wading through the trees. I put my snowshoes back on, hiked out to the car, and cruised to Empire for some expensive painkillers.
Panorama of the route viewed from Engelmann's west slopes.
Looking across the Parnassus-Woods saddle.