Peak(s):  Ruby Mtn A  -  13,277 feet
Cooper Mountain - 12792
Date Posted:  01/28/2014
Date Climbed:   01/26/2014
Author:  bergsteigen
Additional Members:   SarahSimon, SenadR
 Setting a Ruby   

Ruby Mtn A & Cooper Mtn

Trailhead: Peru Creek Road/Montezuma
Mileage: 9.85
Elevation Gain: 3,427'
CAIC Avy Rating: Moderate(yellow) - above and near treeline, Low(green) - below treeline

No new snow for the past 2 weeks, CAIC Avy rating downgraded to Yellow/Moderate, warm and sunny... Time to ski some summits! With all the wonderful falling snow in the mountains, I've been lazy and focusing on resort skiing. Gotta build those ski legs! But once the snow stops falling, I start looking to BC and peaks to get my powder and elevation fix.

Now, where to go? After seeing Ruby from Quandary the week before, I was intrigued. Would it have enough "safe snow" to ski? Would there be a line to take? I wasn't sold quite yet. There wasn't any winter beta on the peak I could find easily. G&T via Kelso was suggested. I thought about the boring "winter" Decalibron. Bah! Nothing 14ery was capturing my interest. My mind kept going back to Ruby. It was chancy. We could get up there, and it wouldn't be safe, or worse yet... I might have to walk downhill with skis on my back!!! Oh the horror! But... It would be adventurous! Be the beta!

Ruby from Quandary January 18

So mere hours after summitting and skiing St Vrain Mtn, and watching Spamalot dinner theater, I was racing up I-70 with Senad and Sarah to the mountain town of Montezuma. Exiting the vehicle it didn't feel like 4deg, but soon after getting ready and skinning up the road it did. Sarah's hair frosted up. I could feel the ice accumulating on my eye lashes. Thankfully a nice brisk pace up the road got us all toasty as we were awaiting the arrival of the sun.

We went up the mostly flat road to the junction with the road to Chihuahua Gulch. Here we decided that going up either road would not gain us much, and so head straight up the ridge. Arrrgh! Snowshoers! I had thought that either end-around to the saddle with Greys and Ruby would make for a nice (if lengthy) tour, but it could mean post-hole purgatory for snowshoers. So up the ridge we went. At first it was post-hole hell for the snowshoers, as I easily pass by on my fat skis. Then came the steep icy overly aspen treed section which was my own personal purgatory. Too steep to skin straight up, too icy to edge. Purgatory continues with the windy rocky talus ridge walk up to the first summit of the day, where I feel like a drunk monkey in my AT ski boots. Ahhh, the pros and cons to skiing vs snowshoeing. Still, I wouldn't trade my skis for a million $. (I did get back to the trailhead an hour early...) Even some scrambling to be had along the way!

Ridge up Cooper

Hiking up Peru Creek road

Skier trumps snowshoer... for a few hundred feet

Bluebird skies prevail

Rocky ridge up Cooper Mtn

Some scrambling to be had along the way

From Cooper Mtn, it looks like such a short stretch over to Ruby, but oh the tired legs and sore ankle make it longer in the howling cold wind as it catches my wind-sail skis on my back. I spy the snow off the summit and down the drainage in between the two peaks. It's ever so tempting, and certainly the line I would take in spring. But the slope angle is in the 40's and I'm not so confident yet about those slopes in winter, even with a Moderate rating. The view from Cooper looks promising, but once on top of Ruby, there is evidence of older slides on the east facing slopes.

Greys & Torreys

Ridge over to Ruby Mtn

I see spring ski lines!

Approaching the summit - Photo Credit: Senad

On the summit of Ruby, we each do our various summit rituals. Then we scope out our various options for descent and have a group discussion. I was eying the east slopes as the safest low angle (30 and below) ski descent for me (even though I would add up extra mileage - possibly flat down below), and for the hikers the south ridge (being the summer standard route) the choice descent. This way Senad and Sarah could watch my ski descent from the ridge above, and I could watch theirs from below, as I traversed below their ridge.

The first couple turns off the summit ridge/cornice were soft and surprisingly nice. Then it was sustrugi wind blown and foot headache skiing that we all know and love in high alpine winter skiing. I stopped periodically to let the throbbing in my feet subside, and to asses the terrain around me. The best turns of the day occurred as I turned south and dropped into the Peru Creek drainage. I didn't see tracks below, so I decided to start traversing around, keeping as much elevation as I could. Less flat powder slogging would be useful with the mileage in front of me.

Santa Fe & Geneva 13ers

Lenawee's back side

Dropping in! - Photo Credit: Senad

Soft skiing on top - Photo Credit: Senad

Sustrugi feet headache - Photo Credit: Senad

Softish sustrugi...

Looking at the steeper drop and south ridge

Lower east bowl

Skiing the drain


Some soft powdery turns as I angle south

Some sheep on the southeast ridge

The south side gets rocky/cliffy in places before dropping into basin

Soft snow for some big arcing turns

As I round the corner and acquire the tracked Peru Creek Road, I see Senad and Sarah on the ridge above. I also see plenty of sheep doting various slopes above and around them. Then I start seeing the numerous slides coming off the south faces of the Ruby and Cooper ridge... scary! This would not be the place I would want to be in a Considerable or higher Avy rating! A few of the slides crossed the road!

Senad and Sarah up on the ridge...

Mine across the way

Senad's and Sarah's descent ridge

Looking at the drainage between Cooper and Ruby...

One of the numerous Avy paths - scary!

Looking up at our ascent Ridge from the morning

Talking with Senad and Sarah on the drive home, and at dinner at a Czech restaurant in Georgetown, it seems that their chosen descent off the final ridge down to the road below was "adventurous". From below, it looked like angling to the SE instead of SW would have avoided the crumbling rocks. But views from below and above are quite different!

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 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

 Comments or Questions

Very nice!
01/28/2014 22:54
Great pics and great description. That is certainly a gorgeous area.


01/29/2014 19:55
Take me on some of these mellower peaks. Still havent put the split to serious work yet.

I'm serious....

Solid work!


01/30/2014 21:29
FOTM - Will do! This one was trickier since I didn't know what I'd find.


Looks like a great choice for a winter ski.
02/02/2014 21:18
And it looks like you got it in great conditions...soft sastrugi is often the best you can hope for above tree line in winter.


02/05/2014 03:17
Wow - looks like a great climb and ski! Definitely getting up there in the winter time! All the best - look forward to the next report.

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