Peak(s):  Ruby Mtn A  -  13,277 feet
Date Posted:  08/19/2020
Modified:  08/20/2020
Date Climbed:   08/13/2020
Author:  petal53run
 Straightest Line Up Ruby Mountain  

Straightest Line up Ruby Mountain

The Oligocene epoch (3rd epoch of the Tertiary period in the Cenozoic era of geological time) was an exciting time. It’s when mountain building was going bonkers in Colorado: explosive volcanic activity, violent uplifting from earthquakes and a dramatic cooling tread. Sometimes while I’m on a mountain top I wonder which peak is the parent volcano to the lava flow that I’m standing upon. The erosional remains I was particularity interested to stand on was Ruby Mountain(pic1). It has been on my special climbing list because of the pretty rocks that have been found.

During the late 1800s, prospectors named Ruby for the red stones they thought were rubies. But, after cracking open the Tertiary rhyolite envelopes, garnets spilled out. Not a gem, but semi-precious gems are still worth a lot of money and the mining began. Argentine pass not only was the social link to connect the east to the west towns over the continental divide, but was vital to transport goods from the booming mines via teams and wagons. In 1875, the Hayden Survey crowned it the highest wagon road in Colorado which stopped every railroad company from laying track. Yellow topaz and a few other minerals were mined from the Ruby digs until like its neighboring gold and silver mines, it played out and passed the same demise to the toll road.

Today, Ruby Mountain is divided in half: the Wside is privately owned and the Eside is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. That means my rock hammer has rules, primarily the federal government kind. For Ruby, rockhounding with handtools are allowed so until I find anything noteworthy; I’m not a prospector yet. And the other rule: NO looking for stuff west of the peak.

A few weeks ago, I was considering Ruby, but climbed Edwards & Argentine. While eating lunch in the VW, I studied the S hillside and wondered if there was a clear way up the mountain. The outcroppings looked gnarly and rockfaces hidden behind the hill before the false summit could exist. My map showed a steep ascent, but no surface details. Researching, the trip reporters had traveled the Class 2-3 Eside, but a couple of those hikers bushwhacked the return to the car route down the Sside. They said stick to the grassy areas, so that method should work going up. applauded the bushwhacking roundtrip as the SSE ridge/flank route.

On day off Thursday, back at the TH(pic2), 6am, I studied the hillside through the windshield while eating breakfast. Yes, there were grassy areas between the outcroppings and the one ascending above the willows in front of the hood looked doable. Google maps showed and I could see a lots and lots of talus and rock ravines so wearing a helmet would be a good idea. From my vantage point, the false summit wouldn’t move and mostly be in sight so the shortest distance between two points is the straightest line so I went for it.

I started on the worn path(pic3) to the willows. In pic 3 a line snakes through the willows which had some wear by people or animals. The terrain clears in the pine trees (pic4). Beyond them, there was an easy grassy lane between the 2 rock outcroppings, in pic 4 above the pine trees which took me to the meadow, the flattest part of the climb(pic5). The directional line curves NW to cross the stream(pic6) that feeds into Peru Creek and mountain goat tracks(pic7). I hiked the grassy section between more willows(pic8). And the last of the meadow(pic9) is fast walking while angling to the north. It becomes rockier(pic10) until its solid rocks while gaining elevation. Staying on the grassy patches worked until I got to the thistle line(pic11), then its different sizes of chunky rocks ahead. During a moment of catching my breath, I saw more goat tracks and could see a trail in places; thank you mountain goats. That was the strategy I used to the ridge. Mostly the footing was stable, but I still checked with my pole. The unnerving part of the climb was the teacup size talus on the steep ascent before the false summit. And finally, the false summit(pic12).

Ruby is a pretty mountain, whether from the distance or under your boot . The streaks of yellows, orange and reds make it colorfully unique. From the false summit, it’s a quick walk on the defined trail over the chunky rocks(pic13&14). Walking atop the peak is easier than going to the east side. Then, wow, standing on the summit of red Ruby Mountain(pic15). Despite the smoky haze from the terrible western slope wildfires, the 360degree view was gorgeous(pic16). It was worth looking around, but erosion and weatherization have turned any surviving garnets into grains. I’m guessing that almandine garnets were harvested as seen by the heavy iron oxidation in the red rocks. For the descent, I reversed my beeline through the waypoints that I mentioned.

FYI sum, Bald Mountain is the parent volcano (slow to erode, the source vent is a class3 climb) of several notable peaks we summit. It last blew 30 million years ago and formed the Sawatch and Front Ranges. The magna (instrusive lava) encapsulated gold and silver dykes in this area. The extrusive lava, that cooled very quickly called rhyolite made triplets: Deborah Hill, Sugarloaf and Ruby mountains, the later a high grade metamorphic rock that produced gemstones. Garnets come in every color except blue and because of no cleavage, garnet sand is used in our everyday abrasives, such as, sandpaper.

In sum, there is no right or wrong bushwhacking way up and down the Sside of Ruby Mountain, considering there is no established trail, yet. The key to getting to Ruby is the grassy slope between the 2 outcroppings N of the parking lot. I would suggest starting E of the stream and wrestling with the willows as the terrain W of the stream feeding into Peru Creek looked steeper and was tangled vegetation. From there, a curved NW line will get you to the top by sticking to the grassy areas. It’s a heart-pounding uphill class1-2 climb that took me a couple of hours and one hour down to the car. The route that I suggest is to prevent backtracking like I did to the Whale Lode mine: 1st climb up the Sside and 2nd descend to the E ridge. The obsidian pebbles that I found are called Apache Tears(pic). You go downhill faster with weight in your pockets than carrying it uphill.

Ruby mountain looking at its east side. I took this on trail going to Edwards. So pretty with its colorful streaks. Looked tempting to climb then.
The S incline leads to the false and real summit (2nd bump). It was literally a straight up the hill climb after passing through the lower outcroppings.

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

 Comments or Questions
Ruby's hidden treasure
08/20/2020 10:08
Most of the time I summit for the views but the geological perspective puts an additional interest into walking up a mountain

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