Peak(s):  Owen B, Mt  -  13,058 feet
Ruby Peak - 12641
Purple Peak - 12753
Afley Peak - 12608
Date Posted:  10/02/2008
Modified:  10/03/2008
Date Climbed:   09/27/2008
Author:  KeithK
 A Hike, a Climb and a Drink or Ten: The Fall Gathering...  

The 2008 Fall Gathering - Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008

Ruby Peak (12,641') - Everyone
Mt. Owen (13,022') - Everyone
Purple Peak (12,753')- Chris, Ben, Scott, Eric, Will, Nick
Afley Peak (12,608') - Chris, Ben, Scott, Eric
Oh Be Joyful Peak (12,365') - Chris, Ben
Hancock Peak (12,382') - Chris, Ben
Richmond Mountain (12,454') - Chris, Ben
Augusta Mountain (12,546') - Chris, Ben

Chris Gerber, Eric (thebeave7), Peter Sanders, Ben, Scott (edlins), Will, Nick (skibum1287), Chad (Bogart), Chris (on_belay616), Dave (dcbates80911), KeithK
Special appearances by: Craig (cheeseburglar), Heather (heather14), Stephanie (slynn_14run)

The Gatherings are a great way to meet other hikers and explore new areas. My first "official" 14er attempt was Mt. Elbert at the 2007 Winter Gathering, a day that I won't forget, even though I didn't come close to the summit. Putting faces to screen names is always fun, and the Gatherings allow individuals and groups alike to combine and develop new friendships and alliances. As Labor Day approached, it felt like time to organize a Fall Gathering, with the hopes of seeing some spectacular Colorado fall colors. When pictures of the Ruby Range were posted, it seemed like a superb choice, in an area that is not hard to get to, but offers incredible vistas and interesting peaks.

Ruby Peak is the southern-most summit in the Ruby Range; to the south, the Grand Dyke connects the range to Kebler Pass, while Lake Irwin to the east provides an excellent area for camping and other amusements. Thirteen thousand foot plus Mt. Owen stands as the high point of the range, and joins with Ruby Peak to form a beautiful high shelf lake named Green Lake. Only a few miles west of Crested Butte, this is a must-climb area in my book, and serves to remind me that Colorado has so much to offer.

A surprisingly small group met at the Lake Irwin dam parking area on Saturday morning, and proceeded up the only mildly rough dirt road to around 10,500', at a nice starting point to the southeast of Ruby Peak. With the two primary targets towering to the west, and the Scarp Ridge forming a wall to the north, we set out up the road, eyeing the southeast face and east ridge of the mountain. Even though the road leads all the way to the 12,100' saddle between Ruby and Owen, we all agreed that a more interesting approach would be appropriate, and aimed for the low saddle between Ruby Peak and the Grand Dyke ridge.

Chris Gerber and Ben prepared for a BIG day...

The group (minus Eric and Peter): Will, Chad, Nick, Keith, Dave, Chris, Chris, Ben, Scott

We hiked along the road for a short while, and then made a straight line towards the intended target, crossing easy grass covered ground before beginning to gain elevation. Though looking very steep, the slope was not as long or as steep as I expected, and the runners began to assert their pace. Chris Gerber and Ben were on the saddle in no time, with Scott trying to keep pace, but falling back as those two ultra runners quickly surmounted the lower ridgeline.

Our route to gain the saddle between the Grand Dyke and Ruby Peak...

The leaders making short work of the ridge...

Climbing the slope was not overly difficult, but true to the legendary aura of the Elk range, it was very loose and slippery. Crumbling dirt threatened to fall away with most steps, and the grade was plenty steep enough to warrant a good workout. This was the first time climbing in the Elks for many of us, and it was super cool to see the layered cliffs along these peaks. And even though we were early for peak colors, the vistas to the west of the ridge were incredible!

The last group working up to the saddle...

Reaching the saddle, we were greeted with our first taste of what invited us here...

Looking down from the saddle... (Image by Dave)

Chillin'... (Image by Dave)

The south ridge of Ruby Peak begins with a few minor difficulties in the class two range, as the route just bisects a series of rocky areas. True to the theme of the area, it is steep and loose, and there are a lot of dinner plate rocks perched and ready to move in the most inconvenient locations. Still, I found it very enjoyable, and a welcome change from the standard 14er trail. Although not very challenging, the looseness and steep sides of the ridge made for an interesting climb.

The beginning of the south ridge from the saddle...

The "crux" of the ridge...

Approaching the upper stretch of the ridge...

Chris, Keith and Chad making their way up the ridge... (Image by Dave)

Once beyond the difficulties of the lower third, the ridge graduates into a gentler, consistent trail through loose scree. It did not take much longer for Dave and Chris to reach the summit, with Chad and myself not far behind. We could see Nick and Will already on the summit of Mt. Owen as we stopped to absorb the views of a new and spectacular place. With the Elk Range 14ers poking up along the skyline to the north and east, we were immersed in a sea of mountains, almost reminiscent of the San Juans. To the west, the kaleidoscope of color served as a wonderful carpet, as the solitary Beckwiths and Marcellina stood out with prominent independence. A weather station served to remind us that the area is hardly remote, but did not detract from the 360-degree views. With the morning sun boring into its shallow depths, Green Lake lived up to its namesake, virtually glowing at the base of the Ruby-Owen saddle.

The Beckwiths...

Cathedral, Conundrum and Castle Peak...

Pyramid Peak, "Thunder Pyramid", Precarious Mtn...

Nick and Will on top of Owen. Really, those tiny specks are them!

Mt. Owen standing tall over Green Lake...

A good look at our next objective. Two locals can be seen descending. We would later learn that they had camped on the Ruby-Owen saddle, complete with an ample supply of beer and other "amusements"... (Image by Dave)

Part of the appeal of this hike was the very realistic possibility for multiple summits; we enjoyed a few minutes on Ruby Peak's summit, and then began the steep, loose, basically trail less descent down to the saddle with Mt. Owen. Losing over 400' of elevation is only a good thing when you're headed back to the car, and as we reached the saddle, Mt. Owen looked a LOT taller than 13,022'! A short break was enough, and it was time to begin climbing again, this time up the initial 200' gravel slope leading to Mt. Owen's south ridge proper. Dave and Chris set off, while I stayed back for a snack and to chat with Chad. Feeling satisfied, he determined that he'd had a great day without climbing another mountain, and I set off solo, trying to keep a visual on those fellers up ahead. Slogging up the gravel soaked trail was not as bad as I thought it could be, and it was a welcome relief to reach the top of the hump, allowing a view of much of the ridge.

Dave, Chris and Chad on the Ruby-Owen saddle...

Of course, the summit is the farthest point...

A good trail leads the way up the ridge...

An interesting granite intrusion... (Image by Dave)

The final false summit; the trail begins by climbing up into the talus, then works to the west and skirts around the shoulder...

Only a few more minutes...

I joined Dave and Chris on the summit shortly after noon, with a few clouds building here and there, but I did not see anything imminently threatening. Mt. Owen has a smallish summit, and the views are amazing. Looking north over the entire Ruby Range, Capitol Peak and Snowmass Mtn. mark the distant skyline, while the Bells and Pyramid look much closer than you might expect. Rugged Purple Peak stands right up front, but we had already decided that two peaks were enough for us. The east ridge of Purple Peak was particularly intimidating, and Chris Gerber had recommended that the only good way to descend would be to drop north to the saddle with Afley Peak. This information would become relevant later...

The Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak...

Purple Peak and Scarp Ridge, with Pyramid off in the distance...

Lowly Treasury Mtn. attempts to obscure 14ers Capitol Peak and Snowmass Mtn...

The view to the west...

The Ruby Range to the north, beginning with Afley Peak. Somewhere, Chris Gerber and Ben are running along there, racing the weather...

With distant thunder rumbling to the east, we began our trek back down the ridge. Some light graupel began to fall, but without any electrical participation, and we worked our way back down the loose ridge without hurrying. It was a smooth descent back to the Ruby-Owen saddle, where we began the drop to the four wheel drive road that leads down and out of the basin. Green Lake sat sparkling in the now intermittent sunlight, and Chris chose to head straight down the steep scree and talus slopes towards it. Dave and I chose to follow the road, with a nice rest stop on the lake shore. Chris caught up to us, and it was a straight forward but long walk back to the car.

Is that Les Stroud?

Green Lake...

When we returned to our vehicles, Scott was waiting for us. He had climbed Purple and Afley Peaks, and then descended back down to the Purple-Afley saddle and cut across to Scarp Ridge, where he climbed to the high point before descending directly to Lake Irwin to retrieve his car. Nick and Will descended from Purple Peak along the north ridge, then up and over Scarp and down into the basin. One of the appeals of this hike was the potential for such variation, and I think we all got our money's worth.

Cascades below Green Lake... (Image by Nick)

Scarp Ridge from Purple Peak... (Image by Nick)

Purple Peak's rugged north ridge... (Image by Nick)

The Aftermath

We met at Donita's Cantina in downtown Crested Butte for dinner. It was nice to have the entire group together, and I think everyone was pleased that they made this trip. Even though our server wasn't entirely happy to save spots for Eric, Chris, Peter and Ben, she was still quite willing to take a group shot.

Much needed calorie replacement...

Since most of the group was camping again at Lake Irwin, we decided that a little fire on a cool, moist night was in order. It had rained hard during the afternoon hours, and finding dry wood was a chore, but where there's a will, there's a way, and you can't defeat members when they choose to do something! We were even joined by some late comers, Stephanie, Zion (puppy dog), Heather and Craig, who had set up camp at Lake Irwin. Zion was by far the most well behaved, with Heather a close second. All in all, it was a great time!

A nice calm fire...

Hmmm, what's Gerber planning?

Sandals might not have been the best choice ...

Cheeseburglar would not miss out...

Equal opportunity fire-walking (at least she has socks on with her sandals) ...

This tree was in my way!

And for some reason, tree climbing seemed to be an appealing option... (Image by Nick)

Disclaimer: the tree won. Only dead trees were harmed in the making of this trip report.

We had a great time, which of course, eventually had to wind down and everyone went their separate ways. Heather, Steph and Craig were to hike on Sunday, intending to climb Ruby, Owen and Purple. I was quite sure I gave Craig good beta, but his harrowing trip report follows...

Heather and I ended up doing Ruby-Owen-Purple Peak on Sunday.
It was pretty nasty. We didn't have any idea where we were or what the mountains were named. Just seemed like a good idea at the time. I wanted to complete the ridge. I thought I remembered some drunk guy telling me that we could do the ridge, so we did. Descending the Purple Peak ridge was very nasty and it was starting to snow. I didn't have a coat with me, but I did have a garbage bag. Hopefully Heather will forget what we did and still talk to me.

A complete pictorial account of their journey can be found HERE.

On Sunday, there was ample opportunity to take in some of the spectacular colors around Ohio and Kebler Passes.

The Castles in front of West Elk Peak...

Ohio Peak from the Ohio Pass road...

Ruby and Owen from east of Kebler Pass...

Ruby Peak and the Grand Dyke from west of Kebler Pass...

East Beckwith Mtn.

Marcellina Mtn.

This was perhaps the most fun I've had hiking this year. Everyone was super cool, super fun, and I think we all had a great time, in an incredible place. Although I would have loved to have had a bit larger group, the location and weekend could not have been much better. I can't wait for the Winter Gathering!

 Comments or Questions

10/03/2008 03:11
Great trip report Keith! It was AWESOME meeting all of you! Thanks again for organizing the fall gathering Keith!

Jon Frohlich

10/03/2008 03:18
Congrats on the climb(s). Owen to this day is quite possibly my favorite climb in the state. Not for anything technical or superb in terms of climbing but because the view (at the right time) is absolutely nothing less than epic. I challenge anyone to find a better fall view from a peak. Also we had a perfect day and spent over an hour on top.

I want to live in Crested Butte some day. Just beautiful.

good stuff!
10/03/2008 03:25
Cool trip report, great pictures! Looks like fun was had by all. I did these peaks on Tuesday since I was sadly unable to make it over the weekend and all I have to say is I really do not recommend the SE ridge of Ruby! What a crap fest. I was also almost impaled by an eight point buck hiding in some trees around 11,500

+1 on life in Crested Butte though. Those 2000 sqft homes cost over a million dollars though


Great Weekend
10/03/2008 04:04
Had a great weekend with all of you. The area was beautiful and the company, very entertaining. Glad I was able to join in on the fun. Thanks Keith for putting this together.


the sport of tree climbing
10/03/2008 13:40
Keith, thanks for reminding me of a personal favorite past time of tree climbing, and yes the tree usually wins. Bush jumping comes in at a close second.

Sure looks like a unique region, one that is not often mentioned. I‘ve always felt drawn to CB in way thats tough to describe, thanks for the detailed TR.


Of trees and high mountain lakes...
10/03/2008 13:46
Brian, this one was right up your alley! When Chris plunged into Green Lake, I couldn‘t help but think of you and your propensity for that activity! Add some IPA‘s and tree wrestling, and you missed a good one!

It was an awesome time, and there is much to do in that area. It is beckoning me back for more...


Great Time
10/03/2008 15:25
That tree definately put the hurt on me. BTW, is that one of the Kebler Pass Elves running around in the background? Mmmm, Kebler Pass cookies..


Looks like a damn good time!
10/04/2008 01:54
KeithK knocked another TR outta the park...


Nice Meeting Everyone
10/06/2008 21:27
Fun times in the mountains, it was nice to meet everyone. I posted my photos online at


No worries Keith!
11/30/2010 17:28
I'm sure you gave Craig great info about the ridge. I'm guessing Saturday night's activities left him a little confused on Sunday.

It was great to meet up with everyone Saturday night!


Loved the Plumber‘s Butt
01/19/2011 03:38
Tree climbing and crack climbing... Way to go.
Looks like a great time!


03/04/2012 18:31
Nice TR and pics. The colors are looking great!Glad you guys had a good time!

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