Peak(s):  Dyer Mountain  -  13,855 feet
Date Posted:  07/14/2015
Modified:  08/13/2015
Date Climbed:   07/11/2015
Author:  SkiColorado93
Additional Members:   LivingOnTheEdge
 In Dyer Need to Climb (West Ridge)   

Trip Specs

Left Littleton: 5:45 am
Left Trailhead: 8:35 am
Saddle: 10:00 am
Peak: 12:00 pm

Total Time: 5 hrs 30 min
Total RT Length: 5.60 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2,700 feet


Cody (LivingOnTheEdge) and I both attend universities outside of Colorado. Naturally, we find ourselves in the backcountry during breaks. It had been a long time since either of us had gotten above even 10,000' and we were ready for some fun.

Initially, we had planned to leave Friday night (7/10) after we both got off work and sleep at the Maroon Lake Trailhead for an early start up Pyramid. However, as usual, I planned poorly and we decided it was too late to head for Aspen. So, we settled for a 13er in order to bag a centennial peak, as well as try some harder class 3 and class 4 climbing. Cody suggested Dyer Mountain's West Ridge, and I said let's do it!

We left early from our house in SW Denver and headed for the hills. Once out of Leadville, CR 2 splits into two separate roads: the higher of the two is a nice and easy dirt road, the second lower one was a harder, and muddier, 4WD trail. When driving up, for whatever reason, we did not see the turn off for the higher, easier 2WD road and we quickly found ourselves on the 4WD trail sliding up muddy hills. Our Lexus GX470 did not have many issues tackling this road, though. Eventually we made it to where CR 2 joins up again right below the official Iowa Gulch trailhead and parked.

The route we planned would take us up Dyer's West Ridge, and down the standard Southeast Slopes (we were hoping to glissade as much of the way down as possible). We opted to park closer to the Iowa Gulch TH rather than where we were to leave the road to hike into the Dyer Amphitheater (West Ridge "TH") because we were looking for a quick return to the car after descending the SE Slopes.

Headed down the road from Iowa Gulch Trailhead

Now nobody clicks on a trip report hoping to read an essay, so I will attempt to keep this short, sweet, and full of pictures.

~~~~~~The Climb~~~~~~

After gearing up with axes, poles, gators, and water, we headed down CR 2 back to the West Ridge "trailhead." Trailhead here is in quotes because there is no trailhead, you simply leave the road and walk across the terrain. We left the road somewhere near 11,550' and climbed into the Amphitheater, surrounded by columbines and so much green vegetation.

The entrance of Dyer Amphitheater

As we climbed into the Amphitheater, we crossed a small swampy area. We then headed straight for the rocky hillside in front us- you can't miss it. The route we took is outlined in red. We angled slightly to the right, then climbed straight up and around on the right side of the drainage.

Navigating Dyer Amphitheater

After that, we came across the small lake. We skirted the right side of the lake and navigated through loose rock to reach the ridge. Outlined in red was our approximate route.

The road to the ridge

As we gained the ridge, the route ahead looked really intimidating as there was a huge towering point above us with dicy terrain guarding it. Before I knew it, we were headed up.

We took the red route; the correct route is outlined in green

Following the route description we first came to a large class 4 chimney. I decided it would be fun, and climbed straight up. The rock was solid and there were plenty of foot/hand holds. It was not too exposed either.

Class 4 chimney

Cody found a class 3 bypass to the left and made quick time scrambling up that to meet me at the top of the chimney.

Class 3 chimney bypass

(Reference Photo #5) Next, there was a large rock pile between us and the first ridge point. In the route description, it looks as if the arrow directs you around to the left of the rock pile, and then curves back to the right around the ridge point. So, we tried that and found ourselves on loose, exposed ledges on the left side of the rock pile (red line in the photo). Cody even grabbed a large seemingly solid rock slab that willingly came loose in this section, which scared him a lot. TEST EVERY HAND AND FOOTHOLD. Most of the class 3 climbing on the ridge was very loose and the rocks were large.

Loose ledges to the left of the rock pile

Steep, loose ledges to the left of the rock pile PC: LivingOnTheEdge

Eventually, we made it around the ledges and up a small loose gully just below the tall ridge point.

Steep, loose gully below the first ridge point

(Reference Photo #5) From here, the route finding became increasingly difficult. We headed around to the right of the ridge point but we made the mistake of staying too low. We found ourselves traversing what seemed like an endless amount of gullies in search of the one described in the route. I believe our mistake was not heading straight up (200') after passing the ridge point. Take your time in route finding here. The actual route stays on the ridge, goes straight over the rock pile (green line in the above photo), then curves around the large ridge point to the right. It is important to regains the ridge as soon as possible.

Tons of fun class 3 climbing, though it was loose most of the time. Be cautious and aware!

Plenty of class 3 climbing to be had

Finally, we decided we were too low and made a B-line for the ridge. Once there, we traversed many notches/small saddles in the ridge. Some had packed snow in them with massive exposure on each side which made things more stressful.

Weather was beginning to move in and we could see rain over Elbert and Massive and it was quickly spreading into the valley. The rain clouds ended up dissipating before it reached us, which we were thankful for, and the weather held out the whole day.

NOAA's warning of a "Slight chance of rain" proved to be little threat

Since we were potentially off route and worried about time, we did not take out axes to cross this snow. However, if we had to do it again, I most definitely would have. A slip here would have sent us sliding down snow and into a loose/steep gully with rocks larger than bowling balls. We stupidly took the chance but crossed safely nonetheless.

Small ridge notch filled with snow

After crossing gully after gully along the ridge crest, we eventually made our way to the false summit. Even though I usually hate false summits, I was glad to see this one because it meant the most difficult terrain was behind us. It was a quick jog up to the true summit of Dyer Mountain (much shorter in length and elevation than either of us anticipated).

We were thankful to be at the top in one piece.

The summit! Mt. Sherman (L) and Sheridan, Peerless, and Horseshoe (R)

We had a great view of the Mosquito Range and could see all the people on Mt. Sherman looking like little ants on the ridge.

After summit snacks and photos, we were quickly on our way down the SE Slopes. The terrain was easy class 2. We glissaded down every snow patch we came across, though unfortunately they were not steep enough, nor was the snow hard enough, to gain much speed.

We took the route outlined in red, however, once we were lower on the mountain, it was clear that the route wraps around to the right and heads straight down to Iowa Gulch Trailhead (outlined in green).

The gentle SE Slopes still patchy with snow

Although there was no official trail, there were occasional wooden posts marking the suggested route. We attempted to follow them, yet they were few and far between. Here is what the posts looked like- follow them for an easier and more direct way up the mountain.

Wooden "trail" markers

It is around this time that I rolled my ankle. Normally this would be fine, except for the fact that I had sprained my ankle one week prior. Needless to say, I was in pain and hobbling down the remainder of the slope. Ouch! Don't make my mistake and get lazy at the end; there is no trail and the terrain is bumpy and uneven.

Finally, the car was in sight... again, we parked right near the junction of the two CR 2's, just below the actual Iowa Gulch Trailhead.

The car is in sight!

To our surprise, the 2015 Leadman/Leadwoman Race was well underway. Congrats to all those who competed! We ended up taking the nicer 2WD dirt road down the mountain now that we had discovered it was available for use.

2015 Leadman/Leadwoman Race


Overall, we had a great day. Besides some mistakes with route finding, the class 3 scrambling and occasional class 4 move made this route exciting and fun. I would not climb the SE Slopes- it seemed like a boring climb through a rock quarry. If you have the experience and knowledge, definitely try this West Ridge route! The exposure was not terrible, either. Be cautious for loose rock, though, it was littering this ridge. Due to the fact that this route is not used often, rocks shift under the slightest of weight. Be careful and test all hand and footholds before trusting them.

Another great day in Colorado's backcountry.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
07/15/2015 09:38
beta, man. Second the testing warning. My most painful accident to date was on that ridge one winter. Quite a few rocks failed out under me. Still, good fun.

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