Peak(s):  Engelmann Peak  -  13,362 feet
Robeson Peak  -  13,140 feet
Bard Peak  -  13,641 feet
Mt. Parnassus  -  13,574 feet
Woods Mountain - 12940
Date Posted:  09/06/2015
Date Climbed:   09/05/2015
Author:  rajz06
 Bard Quintuplet   

Starting Point: Woods Creek Rd, Elevation: ~10,200'
Peaks Climbed in order of ascent: Engelmann Peak (13,362'), Robeson Peak (13,140'), Bard Peak (13,641'), Mt. Parnassus (13,574'), Woods Mtn. (12,940')
Route: Loop
RT Distance: ~9.5 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: ~5,300 feet (per Google Maps)
Group: Solo

Bard Mountain first piqued my interest after I read a TR by "awake". That provided excellent beta and, of course, I wanted to add as many adjacent peaks to the agenda so the list quickly gathered mass ending at four 13ers and a fifth peak just shy of that elevation distinction. Incidentally, these peaks can be climbed from Herman Gulch and there are some accounts from that perspective also. I chose the Ruby Creek approach mainly for the simplicity and directness of this approach.

It should be noted that the trailhead is on private property, roughly 2 miles from the Henderson Mine Rd exit on US 40.


The route starts on the rough 4WD road as it parallels Ruby Creek and climbs through the woods.

Falls along the road


There are four prominent gullies that climb out of Ruby Creek up to the long connecting ridge between Engelmann, Robeson and Bard. I took the following picture on my descent from Woods Mountain and it shows these gullies in some detail.

View of the gullies

Having studied the terrain maps the night before, gully no. 3 seemed to be the best option to me; it is steep through most of the climb but relents as it reaches the ridge. Gully numero uno, I imagine, would be the sane choice for mountain goats; starts out steep and gets hairy and loose approaching the ridge - not recommended for those relying on traction from two contact patches! My actual ascent ended up going through gully no. 4, but not by choice...

My route in blue; best option in red

My goal was to take gully no. 3 but a fateful mistake while leaving the main creek ensured that this would not happen.

My route in blue; better option in red

I was so focused on not taking the first or the second gully that I strayed too far up the hillside and away from the drainage.

Climbing through the woods away from the drainage

By the time I realized my mistake, it made no sense to retrace my path so I just dropped down into gully no. 4 and started making my way up to the saddle between Engelmann and Robseson.

Gully no. 4

View down the gully

I stayed in the middle of the rocky gully except when tundra on the shoulder offered better traction.

Staying on the rocky midsection

Looking down the gully

Reviewing the maps, this gully is not as steep as the others for most of the ascent and in that regard may be a better choice for anyone looking for a more moderate climb. About two-thirds of the way up, another gully stretches up the hillside to the right but I stayed on the main one continuing toward the saddle.

Gully curves to the left

The ~1700 feet climb up this gully took me nearly an hour; not quite the pace I'd hoped to set since there was a lot of climbing left in the day. Upon reaching the saddle, it wasn't obvious exactly where Engelmann's summit was so I climbed the gentle grassy slope aiming for what I thought was the peak.

Colorful tundra on the broad ridge

As it turned out, I was a bit off the mark as the summit cairn did not come into view until I was on the broad summit.

The true summit of Engelmann Peak

An hour and fifty minutes for the first peak and four more to go meant that I would be racing against time for the remainder of the day, hoping to beat the weather. As it transpired, the clouds never delivered on their threat but the winds consistently scoured that lofty ridge between 20 and 30 miles per hour, getting worse as the day progressed. Not exactly pleasant, but I'll take those winds over thunderstorms any day!

I surveyed the next leg of the hike, Robeson Peak, flanked by the two higher 13ers that would follow.

The upcoming threesome

Robeson is the only unranked peak on this ridge but it still manages to rise just over 300 feet from the saddle with Engelmann.

Gentle ascent to Robeson Peak

Ten minutes later, I was on the broad summit of Robeson checking out the connecting ridge to the third and highest peak of the day.

Ridge to Bard Peak

After a prominent bump en route to the saddle at ~12,900', the ridge features a solid 700+ vertical feet to Bard's summit.

Bard Peak from the saddle

When I was planning the hike the day before, I had figured that the gully ascent would be the crux of the hike, and the ridge traverse to cover all five peaks would be a cakewalk. While the gully ascent may have been the crux, there is a good bit of elevation gain and loss to be had on this ridge traverse to cover the remaining peaks.

Towers on the ridge to Bard

Speed, which is one of my few strengths, was somehow not part of my arsenal today, perhaps due to very little sleep the night before. I had to earn every one of those 700 odd vertical feet to Bard. Reward for the weary were the views, despite the mounting cloud cover over the high peaks.

The gnarly Sawtooth

Grays and Torreys

The winds were relentless but I was more concerned about the dark clouds. If there was a time to bail from the ridge, this was it; the traverse to Parnassus would mean that I was committed to the loop. And committed I was.

The connecting ridge to Parnassus was a bit less straightforward than the one I'd just covered mainly due to a couple of small towers.

Ridge to Parnassus

While these could be bypassed by skirting to hiker's left, I chose to stay on the ridge enjoying whatever the rocks had to offer.

Atop a tower on the ridge

Atop Parnassus looking back to Bard

Rugged peaks in the distnce

The saddle with Woods Mountain is a long way down a grassy slope that drops almost a thousand feet in about three-quarters of a mile.

Ridge to Woods Mtn.

I spotted a prominent trail going up Woods' southeast ridge and aimed directly for it. Any hopes I might've had of the winds subsiding were dismissed as soon as I got to the broad saddle. Good thing then, that the next pitch was a gentle ascent over easy terrain.

Parnassus from halfway up the ridge to Woods

Atop Woods, looking at the Pettingel-Haggar traverse

If there was a weakness in my planning for this loop, it was the descent off Woods Mountain. The best descent off Woods is to take a prominent gully just off the ridge around 12,400' that drops all the way down and connects with Woods Creek road.

This is the gully to take

This would require about an extra mile of trudging down the road to reconnect with my starting point, something I was loathe to do. So I decided to stay on the northeast ridge of Woods which would allow me to directly aim for the trailhead. In retrospect, this was not such a good idea. The ridge starts out easy as it navigates a few humps and stays that way down to about 12,200'.

Woods' NE ridge starts out gentle

Then it gets quite steep.

...then it gets steeper

will this cliff out?

Below treeline, this slope turns into a steep mess, getting worse as I descended lower into the dense pines.

The terrain was steep enough that I had to resort to using the trees, branches, roots, whatever I could find to brace myself through many sections. Sure, it had a bit of a treasure hunt aspect to it as I never knew if a certain slope would cliff out, or how I would detour around the rocks when it did.

Hillside gets stepper

Navigating through the hillside

It certainly shortened the loop considerably but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't relieved when I finally spotted the road. ~1800 feet drop in under 0.9 miles - there's some pucker factor for ya!

The trees were good handholds

Elevation plot

Yours truly

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 31 32 33 34 35 36 37

Comments or Questions
Thanks for the warning!
09/06/2015 17:53
I’ve done Parnassus and Bard from Watrous Gulch and have been wanting to go back and do Englemann––your avoidance of the road was EXACTLY what I would have done! Thanks for saving me from the misery! Glad the slip and slide ended well!

As usual
09/08/2015 08:24
Another nice report, Raj. Way to link up the 5 mountains. I never thought to do that. Was the parking still way below the sign in your first picture? I seem to recall a sign a mile or so before that on the road that said it was all private and I parked at that sign and walked the road to where your first pic was taken. I also went up gully #4. Looser than hell as I recall.

09/08/2015 22:05
ctlee: good to hear that my mistake may help! The gully off Woods’ NE ridge would be the right choice for the descent.
Jay: once again, your memory is spot on – the private land sign is just about a mile before the actual trailhead.

Good info
09/11/2015 08:35
Thanks for the great beta as always, Rajz. Went and did this yesterday, but started with Parnassus. We descended off gully one on Engelmann and you’re right, not fun at all.

thanks man!
09/13/2015 08:29
I was with Jason ^. "Gully number 1 is for mountain goats." haha sure is!

09/12/2015 20:26
awesome, guys. Well done!

Timely and well done!
09/13/2015 20:01
I’m looking forward to this loop in the next month or so, so I’m glad to see your report here. Thanks, and carry on!

Another timely report
10/05/2015 12:28
I’ve always planned to ski that west gully #1 (not just for goats!), hence why I orphaned Engelmann. But I find myself without a plan for the weekend and can’t camp with my elderly mother in the snow and cold, so this may just be the ticket!

Edit: Not sure why ya’ll chose the gullies. I don’t usually touch loose gullies unless there is nice firm snow in them. I went up the ridge to the south of gully 4 and then down the ridge directly off Engelmann’s summit between gully 1&2. There were even game trails for parts of it (usually a sign of the path of least resistance). It was infinitely more pleasant than ankle roll central for 2K.

Great Report!
10/09/2015 22:15
Very cool to see that you managed to get all 5 peaks in. I think gully #3 was how I got up, and it really wasn’t bad at all. It was steep, but none of that loose rock that was in gully #4 (that I took down).

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