Peak(s):  Engelmann Peak  -  13,362 feet
Robeson Peak  -  13,140 feet
Date Posted:  07/16/2022
Date Climbed:   07/08/2022
Author:  petal53run
 Engelmann Botany Hike   

Engelmann Peak (13362) is a lesser known peak just like its namesake: George Engelmann(1809-1884). At the height of the spring wildflower season it gets pushed into prominence. George was a doctor turned botanist who specialized in IDing species that thrived in nonfertile soils: pines, rushes (reedy grass), spurges (poinsettia) and cacti. Cataloged in the 1874 Flora of Colorado, his dozen cacti species persist today as natives. So whilst I wandered up the ridge toward the summit, a carpet of yellow(pic1) & red & white flowers tickled the toes of my boots as a blooming tribute.

Whatever my guardian angel did to make it a climbing day(July 8-2022), I was outta Denver before the sun could get up. I70 west to exit 232 toward Empire; then measure from stoplight 7 miles; before the big hill going to Berthoud pass, turn left onto the Henderson Mine Rd/Jones Pass Rd; go ½ mile to stop sign(pic2) or brown sign with arrow pointing left toward URAD(pic3). Before going through the double gates(pic4) are 2 more signs of interest(pic5-6). From here the Ruby Gulch TH is 1 ½ miles on a hard packed dirt road. The parking area is small(pic7) as it overlooks a processing facility with the red mountain staring back(pic8). I could see what 7million$ did to the valley(per signage pic9) as I laced up my boots.

Having summitted Bard, Parnassus & Robeson from the 170 Herman Gulch TH, Engelmann was on my ToClimb list. This N access was closer than treking from the I70 side. Previous trip reports discussed how to avoid the gully obstacle course by hiking the ridge of the Ngully by steering climbers left. OOOOK. About a ¼ mile was the Avalanche DANGER sign(pic10) marking the beginning of the trip. Up the double track trail(pic11) I went looking for the first ridge. I passed some metal stuff with solar panels(pic12), crossed some shallow streams(pic13), marveled at the columbines(pic14), noted the white post as pic15 as halfway up the road and stopped at the Y(pic16). In the middle of a forest by now, I knew Engelmann was E, so I turned left. Going uphill was a good direction. Ruby Creek cool water fall pic17 and more going uphill.

I followed the road over mining remnants(pic18) and crossed a foot bridge(pic19). A lone path went left(pic20). Exploring that trail lead to a NoTrespassing sign(pic21) and I could see the tin roof on what other reports describe as cabin ruins. I turned around to face the uphill forest(pic22) and was on a ridge. No worries, I will forge my own trail. After 50ft, I was not alone. There was evidence from past climbers(pic23-24-25). Also there were hints of trails(pic26-27-28) and soon I was following elk (pic29 was fresh)(pic30-31). Only one direction to go, I started finding cairns(pic32-33-34) and pic35 is an indigenous cairn. Eventually the treeline(pic36) turned into a grassy terrain scattered with rocks. After a few more steps, Engelmann came into view(pic37). The blue flowers are alpine cushions(pic38). Wow; this is what its all about: uninterrupted views but still not at the top. Parnassus and Woods to the west (pic39). Looking down, I had hiked the 2nd ridge which lead to a bumpy grass saddle going to Engelmann(pic40). Then the rocky terrain with tundra buttercups(pic41) happened as the summit got closer(pic42). Pic43 of an Alpine Sunflower. Getting slower I finally got to the ridge. Then it was an easy 50ft rock hop(pic44) to the summit(pic45-46 looking N). Pic47 is snow S of peak.

Noon was reasonably away, so while I was in the neighborhood, I cruised over to summit Robeson(13142) again(pic48). I chatted with some successful climbers who came up the Nridge. Since I felt familiar with the marked trail on the 2nd ridge, I descended the latter. Somewhere ¾ way down I lost the next marker. I aimed NW according to the Silva compass and luckily caught the reflection of the sun off the tin roof of the cabin to reorient my downhill travel. The rushing waters of Ruby creek sounded louder. At the cabin the lone path lead me to the foot bridge via the dirt double tracked road back to TH. Success for the first climb of 2022.

That was easy; or was it? Perfect weather, flat surface, and a straight line route. However this doable climb earns its Class2 ranking. The signage to Ruby Creek TH emphasizes danger and private property. Previous trail blazer reports buffered the invite. URAD lake is a no fee CO Parks&Wildlife area. A lot of money was spent to reclaim this area worth sharing but maybe the isolation and low traffic helps this land to heal. Big plus is this TH is close to Denver, an easy access and it signals a steep short hike. Natural ridges guide one to the summits but the choice is the challenge. With no internet, established trail or waypoints at the end of the road in the middle of a forest, I suggest research, a good contour map and/or garmin before embarking on this hike. Walking a ridge is easier than wrestling gully stuff but either of these N ridges goes E to the top. While talking to the other climbers, the markers will become more obvious as these trails are traveled more.

And George? Parry Peak? And who hasn’t climbed Asa Gray & John Torrey. In this area, Guyot, Flora, Eva, James Peak were named after eminent botanists, too. Americans wrote songs romanticizing how the West was tamed with roaming buffalo and cowboys and goldminers. The unsung heros who thrashed around the west were the botanists, aka, hikers, climbers, campers, geologists, dinosaur hunters, surveyors and hunters. George was one of the senior aged survivors in this business. The taxing and dangerous work of collecting and cataloguing flora, fauna and landforms to scientifically conquer and map the west put many naturalists back to earth.

In sum, this was an enjoyable climb and I recommend it for its doability, easy access and Front Range views. Engelmann is clearly visible from US40. Flower season in the Rockies is my favorite season because something different is always blooming. The mountainmarsh marigold greets everyones first steps(pi49) and I think the Qtip bistort is most interesting (pic50). In addition to IDing the flowers whilst I wander up these mountains, Im thinking of becoming an arborist next. The Engelmann Spruce, native to Colorado but tasty to pine beetles, do live long lives. An 852yo resident thrives in Fraser Experimental Forest, 50 miles west of Denver. Representing strength, durability and a lengthy productive lifespan, that was named after George Engelmann.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
history buff
09/22/2022 17:03
thanks for the informative history account. Yes it was the early explorers who discovered these peaks. Unfortunately they dont get due credit. Sounds like a good climb too.

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