The Ruby Range Traverse has been on my list for a while. The long ridge traverse in the southwestern Elk Mountains links up nine named summits from Yule Pass to Ruby Peak. Often done as a one-way trip with a car shuttle, this Crested Butte area favorite has endless views of the surrounding mountains and offers a whole lot of time up high.
With a free day on a recent trip to Crested Butte I headed out with Allen Hadley along a slightly more creative route than the usual linkup. Not that the one-way trip isn’t great, but he laid out a course that first took us along trails and over passes on the west side of the Ruby peaks before climbing up onto the ridge. In short we made a loop out of the central Ruby Peaks that started and finished at Lake Irwin. Since it was all new to me I didn’t care how we did it, but in hindsight I think this was a pretty novel approach.
One obvious attraction of this loop layout was that we didn’t have the long car shuttle up to Yule Pass. Additionally, it allowed for a bit more running as the valley trails are friendlier to that than the ridges above. The biggest negative to this particular layout was that we didn’t have enough time to do the entire ridge. In the interest of finishing before dark we decided to skip what are usually the first two peaks, Purple Mountain and Augusta Mountain, as well as the last one, Ruby. We weren’t at a loss for miles though, this loop is longer than the one-way.
From a start near Lake Irwin it went as follows: climb up to Scarp’s Ridge, descend into the upper reaches of Oh-Be-Joyful Creek, and then continue north into Democrat Basin. From there climb up and over Daisy Pass and descend into Baxter Basin. Follow trails and old mine roads up towards Cascade Mountain and then find your way onto the ridge via Angel Pass, between Augusta Mountain and Richmond Mountain.
Once on the ridge head south back in the direction you started. Climb over Richmond Mountain (12,501 ft.), Hancock Peak (12,410 ft.), Oh-Be-Joyful Peak (12,420 ft.), Afley Peak (12,646 ft.), Purple Peak (12,753 ft., not Purple Mountain) and Mount Owen (13,058 ft.). Descend towards Ruby Peak and take the old mine trail from the saddle between Owen and Ruby back down to Lake Irwin.
Total mileage on the GPS app: 18.4 miles
Total ascent: +7265 ft.
Total time with stops: 9:34
It’s a full day, and one I wouldn’t want to do if there was weather in the forecast. If you have the right day you should check it out.