Intro/StatsDyer Mtn (13855’)- CO Rank 81
Mt Evans B (13577’)- CO Rank 204
6 miles RT, 2970’ gain
November 11, 2006
Via Iowa Gulch
Participants: Layne Bracy and Kevin Baker
Video clip of wind conditions on ridge
It’s been awhile since Layne and I have hiked together, and when we do more often than not the hike ends up being a memorable death march. It quite often seems that suffering is in the equation, and this day was no different. A year ago, Layne and I toiled up Pikes via the Crags in epic winds. November is not exactly the best month to climb high peaks in Colorado! I emailed Layne earlier in the week after seeing a “reasonable” forecast with temps in the lower 30’s and 25-40 mph winds for the Mosquito range peaks around Leadville. We settled on centennial Dyer while Layne wanted to add soft ranked 13er Gemini. I had been up Gemini from Sherman, so I wanted to take a shot at tri-centennial Evans B to the north of Dyer if conditions permitted.
After a short night of sleep from attending the 14erworld gathering in Golden the night before, I headed for Leadville and met Layne at 7:30am. We took both cars since I would likely finish well after Layne as the ridge traverse to Evans sounded tedious from the reports I read. The Leadville area seemed to have missed the brunt of the blizzard a couple weeks ago. We were able to take County road 2 up Iowa Gulch all the way to 11620’ just before the road wraps around the south ridge of Dyer. This saved us about 4 miles of road walking round trip and 600’ vertical. The road had maybe 3-4” on it at most beyond the ASARCO mine and was well tracked.
Pleasant Hike on DyerWe set out at 8:05am as it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, temps probably in the low 20’s. On the drive in, I could see spindrift blasting off the ridgelines on Massive and Elbert, but since Dyer was such a short hike surely we could tolerate the wind! We decided to leave the snowshoes in the car, which was fine for the Dyer climb but it came back to bite me later in the day. Instead of climbing the steep south ridge of Dyer right off the bat, we ended up following the road into Iowa Amphitheater, leaving it at 12200’.
The snow on the southeast slopes of Dyer was largely wind scoured and consolidated, so we didn’t have too many postholing problems. As expected, the wind picked up as we gained the south ridge at 13500’, but it wasn’t much of a nuisance yet.
After weaving through a few icy rock outcroppings, we topped out at 10:20am. Layne and I agreed it was the easiest centennial we have done! I guess that meant it was time to pay our dues. Ironically, for both of us this was our 71st ranked summit in the top 100 in Colorado and was Layne’s 200th ranked summit in CO overall.
The summit was actually quite pleasant as we ate some lunch and scanned our respective routes. My route over to Evans B is rated by Roach as class 2+ on a dry day, but throw in a gale force winds with snow and things got interesting. Layne’s route to Gemini was a little shorter on easier terrain, so I estimated he would beat me back to the cars by 1-1.5 hrs. He was going to wait until he saw me get past the hard part of the ridge, but the conditions were too ferocious for him to wait long. Here is Layne’s account of his battle with the wind on his way to Gemini.
Layne's Account of Traverse to GeminiImmediately upon leaving Dyer's summit, I encountered strong winds. Staying upright required concentration and counterforce against the wind. The occasional gust in an unexpected direction would blow me down. The winds were strongest at the long Dyer-Gemini saddle. The flow was generally from the west, but just when I reached the point where I could drop below the ridge to the east, the direction changed. As I ascended Gemini, the winds were now blowing me up the mountain and sometimes I fell into it.
Only as I neared the NE summit did the winds abate, and I topped out at 11:40am. After a rest, I walked over to the lower SW summit at 11:55am. The initial descent back to the Dyer-Gemini saddle was fine, but as I reached the level portion again the winds were in full fury. I tried to protect my face with a glove, wishing I had my balaclava. At times, the wind found it's way between my jacket and snowpants, stinging my back with grains of snow.
Now the problem. The plan was for me to wait at the Gemini-Dyer saddle, where I would be able to view Kevin emerging from the difficulties of the ridge to Evans. Once I saw him, I could head to the car. Unfortunately, the viewpoint was in the midst of the worst winds. I lied down and watched the area where Kevin should appear. At times the spindrift blocked my view, and my sunglasses were fogging over. After about 30 minutes, I was shivering and made Simon's decision to "cut the rope". I figured that if something did happen to Kevin on the Evans ridge, it wasn't smart for me to sit here for 2 hours and then go for help in a weakened state.
Even making the short distance across the saddle was not easy. I largely crawled amidst the power cables, stopping frequently, until I started dropping to the west. It was now 1:10pm. I dropped into the Iowa Amphitheater where the wind finally let up, and I followed the snow-covered road back to the car, arriving at 2:10pm.
I listened to the Buffs game on the radio while 3 mountain goats knocked rocks onto the road and was relieved when Kevin appeared around 3:45pm!
Kevin's Traverse to Evans B & DescentWe left Dyer’s relatively calm summit at 10:45 as Layne headed for Gemini and I to Evans B to the north. The ridge to Evans in the middle narrows to a few feet wide, but from a distance it looked like the worst difficulties could be skirted around on the west side. I did a nice glissade off the n.w. ridge of Dyer, and immediately began to wage a battle with a ferocious west wind that seemed to intensify as I made progress. The wind was unpredictable, seemingly coming from various directions. I would guess it was sustained at 40mph.
The first tower I came to on the ridge looked to be 5th class, so I skirted around it on steep, loose talus to the left. The next bump looked doable, but upon reaching the top, there was a steep 20 foot drop on the other side.
I backed off and skirted that one too, although I had to resort to a dagger belay with my axe, plunging it deep in the steep snow as I kicked steps.
The rough part of the ridge is about .4 miles, and it was very time consuming looking for the safest path of least resistance. I finally made it past the difficulties and looked back to see Layne already waiting at the Gemini/Dyer saddle. I knew there was no way he would be able to hang around long with the cold winds. The last ¼ mile to Evans is a gentle, easy stroll, but the winds made it difficult to go more than 5-6 steps at a time without feeling exhausted. I finally topped out on the flat summit at 12:15. I took some time to visit the little boy’s room on the summit. I thought I was peeing with the wind, but it promptly blew back on my pants and goggles, freezing instantly. Yuck! Guess I won’t be doing that now!
I took no rest break as this was no place for a snack, dreading the return across the ridge. It seemed like the skirting I did the first time too longer than just staying on the ridge crest, so I bit the bullet and stayed high as much as I could.
I did drop below the last two towers as there was no way I would climb those in these conditions. Once reaching the saddle, the wind was violently throwing me around like a rag doll. Enough of this! I told Layne I would go over Dyer again and descend its south ridge, but that would have been a brutal undertaking in these conditions.
I checked the map and saw that I could drop to the west from the Evans/Dyer saddle, traverse the high basin towards the Dyer/W Dyer saddle to the s.w. The terrain below looked safe as the snow was shallow, so I quickly bailed. The slope was more tedious than expected with the shallow snow on top of loose talus. The wind was still funneling up the valley and blasting me in the face, but it was better than staying on the ridge. This north facing basin was choked with unpredictable snow conditions. One second I was gliding across consolidated snow, the next I was miserably postholing.
I finally made it to the Dyer/W.Dyer saddle at 2:35. From here, I dropped into the Dyer Amphitheatre which on the map looked like it would conveniently drop me down to the car, which it eventually did. I got in a few glissades to save some effort, but the snow conditions were still pretty miserable. As I crested a small rise halfway down the valley, I prayed I would see my car below. Lo and behold, there it was 500’ below! I finally staggered onto the road at 3:45, just as Layne was driving down from higher in the basin. He had driven higher to give me a ride if he saw me come down the south ridge. I must say that was the toughest 3000’ vertical day I have ever done. I have been on quite a few windy hikes, but this one ranks right up there as one of the worst!