North Slopes and West Ridge of Iowa

North Slopes and West Ridge of Iowa

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 38.93898°N / 106.38328°W
Additional Information Route Type: Hiking, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Mainly a steep slope
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: Class 3
Additional Information Grade: II
Sign the Climber's Log


This route starts at Clohesy Lake and is a great way to climb one (or two) of the centennial thirteeners with complete solitude while Missouri Mountain just to the north is flocked with people. This is the recommended route for people who actually go out of their way to avoid fourteeners as I tend to do.

Because of that, this is the route I took.
The route quality is questionable though as it mainly consists of a very large scree slope with a couple class 3 scrambles. It would be a difficult climb for someone not used to the altitude or for someone not in the best of shape. The slope angle probably averages between 35 and 40 degrees. There are however nicer more solid scrambles to do and the route offers complete solitude.

See the main "Emerald and Iowa" page for information on how to get to Chlosey Lake. You will need a high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle to get to the lake and the valley this 4WD road heads through is absolutely stunning in the fall when the aspens are changing.

AspensAspens on the slopes above the 4WD road to Clohesy Lake
Beautiful Valley near Clohesy LakeBeautiful foliage view from just below Clohesy Lake

Route Description

Once at Chlosey Lake, start heading mainly off trail due east up the valley. A small stream drains this valley and dumps into the main stream that leads into Chlosey Lake only about two tenths of a mile south of the lake.

You can follow this side stream up the valley to the east but this will involve bushwhacking that can be annoying. You may find it better to stay a little to the south of this stream and follow a large talus slope (might actually be a rock glacier) up in an eastward direction.

When you get to the large bowl at the head of the stream at an elevation of about 12,250 feet, start curving your way southward and ascend the steep talus slope until you crest the ridge. The ridge will be at an elevation of about 13,100 feet. When we did this route, it was dark (alpine start) until we got to the upper bowl at about 12,250 feet.

The climb up this north slope of Iowa Peak can be a slog in scree but if you pick your route carefully, you can turn it into more of a solid rock scramble.

A very short variation would be to veer east as you climb the slope and ascend to the left (east) side of a very large rock outcropping that is well exposed along the slopes. This gully of the left of the outcrop is narrower, steeper and very loose but will dump you onto the west ridge at an elevation of 13,500 feet and save you about 0.2 miles. Be careful if you are traveling with others when you go up this narrower gully as rock-slides were common when we ascended it.

Once you crest the west ridge, wherever you decide to, just follow the ridge east until you hit the summit of Iowa Peak.
Emerald Peak is seen due south and is just asking to be climbed as the ridge is so short and beautiful.

From here you can go over to summit Emerald, then descend off the west slopes of Emerald and make your way down the beautiful meadows of the upper Chlosey Lake drainage back down to the trail that heads north-south in the valley below treeline. The view down to Pear Lake from Emerald is stunning.
Or if you are running low of time, you can ridge run over to Missouri and use the formal trail on Missouri to descend back to Chlosey Lake. I like descending trails so if I ever do climb a 14er, I climb up on some obscure route usually to a 13er and then traverse over to a 14er using its formal trail to descend and finish the loop.

Either of these loops would make fantastic day climbs. If you are feeling ambitious you can also work in all three peaks but you'll have to backtrack somewhere. That would be the advantage of the "Triple Crown" route described on the other page. Do that route if you are set on getting all three peaks.

View of the Sawatch View towards La Plata Peak from the north slopes
Emerald Peak from IowaEmerald Peak from the summit of Iowa

Apostles from IowaThe Three Apostles from the summit of Iowa
Apostles from IowaThe Three Apostles from the summit of Iowa

Missouri MountainBeautiful meadows just below Emerald Peak and Missouri Mountain
Pear LakePear Lake from Emerald

Red Tape/Camping/Gear

No red tape. Please respect the land. You can do this as a backpack although the best place to camp would be somewhere in the Chlosey Lake valley however you can camp anywhere you want.

If doing this route in the summer or early fall, basic day hiking gear is required. If doing it in the winter or spring, add to that all the standard winter mountaineering gear (which may include avalanche gear).



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.