Notch Route

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 39.61640°N / 105.8139°W
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Class 2
Sign the Climber's Log
Ruby Mountain
Ruby Mountain-- Route Photo
Ruby Mountain-- Rock Options
Ruby Mountain--  Notch Gully


Those who wish to avoid scrambling on the loose rock of the east ridge or who want to make a circuit route on this mountain from the east side may enjoy this route. It is Class 2 all the way and ascends colorful scree slopes to a notch between Grays Peak and the false summit at the northern end of Ruby Mountain; from the notch, the route turns south to reach the false summit before continuing to the real summit of the mountain. The route can be done in as little as a few hours (total), and because it is all above timberline, it is highly scenic the entire way.

Getting There

To enjoy all that’s great about Ruby Mountain but minimize the approach, you will need a 4WD vehicle. If, though, that is not an option, you can still get close enough to the peak to make it worth doing.

From U.S. 6 at the eastern end of Keystone, take the signed road to Montezuma. This road is easy to find if one is traveling eastbound, but there is no direct access to it for westbound travelers, who will have to watch for the road and then make a U-turn to get to it.

At 4.3 miles from U.S. 6, look for a parking area on the left. Beside it, a dirt road heads east. This is the Peru Creek Road, and it is passable to passenger cars for approximately 5 miles, after which the road becomes markedly steeper and rougher, soon requiring high clearance and 4WD if one is to continue on. The Peru Creek Road becomes a very scenic drive after about 3 miles, passing many relics of the area’s mining heyday as it climbs through an open, verdant alpine basin, through which runs a chalk-white stream colored by calcium carried by the water. Peru Creek and some of its tributaries often strongly resemble the glacial streams that one finds in the Canadian Rockies.

There is a good-sized parking area on the left side of the road at 4.7 miles (11,100’), and this is a good spot to park a passenger car (starting from here and following the route described on this page will add about 3 miles RT and over 1000’ to your climb). There is a gate (open in the summer) at 4.8 miles, and at 5 miles is the trailhead for Argentine Pass (11,300’-- the TH, not the pass), which also has some parking and is about as far up the road as one should go in a passenger car.

But if you have 4WD and can use it, you can continue on at least 1.2 more miles, where the road forks. Take the left fork (the right climbs steeply to some more mine ruins and is used by hikers heading for Grays Peak) for another tenth of a mile to a small de facto parking area by a willow-encircled pond and just before a crossing of a narrow stream. The elevation here is approximately 12,100’. The road continues beyond this point, leading about another half a mile to a 12,200’ lake (and past that to more mine ruins) at the base of Ruby Mountain’s northern end, but following the road further requires a sketchy water crossing. The road crosses just above the outlet of the pond, which is rocky and shallow enough in late summer, but the outlet drops sharply into a boggy spot, and one slip of the tires or mistake in wheel placement could mean you are mired. It’s easier, then, to park at the 6.1-mile mark and finish the approach from there.

Route Description

If you start from the parking area described in the preceding section, you are looking at 3-5 miles RT and around 1200' of elevation gain. If you start from someplace else, adjust distance and elevation-gain estimates accordingly.

To the right of the false summit that towers above the parking area, a ridge drops down to a 12,838' notch separating Ruby from Grays Peak. The direct way is to ascend to the notch via the steep gully-like scree slope leading directly from the notch almost to a lake at 12,200'. From the parking area, this slope looks obscenely steep, but from the lake it looks a little more reasonable. I used it for a descent route, but it was steep enough, and loose enough in places, to make for pretty miserable going if ascending it. However, it's Class 2 all the way, ideal for hikers and for scramblers who like their rock to be a little better than what it's like on the east ridge's cliffs.

From the notch, a faint goat trail leads along the right side of the ridge, climbing about 400' to the false summit. This is easy Class 2 hiking.

A variation of the Notch Route can be found by climbing the rock and cliff bands to the right of the scree slope. The upper sections clearly have Class 3 going on them, but getting up there may be the trick. Lower down, the cliffs are steeper and look more challenging. One could also hike up the scree gully and then traverse right to the easier rock to scramble the rest of the way to the ridge, but that doesn't make too much sense, as you would expend a lot of energy getting high up the mountain only to detour right before heading back left to reach the notch. It would be better to try the rock route the entire way.

From the false summit, you also finally get your first glimpses of what lies on the other side of Ruby Peak; directly below is upper Ruby Gulch, and the vista in the distance stretches from the Mosquito Range to the Gore Range, with the Sawatch on the far horizon. Pikes Peak is even visible far to the south, and you can make out the Sangre De Cristos on very clear days.

The hike to the true summit is easy and mostly flat, involving very little elevation change even on the final “push,” if it can really be called that. This final hike may take fewer than 10 minutes to do.
Ruby MountainAnd now the true summit is a short walk away...



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