Raggeds Wilderness Overview
The high massif of Treasury Mountain and Treasure Mountain from the slopes of Belleview Mountain.
The Raggeds Wilderness
is a unique and exciting country resplendent with rugged peaks, gothic cliffs, and colors that strain perceptions. This is the land where purple, maroon, grey, and shinning white rocks rise above alpine carpets of lush iradescent green and vast tracts of gigantic aspen. Reminescent of the landscape of the nearby Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness
the Raggeds Wilderness offers a less crowded alternative. In spite of the similarities the Raggeds are distinctive. Three geologicaly different sub-ranges of the mighty Elk Range
compose the Raggeds Wilderness and this topographic variety gives the region a distinctive flair. Set amongst this mountain splendour are scenic showcases of geological wonder. Features like The Grand Dyke
, Dark Canyon
, and Oh-Be-Joyfull Basin
delight the eye.
The Raggeds Wilderness was designated in 1980 and contains 65,019 protected acres. It is located 11 miles west of the town of Crested Butte. It is bounded on the east by Schofield Pass
, on the south by Kebler Pass
, on the west by Colorado Highway 133, and on the north by the Crystal River
. Within these confines the Ragged Range
occupies the northwestern part of the wilderness with soaring and appropriatly ragged ridges of Tertiary intrusives. The highpoint of the Raggeds is 12,721 ft. tall Chair Mountain
. The central eastern portion of the wilderness is occupied by the twin massif of 13,462 ft. Treasury Mountain
and 13,528 ft. Treasure Mountain
. This huge dome of layered marine shales is sculpted with five majestic cirques that drop off the north east of the mountains. Treasure Mountain is the highest point within the Raggeds Wilderness. Herein I refer to the massif as The Treasures
. The south eastern section of the wilderness contains the seven mile long Ruby Range
. This linear range of stratified Pennsylvanian aged sediments lives up to its name. From Purple Mountain
near Yule Pass to Ruby Peak
this line of summits stands as a colorful encore to the higher Maroon Bells
to the east. The highpoint of the Ruby Range is 13,058 ft. Mount Owen
Treasury Mountain Overview
Treasure Mountain, Unnamed 13,407, and the mighty Elk Range from the summit of Treasury Mountain.
is a hidden jewel. Together with its companion Treasure Mountain
it makes up a northwest to southeast trending massif I refer to as The Treasures
. The gorgeous high ridgeline of these summits is seen by many from the higher summits within the Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness; but I daresay few actualy visit this special place.
Unlike almost any other mountain region I have visited The Treasures are composed of marine shale. These tilted layers of friable sediments are responsible for the mountains configuration of endless scree down low and more solid cap rock up high. The shales are varied in hue ranging from gray to biege to black and green. These sediments are likely contemporaneous with the adjacent Maroon Formation
which would make them around 300 million years old. At the time Colorado consited of two mountainous highlands rising out of a shallow sea. The coarse sediments deposited near the highlands in deep basins became the sandstanes and mudstones of the Maroon formation. Further off the coast finer sediments deposited to make the distinctly marine rock that comprises The Treasures. Around 13,000 ft. on Treasury fossils
of brachiopods and bony fish are abundant.
Treasury Mountain is a distinct pleasure to ascend. The scree slopes of the South East Ridge Route
are not unbearable to ascend. At 13,200 ft. there is a giant high flatland below the actual summit ridge. This is a choice place to ponder the mountain and the wilderness beyond. The summit ridge offers fun scrambling on what is occasionaly loose rock. Fortunately where the ridge narrows and the precipitous drops on the east face's rotten cliffs demand caution; the rock becomes remarkable solid. The shale composing the cap rock is more erosion resistent and consequently less rotten. This ridge could be dangerous if wet or covered in snow. This is a fantastic ridge run. I highly recommend it for the spectacular positions achieved.
The summit view of Treasury is undeniably grand. It offers insights into the geography of the mountains of the Raggeds Wilderness as well as sweeping overviews of the famous Elk Mountains and Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. And it allows a distant preview of the even more rareified West Elk Wilderness
off to the south.
- For a historical perspective on Treasurey Massif please see this Loius Charles McClure photograph from 1911. This is a panorama of the same scene. Here is a view of Cathedral and Castle Peaks from Treasure Mountain. Last is a photo that is from 1900 incorectly captioned as viewing "Ruby Peak and Augusta Mountain". It actualy shows Purple Peak from the long chiprock south east ridhe of Treasury Mountain. Thanks to the Denver Public Library for making these photos available.
Treasury Mountain Routes
Treasury Mountain's sublime South East Ridge on the descent. This ridge run makes a wonderful route.
South East Ridge Route: 5.8 miles RT, 2100 ft. elevation gain. Class 2+/3 Scrambling.
This may be the easiest route up Treasury Mountain. It is definately the most aesthetic. It offers a short aproach followed by an interesting though very easy ridge. Which gives way to a very enjoyable scamper/scramble along the ridge of this mountain.
From Paradise Divide
follow the Yule Pass Trail
about nine tenths of a mile to the saddle between Cinnamon Mountain
and Treasury Mountain. From this point leave the trail and seek the path of least resistance. The ridge is easy consisting of diagonal beaches of chip rock scree interspersed with flowers and vegatation. The ridge undulates, curves, and reaches for the heights. It is easy and fun. I never thought I'd call scree fun. This is different. Near 13,000 ft. the broad chip rock slopes have an additional delight, marine fossils.
Above 13,200 ft. the ridge becomes a wide high flatland. To the north lies the first false summit and the summit ridge. Both features offer a fun little challenge to what would othwise be a very easy mountain. The ridge walk in particular is mighty fine. This is the only difficult terrain on this route and it hovers between being scrambling and scampering. I found it to be an absolute joy. After a pleasantly long ridge walk of progressively spectacular views the route deposits you on the cairned summit. Follow either the ascent route or the Yule Pass Route down... Or continue down into Yule Basin for an ascent of Treasure Mountain.
Yule Pass Route: 7.2 miles RT, 2100 ft , elevation gain. Class 3 Scrambling.
The Yule Pass Route shares the same approach and the same finish as the South East Ridge Route, The only difference being an ascent up the slaby face above Yule Pass followed by steep unpleasant scree.
From Paradise Divide
follow the Yule Pass Trail
2 miles to Yule Pass
from here head into Yule Basin
contouring north west to avoid krummholz. Once around the vegatation make your way through slabey shelves of solid rock to the scree slopes above. The scree isn't fun on this steeper slope. The route reaches the ridge around 12,800 ft. and from there follows the South East Ridge Route. Descend either route back to the Paradise Divide Trailhead.
This route, as attested to by the author, makes for the quickest descent in the event of a storm.
Maps & Directions
To get to the Paradise Divide Trailhead
go north on Colorado 135 from downtown Crested Butte
. Four miles after the end of the pavement pass through the town of Gothic
and continue north to Schofield Pass
. From this 10,707 ft. Pass turn left (west) onto the Paradise Divide Road
follow this to on obvious high saddle with a couple small tarns and rolling hills dotted with small stands of pine trees. Paradise Divide is at 11,320 and the Yule Pass Trail heads north west from the road towards Yule Pass two miles distant.
Wilderness regulations apply. The northern section of the wilderness is administered by the White River Ranger District. Contact information is as follows:
White River National Forest
Old Federal Building, Box 948
Glenwood Springs, CO 81602
The southern section of the wilderness is administered by the Gunnison Ranger District. Contact information is as follows:
Gunnison Ranger District
Gunnison, CO 81230
Please leave no trace in this special place. Pack out everything you bring in. Keep dogs on leashes. Minimize impact as much as possible.
When To Climb
The Raggeds Wilderness, being perched on the western edge of the famously snow draped Elk Mountains, gets a deep mantle of snow that can make the region impassable from late October into June. The approach may not be feasible due to road closures during these months. In June and July the mountain may be accesible but dangerous avalanche slopes are encountered around Cinnamon Mountain. The summit ridge in particular would be dangerous with a deep covering of snow. Difficult would be dramaticaly different and an ice ax and crampons would be mandatory. The possibility of cornices extending over the cliffs of the east face should demand caution. From late July through September runs the prime season for Treasury.
Paradise Divide offers several pleasant campsites suitable for car camping. Over Yule Pass a 2.5 mile approach would allow for backpacking in upper Yule Basin. If camping beyond the wilderness boundary (i.e. Yule Pass) please follow the wilderness regulations.
Current Weather Conditions: Western United States
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For a detailed seven day forecast for the nearby town of Crested Butte CO please click the provided NOAA link.