West Dyer Peak Winter Ascent via East Ridge

West Dyer Mountain is a not-too-often climbed 13er outside the town of Leadville, Colorado. It’s a stone’s throw away from nearby 14er Mt. Sherman.

A cool thing about the peak is that the trailhead is at 11,500 feet. This makes a climb a half-day or less outing But in the winter, how does one get to the trailhead?

The Iowa Gulch trailhead usually requires a snowmobile to access it in winter. But my tiny Toyota RAV4 with oversized tires was pretty good at floating on snow. I lowered the tire pressure and was able to drive all the way to Iowa Gulch – following snowmobile tracks the whole way. The snowpack was below average too, which helped.

Road conditions, taken on the way back.

The trailhead “parking area” itself was dry ground. It’s above treeline and is wind-blasted.

Trailhead. Mt. Sherman and Sheridan in distance.

At Iowa Gulch, my objective and the route were completely visible. I’d have to climb up the Dyer Amphitheater to meet the East Ridge of the peak. Then, I’d ascend the East Ridge to the summit.

The Dyer Amphitheater had a few loaded avalanche slopes. There were signs of recent avalanche activity as well. Thankfully, avoiding these slopes and their run-out was easy enough. I’d stick to rock wherever I could. Whenever I’d have to travel through snow, I’d stay far away from the snow slopes. With a persistent slab avalanche problem, remotely triggering an avalanche would’ve been a possibility if I would’ve crossed too close underneath. From what I remember, following the fall-line of the amphitheater kept me out of all avalanche slopes. With more snowpack it might be different.

Looking down from halfway up Dyer Amphitheater.

For the ascent, I opted not to bring snowshoes. That decision worked out well. I was able to stick to frozen rocks and scree much of the way. When I had to travel through snow, it was usually hard and wind-blasted. There were some powder patches where I sunk into my knees, but they weren’t sustained enough that I’d want to deal with snowshoes.

Looking down Dyer Amphitheater from near the ridge.

As I got closer, I saw I could gain the ridge at the West Dyer and Dyer saddle by way of shallow snow, rocks, and scree — avalanche safe.
The ridge-line itself had some small cornices, but they weren’t of any concern. Windslabs had also built up on the south face of the ridge, and there were signs of small avalanches as well — likely during the last storm. A reminder to keep an eye on the snowpack.

Looking at ridgeline and summit of West Dyer. Some windslab and tiny avalanche activity.

Once I reached the ridge, easy walking on hard, wind-blasted snow brought me to the summit. The views were phenomenal for the effort. It’s a very different view from other peaks too. All the other nearby mountains are larger and taller.

The ridge walk. Easy and very scenic.
Summit view towards Sheridan and the Amphitheater.
Dyer Mountain, just below 14,000 feet. Looking at the 4th-class ridge route. Pretty chossy apparently.

While hanging out on the summit, some mild weather moved in — clouds and light snow. I made my way back, reversing my footsteps.

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