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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2016-05-29||Route: East Slope
Info: Hiked in on Saturday and camped at around 10k, about a half mile past where the patchy snow begins. Heeding the advice from the guys who were hiking out (thanks!), we started out from our frosty camp early, under clear, cold skies. The patchy snow was supportive from a decent overnight freeze and postholing was tolerable. Continuous skinable snow starts where "the switchbacks reenter the forest" (~10.5k) and later we were able to ski back to this point. The sun was rising by the time we reached the lake and like the previous report, we wished we had gotten an earlier start. We were cramponing up the headwall when the sun hit and it immediately turned into postholing. Once on the snowmass, the snow was still firm and we skinned up to the final pitch below the summit ridge before the snow was ripe. Considering the high temps and calm winds, we decided to drop from there rather than go for the summit and risk the headwall getting any less stable. There were impressive rockslides coming off of Hagerman Peak but surprisingly, we didn't see any wetslides or even rollerballs. Saturday's new snow seems to have consolidated into the melt/freeze crust nicely. Nevertheless, we were glad to be down and off of the sloppy snow on the headwall by 10am.
|2016-05-28||Route: East Slope
Info: The Elks have a ton of snow right now! Do not be fooled by Front Range views. Even Sopris had damn near 100% coverage on all aspects down to treeline. No snow for 4ish miles. Twoish miles of patchy/fairly continuous snow to logjam, lots and lots of slow goin' post holin', sidehilling on slush, etc...But nothing worth breaking out the skis/snowshoes for. Patchy snow up "serpentine" trail after logjam. Totally skinnable past that (we refreshed the skin trail a bit). 100% coverage to summit ridge. From the lake, everything is in to the ridgeline, nary a rock to be found. About that coverage: 2-4 inches fresh warm wet snow overnight to add a confounding dimension to snow stability. Didn't seem like anything has gotten a good long freeze since earlier in the week. Cloud cover in the nights. Point releases and roller balls by 6-7am, possibly just on new snow layer. Fresh slides in past 24 hours, mostly from thermal nonsense near the rocks. We wish we were in the snow mass by sunrise, there is still a lot of action up in that snowpack. We didn't like what we saw at 5am...The snow is not anything close to like what's going on in the front range right now. We're just going to have to come back in a few weeks. If you do it on a good night though you could get away with it. Just factor in the postholing delays as we failed to do.
|2016-05-22||Route: East Slope
Info: I know this is an old CR and I didn't post it earlier because many people posted that day. Just wanted to let everyone know I came across a bear at mile 3 of the approach. He or she was on the other side of the river. Heads up!
|2016-05-22||Route: East Slope
Info: Bit of avy potential at the moment. Very deep snow around the lake still, though the lake itself is starting to melt out. Approach is dry for most of the first 5 miles, should be dry to the logjam within a week or so. Last mile doesn't look like it will be melting out in the next few weeks. Four groups were up there this weekend, 4/5 people from one group summited today, the rest of us turned around near 12k.
|2016-05-17||Route: East Slope
Info: The route is fairly dry up until 4.5 miles in. There are a few (very short) snowfields that are easily crossed, most only calf deep. We still wore gaters, which was appreciated in these spots! At 4.5 miles we hit snow that was continuous enough to skin the rest of the way. We only had to remove our skis for 2 sections where there was not enough snow. The snow was super soft and we ran into a guy on snowshoes who said he was postholing even with snowshoes on. We were fine with our skis however. Made it to the lake and stayed overnight but didn't go further due to weather - no visibility. Attached is the clearest picture I could get from the end of the lake. From what we could see from the lake there was a lot of avy activity on the slopes of Snowmass Peak and Hagerman, most likely afternoon wet slides.
|2016-05-14||Route: East Slope
Info: Went on a recon march up the Snowmass Creek trail this morning. As per the CR from a few days ago, 85% or so of the trail is dry, but the remainder is intermittent snow fields 1-3 feet deep and 5-50 feet long on the trail. I counted 8+ downed trees on the section of trail I hiked. (Can't speak as to whether snowshoes are necessary or not; my guess would be that given how some of the basins hold snow, you'll be hauling snowshoes up to the lake but not needing them until then.) For anybody, wear your gaiters from the car. For skiers...don't bother bringing your skins, the trail didn't look like it was going to have differing conditions until the lake. Got up to the viewpoint near Bear Creek, the snowmass looks full up to the ridge. I will post my pictures tomorrow night or Monday. Rumor also has it that JK is in the Elks, so his site might have some beta sometime soon.
Info: The bad: the traverse over to north snowmass has quite a bit of icy snow and required some careful work to get over and back. I would recommend not tagging north snowmass and if you do, have an axe or at least some snow and solid rock climbing experience as it turned class 3 moves into class 5 moves really easily. Staying high on the ridge is your best bet. The good: S-ridge and West slopes are good to go, beautiful aspens all over Lead King basin. No snow.
|2015-09-24||Route: S Ridge
Info: S ridge route is 99.99% free of snow, just a few very small patches that are avoidable. Included two photos looking down the standard route towards Snowmass Lake, looks like that side has a little bit of snow left up high, but not much.
|2015-09-20||Route: East Slope
Info: Parts of the trail were muddy. No snow issues. On the steep scree slope above the lake, just below the smooth rock with water flowing down, find a cairn on the right and go to the right to avoid further misery. Didn‘t see any snow on Capitol from the summit. Aspens are turning yellow.
|2015-09-06||Route: East Slope
Info: Climbed this difficult peak last Sunday in two day push. Began trip to Snowmass Lake Saturday morning and arrived @ 5 ish Saturday evening. Backpack in is fairly easy albeit long but strenuous with a large pack and we did encounter one heavy rain storm in the afternoon. The climb on Sunday was a long affair. Stay on the trail around the lake through the willows and prepare for some bush wacking as the willows have overgrown the trail (trail crew would do well here to trim back the willows). Moving onto the scree slope is not difficult however, once on the scree slope this is a very steep, loose and dangerous trail and would recommend donning a helmet for this section. After the scree slope things loosen up a bit onto solid rock but route finding becomes tricky. My advice would be to stick to the cairns and avoid the direct route. Once on the ridge, the teeth of the route show themselves. The route is well cairned and again, would advise to follow the cairns without fail. The final section before the summit has some exposure and would recommend going left of the ridge and stay well below it if you don‘t like exposure. Downclimb was also tricky and found it more difficult going down than going up in regards to route finding. The views over to Hagerman Peak are stunning and on the summit views of Capitol are also great, but did not linger on the summit as it is a very small ish summit and you have to almost peer over to see Capitol. Weather was overcast with clouds whipping up behind the ridge and Hagerman, was difficult to judge the weather as the Elks have their own system and it seems that Capitol and Snowmass also have their own micro climate. Just watch it carefully. The scree slope was extremely dangerous on the downclimb and would be worth exploring the grassy section to the right looking up the slope, but it also looks like it cliffs out in several areas. Was mesmerized even more by Snowmass Peak the 13 er that rises up from the lake and looked up but found no information on climbing routes up this spectacular peak, seems like most of the focus is on climbing Hagerman Peak.
|2015-08-15||Route: East Slope
Info: Summer conditions on Snowmass via the East Slopes. Stay next to the lake, and the willows section should be no problem. Gaiters are very helpful for this section. The scree slope above the lake was pure misery. There is, however, a very nice trail on the climber‘s right of the gully where the water streams down which avoids most of the scree misery. There was a cairn as of 8/15 to mark the entrance to that trail on the right of the gully - it starts probably 1/3 of the way up the scree slope. There are a couple of snowfields while gaining the upper ridge that can be completely avoided, OR you can use micro-spikes to work your way up those snowfields, if you‘ve hauled them all the way up there (the snow was very supportive). All in all, not worth carrying any traction. It was an awesome day on the mountain. Be prepared for a slog - and carry plenty of water (or a filter). I needed almost 4L, starting @ 10,000 ft.
|2015-08-15||Route: West Slope
Info: No issues on route, other than the extremely loose rocks of all sorts of sizes on the climb. Just be careful where you step and test hand holds. Helmet recommended. FYI, we were at the first patch of grass, on our way down, and heard something coming at us. A rock, about half the size of a bowling ball, came whizzing past us (luckily)! So, until you cross the stream, you‘re still a potential target :-). The wildflowers are absolutely amazing! There is a porcupine at Lead King Basin TH.
|2015-08-06||Route: East Slope
Info: I am attempting to climb all the 14ers this summer. This makes number 21! You can read more on this hike and others by visiting my blog at Sunshineof1985.com! Distance: 23.25 mi. Elevation Gain: 5,800 ft. Time started: 3:10am End time: 7:50pm Time to Summit: 9 hours and 5 minutes Time to Descent: 7 hours and 20 minutes GEAR (to bring): GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat (didn‘t need), light weight puffy coat (didn‘t need), lightweight gloves (didn‘t need), day pack with water sack, food, sunscreen, lip balm. Road Condition: Easy and short dirt road to the main trailhead and there are some hidden campsites you can camp at as well. Trail Condition: The trail is well marked for the most part. Once you get to Snowmass Lake, it‘s easy to miss the proper trail. I have taken pictures to help you along the way. Just stay near the water and in the willows. Once you‘re above treeline, there‘s also a dirt trail you can go up vs. bouldering straight through the large basin/gully. When you start nearing the steepest cliff like area, you‘ll need to check each rock for your hands and feet as they are very loose.
|2015-08-01||Route: West Slope
Info: I‘ll keep this relatively brief since I plan on posting a TR on this a bit later. We ascended the S Ridge and descended the West slope. No snow or anything to deal with that on that side. There is some snow VERY high in the West slope gully but it is a complete non-issue. Also when descending, keep to the RIGHT side (about 50-100 feet) of the gully, we descended there and there wasn‘t nearly as much loose junk. It‘s not great but certainly manageable. The gully is a nightmare if you stay in there.
|2015-07-30||Route: East Slope
Info: We started hiking at sunrise (about 05:30) from the lake and promptly took a wrong turn. After about 15 minutes we realized we were too far south of and above the lake and decided to bushwhack towards the shore where we hoped to find the trail. Fortunately, we found it about 15 minutes later and were at the base of the scree field at 06:15. We wasted a little time and energy but we inadvertently avoid the willows in the early morning darkness. The scree field was not as steep as it appeared to be from the lake but it was slow going. The biggest issue was loose rock. My two partners and I fanned out so as not to scramble directly above one another. Helmets would have provided peace of mind but were not necessary. We made it through an easy section between the scree and the snowfields relatively quickly. By 07:30 the snowfields were still pretty iced over, but we all postholed once or twice (on the way up). We each had a hiking pole, but two poles definitely would have come in handy in the snow. Heading toward the ridge, we aimed for a gentler looking section on the north (right) side of the "lump" between Hagerman and Snowmass Mountain. It was some tougher scrambling for novice climbers but it got us to the ridge. The trail below the ridge was a little tough to spot, but a far smarter and safer choice than simply following the ridge to the summit. The rock from the ridge to the summit is (thankfully!) more solid than the rock on the east side but there were still some loose ones from time to time. Just be sure to go slowly and test every hand and foothold in advance. We made it at about 10:00 and spent half an our enjoying the summit. Making our way back to the ridge was slow going and took some focus. The scrambling we‘d done on our way up the east side was just as tough coming down and we decided to test the snow. It had softened a great deal (11:15) and it was more efficient (and fun) to just slide on our rain coats. When we made it to the lower end of the snowfields, there was some serious postholing. I went in up to my hip on multiple occasions. The scree field was slow going but not too much of a hassle. The willows were annoying but easily passable in the daylight. Made sure all your gear is attached to you or your pack when you go through though. One of my partners lost a ‘lifestraw‘ water purifier and was pretty bummed about it. We made it back to camp on the east side of the lake a little before 14:00. The river was not high enough this time of year for the log jam to be any problem. I do recommend using a pole for stability, though. Overall it was a great hike! Lots of fun obstacles to deal with.
|2015-07-26||Route: East Slope
Info: Went up Snowmass yesterday and the route is in great shape, provided you have the right gear. My buddy Paul and I left the trailhead at 2am and took 3 hrs to get to the Lake, then another 3 for the summit and got back to the truck at 1:30. We mixed in some trail running, walking, and scrambling thoughout the day and waited at the Lake for the sun to rise. Flowers are gorgeous up there right now on the other side of the lake! As for the route, the snowfield is in pretty good, but hitting the upper section to gain the ridge at 7am was not too much fun. I had microspikes and a whippet, but the snow was close to bullet-proof and trying to kick steps up was a major chore. Scratching up it with whippet and microspikes didn‘t feel comforting at all. If you hit it early, I‘d frankly recommend crampons and an ice ax. If you hit it later in the day and you‘re able to post hole, then you might be ok with less gear. Ridge to summit was really nice and easy going. Edit: just realized that I did the ‘more direct alternative‘ in Bill‘s route description. Thus my gripping experience on the hard & steep snow.
|2015-07-25||Route: East Slope
Info: Start time: 6am Summit: 10:45 Gear: crampons, ice ax, helmet We got stuck in the lake-side willows path, no big deal and still made it through in 25 min. We hiked the scree slope and had no problem with route finding up the grassy slope to the snowmass. Made the top of the grassy slope in 1.5 hours. The snowmass was a little mushy when we started (9am), but crampons were still very useful especially on the section just below the ridge where it is steep. The ridge was good, with obvious route-finding. The most dangerous part of the entire route was that the streamflow increased from nearly nothing on the ascent to impassable and dangerous on the descent. Luckily there is a crossing about 10 feet higher in the stream bed, but then requires a slightly dangerous traverse of the steep gravel slope. This bit was more sketchy than any of the class 3 hiking we did earlier. Be careful there. Or don‘t wait until 3pm in the afternoon to descend. We took our time coming down, glissaded then dried out on a rock for about an hour. Mostly this route was just super fun! We stayed that night at the lake and hiked out the next morning. Nice relaxed walk out - I recommend doing this if you have the time to avoid a long, 11 mile day. -Jen
|2015-07-18||Route: East Slope Variations
Info: I‘ll try to keep this brief (I have a whole photo album linked to the 14ers.com FB page & I think I might make a TR out of that for this site soon). A few friends & I climbed Snowmass using several variations of the East Slopes route. I will speak mainly of my route as I only saw the other routes from 100‘s of feet away. The willows around the lake are out in full force (as the last post said - scope your line if you camp the night prior). I chose to cross the creek 1/2 way up the scree and took the grassy path which then links up with many slabby rocks. Patchy snow starts above the scree field. During my snowclimb the snow was everywhere from bulletproof to mid-thigh postholing. I aimed for the snowy notch between Snowmass & North Snowmass (a summit I cared to climb). It was 8ish at this point & the snow was getting the worst I‘d yet experienced. I made a quick decision to bail to the left of the snowy notch & finish the climb to the ridge on rock. DISCLAIMER: This section of my route is not for the timid. The route above me consisted of "kitty litter", loose scree, and hopefully solid multi-ton boulders - all on sloping rock. At one point I had my right hand on a bomber hold - as I tried to move up the left side of my body my left hand triggered some rock movement... then my left foot did the same! I quickly moved my whole body to the right as the rocks cascaded down. A few minutes later I managed to make the ridge - much more solid rock now! The ridge run to North Snowmass has a few loose sections - but is very manageable compared to the section I had climbed to gain the ridge. A quick stop on North & I made my way to Snowmass proper. The crux section was easier than I thought it looked in photos (I would have hated to do it with water or ice on the ledges though!). After a bit of summit time - I worked my way to the top of the "direct notch" variation. I glissaded, traversed (due to a large rock patch), & glissaded some more! Most definitely the best two glissades of my life! Several shorter/mellower glissades led me back to my ascent route. Careful downward movement led us to the lake shore - beating a storm by less than an hour (noonish).
|2015-07-13||Route: East Slope
Info: Hiked to Snowmass Lake 7/12, attempted summit from East Slope 7/13, but turned around due to wet/cold feet. It seems several people (including us and one other group on Monday) have trouble staying below the 4 Pass Loop trail, but high enough above the lake to stay dry. Especially difficult to do in the dark. If you‘re camping the night before, try to get there early enough to scout the path around the lake in the day light. We got completely soaked on our way up, but stayed completely dry on the way down. So, it is possible to stay dry, but very easy to get wet. If it‘s raining in the days/hours leading up to your hike, the approach trail is going to be very muddy (and bushes you‘re brush along the trail very wet). It wasn‘t too bad on the way in, but it rained hard for the last 30 minutes or so on our way out. There were large puddles in the trail and you didn‘t have much choice other than getting your feet wet. I was expecting it to be wet around the lake, but all the water on the approach trail surprised us. On the bright side, all those puddles will wash off the horse crap you‘ll be stepping in that you can‘t see in the puddles. We camped at roughly N39 07.028 W107 01.799. Just a few minutes after leaving camp, we arrived at what I like to call Star Fish Junction (see picture). There are five trails that converge in one spot - A couple social trails, one for the Four Pass Loop route, one heading NW straight toward the lake, and one heading WSW toward the dry path around the lake. When we left camp and got near this junction in the dark, I knew we were likely too far from the lake and heading for Trailrider Pass. So we opted for the trail that went NW straight toward the lake. Now there is a trail that goes all the way around the south side of the lake, pretty much right on the shore. That shore line trail will get you where you need to be, but it will also get your feet wet and muddy (maybe even suck a shoe off in the process). The dry path we took on the way back is very close to the shore at times, but majority of the time it‘s a little higher up. The key spot for us was a little trickle of water draining toward the lake where you‘ll want to make a left (on the way to the summit) from the shore line trail to the higher trail. I believe this is likely the same "unexpected left turn" that blantow mentioned in a conditions update 7/11. Too bad we didn‘t see that update before we started. Unfortunately, I don‘t have a waypoint for this spot, but judging from our GPS tracks it would be about halfway around the lake, roughly N39 06.917 W107 01.984. All this talk about a dry trail vs. wet shoreline trail is a moot point if it‘s been raining and the willows are wet. In that case, you better have waterproof pants and jacket to stay dry because those willows are massive and there‘s no way to get through without brushing up against them. I had a second pair of shoes that really helped me out. I brought them because I like boulder hopping and scrambling in my LS Boulder X shoes, but they‘re not super comfy on long approach trails, so I had some trail runners as well. I wore trail runners on the approach and trail around the lake, so it wasn‘t terrible that my feet got soaked. I had extra shoes and socks. My wife wasn‘t so fortunate as she had a couple pair of extra socks, but it didn‘t matter once her shoes were soaked. Ultimately lead to us turning around after traveling a little ways on the snow and her feet were just too cold. Lastly, on the snowmass, we turned around about 12,800‘. I‘m guessing the snow started about 12,200‘, but I didn‘t mark it exactly. We were on snow maybe 400-600 vertical feet, wearing microspikes and had axes, but didn‘t really make it to anything steep enough to use them. The snow was firm enough most of the time, but definitely would not support weight near rocks pointing out or where water was flowing underneath. I‘d guess 1 in 5 steps sunk ankle deep, 1 in 10 sunk maybe mid-calf to knee deep, and 2 or 3 times I sunk down enough to need my hands to push myself back up. Guessing we got on the snow a little after 7am and got off the snow close to 830am. Most of that time was spent talking about how cold my wife‘s feet were, not actually traveling on the snow.
|2015-07-12||Route: East Slope
Info: Completed the standard route in 2 days so this info is really for 7/11/15 and 7/12/15, but we gained the summit on the 12th. Started from the trail head at 10 AM on Saturday morning. Reached the campground at Snowmass lake at ~3:30 PM. Log jam in good condition. Rain came through during our hike into the lake so crossing the log jam was a little wobbly for me as I was getting rained on. Some hikers were wearing gators for the mud in the first 8 miles, but they weren‘t totally necessary. I felt that trekking poles were really helpful for the log jam. Started the summit push on Sunday at ~4:30 PM. Stay very low and near the lake in the willows for the first part of the ascent. It is muddy and at times seems like it wasn‘t a trail. At times we were 1 ft from the lake in mud, but I think that was the correct trail and route. We took the scree field to the left of the willows, but there is an additional trial about half way up the scree field into the willows if you are willing to cross the stream. The snow field started very quickly after the scree field and continued until the ridge. The snow field was much longer than I was expected and I had some fairly cold feet for parts of it. We took the more direct route (more snow field time, less ridge time). There looks to be trenches up the standard and direct route. Once on the ridge, the wind picked up dramatically. The class 3 climbing up there wasn‘t too difficult, but was made sketchy by the moving rocks. Test every rock you rely on first. Large rocks were moving around that normally I wouldn‘t expect to move at all. Gained the summit around ~10 AM.. Returned to camp by ~2 PM, left camp at 3:30 PM. Reached the trail head and our cars by ~7:15 PM. It was a very long day. I used just trekking poles, good mountaineering clothing, and microspikes because I wasn‘t expecting quite so much snow. See below for what I wish I would have brought. If I were to re-pack I would bring: More extra socks (muddy and wet sections) Trekking Poles Crampons Gators I didn‘t really feel an ice axe was necessary, but that could have been helpful on a few sections. This is a great mountain. Sorry for the lack of pics, my phone died. Feel free to shoot me questions. Cheers!