While we were making weekend plans that were pointing towards the Elks, I was directed to Sean O'Day's blog from 14ers.com and saw a photo of the W face of Snowmass. This has been on the list since Dav’s project as a must-do. Been watching it for years but access and aspect issues make it tough to catch in condition from the summit. Did anyone mention that this was a big season in the Elks?
The heavy packs went on at Crystal. By the way, the road to Crystal is very rough by any standard. Having plenty of past experience in testing the limits of what “high clearance 2WD” means in Colorado (with apologies and many thanks to my Ford Focus) I can confirm that the road to Crystal is not, a "high clearance 2WD road." Fortunately, Matt and Tanya are suckers for a slog and own a capable pickup.
Anyways, we hit the first snow blocking the road about 1 mile in and got our first glimpse of Snowmass from the south.
After that the snow was patchy until the falls above the Geneva Lake turnoff.
We finally put the skis and skins to use and made quick work of the remaining gain to Geneva Lake.
We had seen Paul on the his way out for BBQ, so we were certain we would have the basin to ourselves.
We did. Gorgeous up here.
Dinner time. Lower ascent route in red.
Freeze dried/Patagonia plug and lower route
As we finished the freeze-dried blueberry cheesecake, Matt joked about “pioneering new routes on the S face in the morning.” We agreed that anything on a 14er this close to CB and Aspen has been skied, probably in the 70s on 200s. No S face route in Dawson’s though.
Since we planned to climb and ski the W face, we got a leisurely start just after sunrise and quickly changed to crampons. An early and unique perspective on Capitol.
Suncups were prevalent.
The climbing was incredible in a choose-your-own-route kind of way. Perhaps too good of an overnight freeze?
Topping out was fantastic.
There was much rejoicing.
If Dav has his famous shot, I think our own pioletski has made this one famous.
the "pioletski" shot
We admired the views, did the math on how late we’d get back to the front range if we waited for the W face to soften up (it was 9:30am) and decided to give the S face a try. Worst case, we would boot back up and chatter down the W face.
Does it go?
looking down the S face route
Only one way to find out.
14er skiing at its best!
After donning skis on snow at the summit and doing the standard "rocks to skis" for a few, I caught up to Matt and Tanya about 20 vert below where they were rationally donning theirs. Helpful directional arrow in red (disclaimer: if you needed this directional arrow, please avoid route)
Matt and Tanya get ready below
I acted as test dummy and found “variable” conditions that certainly demanded skill and respect.
looking back up after 4-5 steep turns
Matt enjoying the steep entry turns.
And the choke.
The route in red.
S face route
We took the skis off momentarily to get from the looker’s left gully into the looker’s right. Could’ve been skied that day, but not recommended. Mandatory 40ft air at the end of looker’s left gully also not recommended.
We eventually found enjoyable snirt back to the tent, shared the last of the Red Bull and headed back out.
A look at the route from S Maroon (photo from moneymike)
Route from S Maroon photo by moneymike)
A look at the route from afar.
Finished the day off with BBQ/beer in Marble, a traffic jam in Glenwood Canyon and a big hug from the wifey at the front door. Couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
'Till next time, always fun getting out with you Matt and Tanya!