| Success on Snowmass
4 Pass Loop/ Snowmass Mountain
Group: Alf Pasquel (me), Brad Hardin (brother n law), Kevin Mullis
We started our hike into the Maroon Bell Wilderness and the 4 Pass loop on Friday 09/16/11 after spending the day in Aspen (Which we ate at 520 burgers and ate a Bison burger with bacon bits in the meat and blue cheese crumbles on top…I recommend this joint). The bells did not fully reveal themselves this afternoon. They were covered up top by clouds, but you can tell they were beautiful…we made are way up Maroon and Crater Lake and hiked up another mile. We decided to camp at mile #3 and set up camp…we found a sweet sit covered by huge pines. Up to this point, the weather held off and we had enough time to set up our fly, eat dinner, hang our bear bag, and use the restroom without any precipitation. I thought we would be in decent shape for the night, since I even saw stars in the sky before jumping in my bag. As soon as I got in, it started to rain/snow for the next 12 hours. Side note…from midnight on, we can hear rockslides near us, which made our butts pucker…
Bells in cloud
We started up to West Maroon Pass and it was drizzling, raining, sleeting, hailing, or snowing the entire time. But we were fine; we thought we had appropriate gear so we continued up the trail. We got above tree line and were hiking/slushing through snow. The higher we got, obviously the more snow was on the ground…It was of course beautiful to say the least…heavy snow falling and snow covered ground…it was awesome. However, it was near the end for our group. Kevin fell ill the night before, but was in hopes of getting better so he continued up the trail with us. Unfortunately, every time the trail narrowed and we hit the bushes, a lot of water would soak his pants which resulted in the water draining into his shoe…this made things a lot worse for him. We got nearly to 12,000 ft when he had to make the tough call…he told us he could no longer go. We all understood what this meant. He told us that he would give us the shelter and that we could continue on without him…but we all decided it was best that we hike back down together and come up with an alternative itinerary for the remainder of the trip. So we hiked back down…I’ve always had an enormous amount of respect for Kevin, but I even have more respect for the fact he put his pride to the side…and informed us of his condition. As we all know, this is hard for us to accept on a trip…we all want to push forward. But in the backcountry and in these conditions, things can get bad really quick…he understood this and would not compromise his health and the group’s experience. I know this was a bummer for Kevin, but there is no point in enjoying the outdoors when you are battling illness…those mountains aren’t going anywhere right?
Audible: Brad and I Climb Snowmass Mountain via standard route.
Time to Snowmass lake: 5:15 miles
Length: 8 miles
Elevation TH 8400 ft
Lake elevation: 10,980 ft.
Difficulty: Considered lengthy and Strenuous
Alf Rating: Awesome Beautiful, recommend to everyone!
Brad and I decided to climb Snowmass so after getting rest at a local Snowmass village hotel and eating several hardboiled egg whites for breakfast, we started making our way up Snowmass standard route. The hike was great…the Aspens started to turn, the smell of pine is second to none, and all the waterfalls along the way just kept making this trail super. The elevation gain from TH to Lake is a little over 2500 ft, but it is gradual for the most part outside of two sections…the very beginning there is a 400 ft ascent and after the log jam it abruptly goes right back up another couple hundred feet. Speaking of logjam…that thing is absolutely a blast to cross…when dry. It sucks big time when there’s frost on it. It’s about 75 yds long…it’s really easy if you have decent balance. It’s really hard on frost, even if you have great balance. Just sayin…we met a porcupine on the way up…I think he liked us, because he made another visit later on…we finally arrived to the lake and you are met with absolutely the most gorgeous alpine lake…and right smack in the middle is the masterpiece known as Snowmass mountain!!! I’m not even going to describe…it’s a waste of time…go see it yourself. We set up camp and enjoyed the rest of the day…about that friend of ours, Brad woke me up around midnight. He said he heard some munching going on near the foot of our fly…sure enough; it was our friend chewing on some gear…he was harmless and went on his way.
me in valley
me in log jam
brad up valley
me by waterfall
me at lake
Climb Snowmass Mountain, Eastside
Camp Start on East Side of lake: 6:10 a.m.
Summit time: 12:15 p.m.
Back down to camp: 3:15 p.m.
Difficulty: Strenuous…like your leg twitching when your done Strenuous.
Alf Rating: I don’t recommend it to everyone…only for those that are a glutton for punishment and would do anything to summit a mountain.
We got up early started making our way towards the base of the scree field via the southern edge of the lake. The trail is awful…the willows will smack you in the face…seriously. The approach to the base is no fun, unless you enjoy bushwacking and getting your boots dunked in mucky water. Once you make your way around, finding the trail can be tricky…I did a poor job of studying this portion of the route. Took it for granted really…I could not find it to save my life. So I continued all the way around the lake edge and found what I thought was the trail up to the gully. On the descent, I found the right trail…it follows the gully on the left side all the way down to the boulder field on the left of the gully (if you are looking at it from the base of the route). If you find the right trail up, you will avoid going up the loose rotten gully…Right above 11,000 ft, we started to enter the snowfield. From this point on, we just started to make our slow and steady ascent all the way up. Of course, the snow got deeper…at times we were post holing 18 inches deep…which has now left my legs bruised all over. At 11:45 am, we were 800 ft below the summit and we looked up to the sky. The clouds had moved in and this was really the first legit time we questioned are goal for the summit. Brad suggested we scratch the original plan of climbing to the lowest part of the ridge that would have put us a 1/3 of a mile from the summit and go directly towards the notch (opening) of the mountain. I had my doubts since the snow was still powdery but it really felt like our only shot at the time. So our plan was to take one step at a time and see if the Mountain was going to let us up it. Without fail, we made the notch by traversing the base of the 300 ft East face over to the notch…at this point we were excited and knew we were going to Summit. Once we reached the backside of the ridge, we scrambled/climbed up the ridge some 300ft and met our goal at 12:15 p.m. I looked around and was in awe of all the snowcapped mountains…the Bells, Capitol, the lakes…man…God is good. I said a prayer of thanks and joy…stayed up there for about 15 minutes before my toes started to give to the freeze. And then…realization set in… oh crap, I’ve got to get down this!
Brad above gully
brad on snow field
me at base
brad climbing ridge
me on summit
hike back down
Left camp: 5:10 a.m.
Time back to TH: 3:15 minutes
Alf Rating: In the dark…kinda scary…especially when you see bear scat, one of them being fresh. Log Jam had frost…
TH: So glad to see it!
Reward: 5 days in the Maroon Bell Wilderness is reward enough…a summit of a 14er…and a really cold bottle of Double Wheat Shiner to greet me hello!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):