Pearl Mountain 13,362
“West Pearl” 13,312
Carbonate Hill 12,713
Greg Mace Peak 12,580
This was my last chance to get into the Elks this year, I had tossed around the idea of traversing around the East Snowmass creek basin. The forecast didn’t look good enough for the full traverse so Tyler (tdawg) and I decided to climb some peaks near Pearl Pass, because we knew we could bail pretty easily. Although no weather hit us, as we were leaving dark storm clouds covered Castle Creek in a shadow.
We started our day by hiking up the road from our campsite, shortly after the creek crossing a nice couple who had just moved here from California offered us a ride to the intersection where the Pearl Pass road veers left from the Castle Peak road. This saved us about 45 minutes of road hiking. From our high start we made quick time up the road to the saddle between Greg Mace and West Pearl. There was a dusting of snow on the ground but nothing that would slow us down. The north slopes of West Pearl are moderate class 2 with a mix of talus and tundra.
tdawg on top of West Pearl
The views are spectacular from the summit, but clouds were already building so it was time to move. The ridge to Pearl looks more spicy than it actually is, we found a class 2 route to the summit. From the summit we discussed our options for Carbonate Hill, and decided to descend the south ridge to a prominent east facing gully. There is plenty of loose rock and scree in the gully but we were able to descend on grassy ledges most of the way to the valley. The difficulty never exceeded class 2.
neat tower at the saddle
view to the south
last flower of summer
on the grassy ledges
looking up the gully
Carbonate Hill is a quick 350 foot climb from where you cross the Pearl Pass road. Again the views were amazing, we entertained the idea of climbing Star, but thought better of it with all the clouds building. The hike along the road back to the Greg Mace saddle is easy and the views were enough to take your breath away. Snow decided to fall for about 10 minutes while we were descending the road. It stopped as soon as we reached the saddle and the sun came back out for our final ascent. The ridge is easy class 2 until the summit block, Tyler scoped out a route on the east side of the summit block while I looked west. I found a goat trail which lead to a small shoulder which provided a class 2+ route to the summit. Be forwarded if climbing this peak, don’t trust any hand or foothold, because more likely than not you will be holding the hand hold in your hand.
impressive tower on Pearl
summit block of Greg Mace
We made the quick descent down the ridge and followed the road back down to our campsite.
looking up at Greg Mace, we came around this side of the summit block
I highly recommend this loop, the views of Castle are astounding. It is a great way to tour some high Elk range summits without severely loose rock and exposure. Though Elk range novices might find parts of the traverse.