Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Post Date:  06/16/2013
Modified:  06/17/2013
Date Climbed:   06/14/2013
Posted By:  BirdMan

 Snowmass Mountain - You Have It All...  

Route Stats
Total 21 Miles Round Trip / 5,700 Feet Elevation Gain
* Day 1 - To Snowmass Lake: 8 Miles / 2,600 Feet Elevation Gain
* Day 2 - To Snowmass Mountain Summit and Out: 13 Miles / 3,100 Feet Elevation Gain

Road Update
Coming from Aspen, take Brush Creek Road through Snowmass Village. Once you're through Snowmass Village go past a gas station and look for Divide road. Turn right on Divide road up towards the dog sledding station. Where Divide road ends go left on a dirt road for 1.4 miles to the trailhead.

And the Report...
So it goes without saying I was very happy at going for my first 14er of the year. However, I felt a little guitly leaving my wife and girls at home to go hiking while the Black Forest fire raged on - still zero percent contained. I listened to the news reports heading west towards Aspen and Snowmass. Though our home was spared our thoughts go out to those who weren't so lucky.

By the time I grabbed lunch at K's in Buena Vista, got to the trailhead and loaded my backpack I was starting out just after 3 pm. The route to Snowmass Lake is long but thankfully much of it is shaded under the cover of aspens and other trees. Following Snowmass Creek the whole 8 miles you periodically get views like this.

About four miles in you'll be rewarded with the below view - a good time to rest and take it in.

Along the way, there were some interesting sights. Hard to make out but the below is purple and green.

Red columbines

What I referred to as the 'Monolith'.

'Monolith #2'

At long last the trail opened up to show the river valley just below the log jam.

At about 6 miles in you reach the log jam. Watch your step!

The log jam - looking back (taken the following day).

A couple more miles in you reach the below sign. Go straight for another 1/4 mile or so towards Snowmass Lake. Almost there!

At different times along the way I started to hear a roar so loud I thought there must be an airplane overhead. It always turned out that I was near a bend in the river that was flowing particularly strong. The below was no exception.

A few weeks ago as a 10th birthday celebration my daughter and I hiked up to Barr Camp and spent the night. I carried some extra gear to train for this hike so felt fit and as pleased to make it to the lake at 7 pm - even with my late start (thanks Sweetie!).

I've set-up camp in the dark before but did not want to do that on this outing. After getting everything set and grabbing a bite it was 8:30 and time for this boy to call it a day. After all, tomorrow would be the main event.

Up at 5 am I went splash water on my face and was surprised to see 10 - 12 trout in the stream. Fishermen take notice! Walking back to my tent I heard what I thought was a wolf call. Back home my smarty pants daughter corrected me saying there are no wolves in Colorado and it was probably a coyote. And there goes the magic...

A look up to Snowmass Peak (not Snowmass Mountain). There are certainly worse places to spend the night, but are there much better?


On the trail shortly after 6 am I came across a porcupine on my trail. Not sure why the photo came out so blurry - it certainly wasn't an 'action shot' this little guy was just moseying along.

There are 2 sections of the trail that go along the lake through the willows - one near the shore and another higher up. In the morning I took the route by the water's edge and was bummed when my feet got wet so early in the day. In hindsight this was pretty funny. Given that the route goes through snow and over multiple stream crossings I forgot how many times my feet wet, dried and got wet again.

A look back towards the campsites at sunrise.

Past the willows you reach a boulder field and then a scree slope. I stayed on the scree slope the entire way up - left of the gully. While it got steep and slick (no fun) at least I didn't have to cross a steeply angled snow field and stream.

Above the scree you get into the snow and the first look at the summit - middle right.

Having stayed in the scree I reached the snow field on the left and stayed left until I came to a point flat enough to cross easily back right to the standard route. I have to say my little Camelback Mule was a champ, carrying among other things food, extra clothes, my crampons, ice ax and snowshoes! I tried the snowshoes when I reached the snow field but they weren't needed and almost immediately replaced them with crampons.

Getting closer you see the summit to the right and the standard route up to the ridge on the left.

As I got closer I saw someone's tracks leading right. While this alternate route would be steeper (fun!), it would also shave some distance off to the summit. I felt good and decided to go for this alternate route to the ridge.

A closer look at the route which I believe got somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 degrees at it's steepest point. Thanks goodness for wet snow to gain purchase and an ice ax and crampons! Coming up that steep of a route I knew I wanted to find another way down. Once over the ridge it's just a short climb to the summit - or that's what I thought.

The 'short climb to the summit' proved more challenging than I would have thought. Having said that the route was always pretty visible and even when I was off route the rock and hand holds were so good that things never got too dicey.

On the summit but having to take my own photo.

A look at K2 and Capitol to the north.

The Bells to the south east.

Snowmass Lake from Snowmass Mountain summit.

A look back at the ridge I crossed and the hike / climb on the right of the ridge. For the most part I stayed high above the snowfields.

Since I didn't take the standard route through the snow I wasn't exactly sure where I needed to be to cross back over the ridge. As a result I ended up over-shooting where I needed to be - but not by much. After only 10 or 15 minutes of back-tracking I found the point over the ridge to the standard route down.

Snowmass Lake and the snow field from the ridge line.

Having got down from the ridge it was time to glissade down!

Back down by the lake a look up at the scree, snow field and summit.

The bridge to cross back to the camp sites.

Snowmass Mountain, you have it all - a long, beautiful hike in, camping at an alpine lake, willows, boulder field, scree slope, snow climb, class 3 rock climbing/scrambling and wildlife! A great day and a half, but time to pack up and head home.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

what a contrast
06/16/2013 19:43
Nice work! Your trip seems much more enjoyable than the S-Ridge route a couple of us did last fall. I think I'd opt for the standard route over the S-Ridge if I were to do it again. Looks like you had a fun snow descent as well. Congrats on a good solo climb!

Double Oh Seven

Looks like a great trip
06/16/2013 21:47
Thanks for the report and great pictures. I am thinking of doing this one in the next week or two and hoping the snow holds up. Would you recommend the standard or alternative route?


Route to the Ridge
06/17/2013 03:37
If you're comfortable with a steep snow climb and the conditions are right I would go for that alternate route I took - to the right of the standard route. It made it a little more challenging and it was pretty wild popping over the ridge to see what came next. Have a great time!


Standard over the S-ridge???
06/17/2013 14:23
NO way Farish! S-Ridge is spicy and dangerous, but at least the approach is doable in a day.

Brad, good to see you still ticking them off. Shouldn't you be getting close by now?


Great Adventure
06/17/2013 17:13
Nice early season climb on this scenic and colorful route. Good job route-finding in the snow and rock mix along the final ridge. Congratulations on a great solo adventure, Brad!


06/17/2013 21:00
That must be that a-hole porcupine that ate my trekking pole a couple weeks ago

And you are correct, the further right you go on the ridge, the more fun it is. I think you followed the steps we kicked in a couple weeks ago, they went up the notch just to the left of the part of the ridge that had the large cornice. We also got a full snow climb from just above the lake, its amazing how much of that boulder field has melted out since then.


06/18/2013 01:33
Keith, Long time - how are you? You bet - only 11 to go. Mostly around Aspen and the Durango area. Doing the train in August (Chicago Basin) - looking forward to that to say the least.

Fred/MetalMountain - Yes, that ridge is fun!


Thank you
06/18/2013 16:00
Thank you for posting these pics up, we are going to do this same route this weekend and were looking for the most recent pics, which are yours.


Great report!
06/21/2013 03:04
Did you need to use your ice axe? Thanks for a great report!


Exceptional Trip Report!!!
06/24/2013 12:43
Thanks for the detail and the great organization of this trip report. These things are as important to me as the ”Routes.” I plan to climb Snowmass on 5 July. Your work chronicling the trip is useful. Vort.


Exceptional Trip Report!!!
06/24/2013 13:13
Thanks for the detail and the great organization of this trip report. These things are as important to me as the ”Routes.” I plan to climb Snowmass on 5 July. Your work chronicling the trip is useful. Vort.


Ice Ax
06/26/2013 13:04
TLee83 - You bet, I used my ice ax to get me up to the ridge and down safely. The snow was deep there and having an ax helped me stay 'anchored'. Stay safe and have fun...

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