| Thank goodness for beavers!
Snowmass Mtn. -14,092'
Route: E Slopes snowfield
TH: Snowmass Creek TH Approach / Snowmass Lake
Mileage / Elev: 21 mi, 5700 ft
Team: shanahan96 (Jamie Princo); jamienellis (Jamie Nellis); denalibound (Erick Lord); Chicago Transplant (Mike Rodenak)
With 'Spring Snow' being my new favorite type of climbing, a 3000' snow climb sounded very appealing. A 21 mile trip…not so much…
But, I had heard that the area is spectacularly beautiful, so that ought to keep my mind off the long distance, right?
Mike and Erick said they were game...cool! This will make for a great team!
The Approach (Saturday, June 9) 8 miles, 2600':
Jamie, Erick and I met up off I-70 near Evergreen at 6:30 Friday night and headed for the Snowmass Creek TH where we would camp that night. For the three of us, the plan was to head up to Snowmass Lake Saturday after sleeping in a bit. 'Greased lightning,' ummm…I mean, Mike was going to climb a couple of 13ers off Independence Pass and meet us at camp later that afternoon.
The 8 miles & 2600' to the Lake is on a great multi-use trail, which we had the misfortune of hiking in on behind a couple of horses.
Snowmass Creek around the turnoff for Moon Lake(Capitol Peak)
Approaching the creek crossing deep in the heart of the Elks
The crux of the hike is about 6 miles in at the creek crossing that can be quite hairy in high water. The three of us took our boots off and donned the sandals we had brought for anticipated event. Fortunately there is logjam that made crossing fairly uneventful. As Jamie exclaimed at this point: "Thank goodness for beavers!"
What else can really be said?!?!
The infamous Snowmass Creek Log Crossing (Yep...Thank goodness for beavers!)
Photo by Erick Lord
The trail was mellow enough & our feet felt so free after removing our Koflach Plastics, that we decided to continue on in sandals. This was great for about 5 minutes until I decided to kick a very sharp rock and rip my toenail half way off. Really, I had seen the 'Wilderness Medicine' patch on Erick's backpack and just wanted to make sure his skills were up to date Quick, Erick, blood pooling in sandal...what do we do...
The trail steepens after the creek crossing and we encountered some snowdrifts that were annoying. At this point my radio buzzes. It is Mike telling us that he is on the trail at the point were the snow drifts start right after the creek crossing. Great! Mike had managed to climb a couple of 13ers, have a leisurely lunch in Aspen, and still catch up to us before we reached the lake. Good God! What does he eat for breakfast???
The three of them made it to the lake about 5:30pm and I hobbled in shortly there after.
The Lake itself it one of the most beautiful place I've ever seen. There are ample camping spots near the lake, it would definitely a worthy back packing trip in itself!
Snowmass Mountain from Snowmass Lake upon arrival Saturday evening
Snowmass Peak(left) and Snowmass Mountain(right-14er) from Snowmass Lake
Summit Day (Sunday, June 10) 5 miles, 3100' (+ 8 miles out):
We set our alarms for 2am and were on the trail at 3. It was a clear, beautiful night with lots of stars. We made our way around the South side of the lake. Route finding was a little tricky in the dark. We saw a couple of small sections of trail; but overall there was a lot of willow whacking and snow to deal with. The snow conditions were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Either soft enough that we post-holed (at 3am…great…this is going to be a nightmare on the return!) or so hard that it was difficult to kick steps into. No happy medium. Erick did a great job of leading us through this section. Crampons, Ice Axe and Helmet are all required for this route; however we felt that snow shoes would have only been a hinderance. In the places that we post-holed, the snow was so wet and soft, that we would have done so even with snow shoes on.
We accessed the snowfield from the steep Scree slope at the SW end of the Lake. It was nearing 5am when we stopped to don crampons, helmets and ice axes. It was daybreak at this point and was encouraging to see how much elevation we had gained in the dark! The finger that we used to access the snowfield started at 11,600'. Our moods improved once the sun came out and warmed us up. The views were awesome with Hagerman, Snowmass Peak in the foreground --Pyramid and the Maroon Bells appearing a few hundred feet higher.
Pyramid, Sleeping Sexton and the Maroon Bells in early morning light
The snowfield is in good climbing condition, and the slope is mellow at this point.
Photo by Erick Lord
Approaching Snowmass' summit from high on the snowfield
We were making good time. (Of course we were…we were trying to keep up with Mike!)
As we got closer to the face, we got some disappointing beta on the route that we had previously thought do-able. We had wanted to use a couloir just to the S of the summit block to access the ridge. Upon closer inspection, we saw a huge cornice half way up the couloir.
Ok. Time for Plan B. We decided to angle to the climbers left and gain the summit ridge at its South end.
Looking down the face's final slope from the summit ridge
Now it's time for some scrambling! I am told that this is where the 'fun' began…I am not so sure yet. Mike and Jamie led this section with Erick following behind me. It was quite a luxury to have 3 very experienced climbers watching out for me. Thanks guys! I couldn't have done it without you!
Scrambling on the ridge - Photo by Erick Lord
Jamie Nellis high on Snowmass' summit ridge(Photo added by Jamie Princo)
After an hour or so of some exposed 3rd and 4th class scrambling on the ridge crest, we reached the summit at 9:30am.
(*Note: Because of snow conditions, we opted to stay high on the ridge crest. By doing so, we encountered some 4th class scrambling. I believe the standard route drops below the crest and keeps it at class 3)
Jamie, Erick and I were busying ourselves with snacks and pictures; while Mike mined for the summit register & the unexpected surprise it contained. Mike I had no idea you were so patriotic!
Mike discovering signs of previous intelligent life on Snowmass' summit
For the descent we continued N along the ridge toward N Snowmass. Mike made his way to that summit while the rest of us tried to figure out the best descent route (ie; longest glissade.) We opted to climb down some rocks to the right of the cornice and begin our glissade there. After 2 1/2 hours; 2700' of glissading; and some heinous post-holing around the lake, we found ourselves back at camp with very wet butts.
Now for the long walk out and a little swimming for some of us (Mike)!
It was a long, exhausting day but well worth the effort. An Elk finisher for Jamie; and a new 14er for all of us!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):