| The Big 58, Snowmass Finisher!
August 24, 2008
Round Trip: 12.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 4400 ft. total
Route: Ascended "S" Ridge and Descended West Slopes
Hikers: KirkT ,CLDeck(Chris), USAKeller (Caroline), Shad, Media Dude (Gabe), Covfrrider (Brian) & Reynald
Well it all comes to this. Two years to the exact day, my goal of finishing Colorado's 14er's had finally came. Caroline had somewhat suggested my finisher last year while we were hiking Capitol on her finisher. So I stuck to the plan. I had met a fellow hiker, Reynald, on our trip to the Wilson group last month. To both our surprises, we had the exact same peaks left to finish. We hiked the Chicago Basin group together two weeks ago and afterwards set our sights on Snowmass. The scene was beginning to be set. I could actually see the end of the tunnel of my qwest. My last 10 peaks were all at least class 3 or harder. So Snowmass had to live up to the challenge. It was by pure chance that several reports had been posted over the last few weeks about the "S" ridge route. We made the choice to tackle this great ridge in hopes of making this hike much more challenging and memorable for all involved. It would not disappoint. After several emails and phone calls the players and plan were set. We would all carpool to the trailhead. Reynald would already be there with his entire family...his wife and two boys (ages 3 and 5) would be camping at Geneva Lake, and Gabe driving down later that evening.
After driving 50 minutes up the 4wd road we finally arrived at the trailhead around 8:30. Shad was somewhat tired from his 12 mile run earlier in the day and had not fully recovered from running the Leadville 100 last weekend, so he decided to pitch camp at the truck with Caroline. They would be hiking up in the morning to Geneva Lake where Brian, Chris and I were going to be camping next to Reynald and his family.
After breakfast we started off down the trail at 6:20. Because we missed a turn off for the main trail, we took a short detour around to the lake before returning back to the main trail. We never did really find the actual trail but instead bushwhacked through the lower basin. We basically made our way towards the bottom of the ridge angling towards the first gulley. There was a lot of talus hopping and we basically chose a direct path directly towards our destination. After a few breaks we started up the first gulley which leads to a ledge to where the "S" ridge basically starts. The gulley was straight forward class 3 scrambling for about 450ft. to the upper ridge proper. As expected, there were several cries for "rock" as we ascended the gulley.
At the top of the gulley is where the real fun began. The "S" ridge is 2000+ft. of in your face class 3 and 4 climbing up a gnarly ridge directly to the summit. There are some really easy spots, and then there are some really hair raising spots. There were many class 4 moves required and several class 5 if you chose. Several places the exposure was extreme. I want go into allot of detail about the actual ridge, so I'll let the pictures do most of the talking. We were spread about 20 minutes apart. The adrenaline was keeping me and Reynald steadily rocking towards the summit. That summit block never looked closer.... my heart was pumping and I was so freaking excited that its hard to explain. All those climbs, all the elevation gain, all those miles on my vehicles, time away from the family, it was all about to come to a climatic close. I was actually getting ready to summit 14'er #58. Reynald, Shad, Chris and myself arrived first at 11am with Brian, Caroline and Gabe arriving about 20 minutes later. Reynald and I approached the summit in tandem and sumitted together. It truly was an incredible feeling. One, I was actually on the summit of the last 14'er in Colorado and I was up there with some great friends. There is a sense of accomplishment that overwhelms when you reach this goal. What is next? What do I look forward to climbing now?? Many questions were in my head. All of that went away when everyone was there on the summit. We took many pictures, enjoyed the company of each other and weather, and throughly soaked up the moment. I attempted my headstand on the summit block but was unable to because of the small size. A rock next to it would suffice.
Reynald, Chris and Gabe decided to scurry over to North Snowmass as the rest of us started our descent down the West Slope. The descent was arduous to say the least. Steep angles, scree, and loose rock fill the gullies on the descent. There were several instances where the occasional "rock!" chant was yelled out. Somewhat felt like a shooting gallery at times. Be careful when descending these gullies. We eventually made our way back to the valley below and filtered water as most of us were running low. We were able to find the trail pretty easily and made our way back through incredible areas of flowers and lucious green meadows. We stopped several times to take in the views of the mountain we had just climbed. It looked so incredibly steep from that vantage point, actually.... it was steep.. who were we fooling! We arrived back at the camp site at 3:30 where Reynald was waiting for the customary Champagne toast. He even brought glasses! We toasted to our success and friendship.
After the celebration, we broke down camp and headed back to the trailhead where we arrived about 5:00pm. I caught myself constantly stopping for a brief rest to gaze back at the mountain that I would call my finisher. It looked so impressive from this Western viewpoint. I was able to catch a great view of the Bells on the way down. The looked splendid in the overcast/cloudy sky. We had that great drive back down the 4wd road to look forward to. Caroline and Shad specifically liked that part of the trip. After a quick rest we piled into the Explorer and headed back to the city.
I did not know this, but my finisher was exactly 2 years to the exact day from my first hike up a 14'er, Mt. Evans. Thanks to Caroline for suggesting Snowmass last year as my finisher. I could not of picked a better mountain to finish on. It is always an adventure when we hike together. It really made things that more special to hike with good friends and finishing with Reynald. The one thing that could of made it even more special was if Lance could of joined us for his finisher as well. (But we know, somebody's got to keep those democrats in line eeh?) Thanks to Shad & Chris for all the great adventures.... and yes, many more to come I know. Also thanks to Brian and Gabe for joining....it was a blast.
Thanks for reading, and I hope your finisher is as personal and memorable as mine.
Snowmass in all her splendor.
Early morning decisons with the group.
Reynald crossing the falls.
Geneva Lake and Basin.
Class 3 Gulley
Break time for Shad.
Caroline working the ridgeline with Gabe.
Group on ridge.
One of the exposed sections.
Chris and Shad on one of the more exposed sections.
Summit final pitch.
The Bells, Pyramid and Castle!
Capitol in her beauty.
Yours truly with Capitol as the backdrop.
Gabe showing off.
Party up on Snowmass!
Summit block attempt!
Group summit shot!
Shad descending the West Gulley.
Caroline and Brain on the descent!
Gabe taking in the smells!!
The finishers, Reynald and yours truly.