| Mount Sopris via Northeast Ridge
Anyone who has read any of my responses to questions by people looking for information about hiking and climbing in the Elk Mountain Range on the 14ers.com forum has no doubt seen that I often include a plug for Mount Sopris.
Simply put Mount Sopris is one of my favorite peaks to climb in Colorado. At 12,953 feet in elevation, however, the peak barely makes it onto the list of the highest 800 peaks in the state.
But why judge a mountain by its size alone? Like Capitol, the Maroon Bells, and Snowmass, it has many of the features of its more famous neighbors without all the hype.
Although the mountain lacks any real technical routes, the 13 miles round-trip length and 4,400 feet of elevation are sufficient challenge enough and make for an excellent pre-season warm-up climb or separate spring/summer outing.
Since not much info can be found on this site about climbing Mount Sopris, I thought I would share the details and pictures of my recent climb for anyone who is interested.
Named after Captain Richard Sopris who prospected in the Roaring Fork Valley in 1860 and later became the Mayor of Denver, Mount Sopris was first climbed by Hayden Survey party members in 1873.
Early morning light hits Mount Sopris. Summit in center of photo.
Mount Sopris can be most easily accessed by taking the Prince Creek Road (paved and 2WD dirt) off of Highway 133 out of Carbondale for about 8 miles to the Thomas Lakes Trailhead.
Thomas Lakes Trailhead
From the trailhead the route follows an old jeep road as it winds through the woods for about a mile until it reaches some open meadows and traverses to the right (southeast) for about half a mile.
The Haypark/Thomas Lakes Trail split. Take the right trail to reach Thomas Lakes/Mount Sopris
After the trail split, the route climbs through the trees and meadows for 2.5 miles, crossing the creek twice before reaching the Thomas Lakes.
Hiking through the aspen trees on the way to Thomas Lakes
Lower Thomas Lake
From lower Thomas Lake, the trail meanders through the trees (about a quarter mile) past several campsites to reach upper Thomas Lake.
Upper Thomas Lake
A view of the northeast ridge from near Upper Thomas Lake
Mount Sopris summit (right) from Upper Thomas Lake
From here the trail switchbacks steeply up to the ridge above.
Once out of the trees the trail becomes rockier as it continues to climb towards the crest of the ridge and the views of the Elks open up.
Heading towards the ridge crest
The Elk Mountains come into view
Here the route begins to quickly turn to talus as you steadily climb along the steep ridgeline.
Looking back on Thomas Lakes from part way up the ridge
A steep section on the ridge
The remaining route on the northeast ridge.
From here the trail skirts the trees to the right, then climbs a short slope to reach a narrow "neck" section.
Another look at the narrow section. The crux of the route can be seen beyond the neck.
Photo of the route crux (taken from the middle of the narrow section) shows the class 2+ scree/small talus slope that must be climbed to reach the summit ridge.
Looking back down the northeast ridge route from the summit ridge.
The beginning of the summit ridge. The false summit is in the foreground with the true summit on the back right side.
Mount Sopris' rock glacier (Sopris is one of the few mountains in North America that have a growing rock glacier).
Another shot of the northeast ridge from the false summit
A shot of the remainder of the summit ridge.
From here I traversed below the second false summit and ascended just to the left of the ridge crest, crossing a small patch of snow as I reached the summit plateau. The summit was amazingly calm with no wind and I didn't see a single cloud in the sky. After some lunch and about a half-hour lounging on the summit, I snapped a couple photos and began my long descent.
Some pictures of the Elks (taken from the summit).
Daly and Capitol
Hell Roaring, Avalanche, and Gift Creek drainages (there's still plenty of snow on those north facing slopes)
Another shot of Capitol Peak with Snowmass Mountain poking its head up to the right
Mount Daly (right foreground) and Haystack Mountain (left center) stand watch over the Maroon Bells (center background)
Descending across the narrow "neck" section
Mount Sopris' rugged east slopes
Conclusion – While you won't get the adrenaline rush you get when climbing some of the Elk Mountain's more technical peaks, Mount Sopris' northeast ridge offers visitors a straightforward climb to a splendid summit. Combine this with the solitude, natural beauty, and incredible views of the Elks and you have one of the best climbs in the range.
Some parting wildflower photos
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):