I submit this report not so much to give a thorough route description but rather to commemorate Unclegar's 14er finisher and to give my two cents on a couple of issues regarding a trip up the S-Ridge. We used this report primarily: http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=3455&parmpeak=Snowmass+Mountain&start=50&cpgm=tripmain&ski=Include
I had tried to connect with Gary all summer for some climbing. I could only do one trip per month so scheduling was impossible. Gary's list of peaks were being ticked off in a rather rapid pace and I feared I would not be able to do one with him. We did do Wilson Peak together in August with Britt but Gary took off and did Mount Wilson the same day asking, "Are you SURE you don't want to come with me?" "Ah, No!" As it worked out, Snowmass Mountain was to be Gary's finisher. I have hike more with Gary than with anyone else and really wanted to be with him when he finished. After some wrestling with a date, he agreed to wait a week to accommodate my schedule. September 16th was it. I began looking for a third person to add to our party and to study the S-Ridge route by referring to the reports on 14ers, Roach's book, and by sending and receiving messages to and from PKR, Alan Arnette, and Paul Perea. Thanks to all of you for your recommendations.
On Wednesday the 15th I picked Gary up from work at noon to begin the drive to Snowmass. My pastor has a '98 Nissan 4x4 and has let me use it on occasion for these excursions. From the sound of the road to the TH I did not want to chance not being able to get there. I am glad we had the truck. A CR-V or Forester may have been able to get up and down but they would not be happy doing it…. I would not recommend trying. We made our way through Carbondale and Marble and began the slow trip up the 4wd road. As we made our way up and then back down to the valley we got our first look at Snowmass and it's distinct "S-Ridge". It looked steeper and longer in person than in the photos I've seen. I thought, "Oh boy….. what am I getting myself into?"
"S-Ridge" photo Unclegar
We camped along the road just past the first parking area on the left. From Fort Collins it was 7 hours to this spot. We quickly set up camp, downed a Subway sandwich, some cookies and beer. Gary had an Ellie's Brown Ale and I had a Steam Engine Lager. We were in our respective tents by 8:30 ready for our 4:15 wake up call. All night I thought I heard chupacabras so I didn't sleep too well.
We were up at 4:15, tore down the camp and threw everything in the truck and began our hike at 5:20 in the dark. It took longer to get to the gullies than I anticipated but once we got there our level of anticipation for the day ahead heightened.
Gary approaching the gullies
The gully wasn't too bad but I think if I were to do this climb again I would go find a route in this area to avoid the gully all together.
Green next time
In the gully
Me looking happy about loose rock
It felt good to make the ridge and get on some good rock. I really enjoyed the rock and the ridge.
From the gully, Gary starts up the ridge
Roach recommends staying on the north (left) side of the ridge if difficulties are encountered. Twice I took that option and both times I wish I had stayed on the ridge proper. The rock is junk not far off the ridge and I felt safer up higher. I would recommend staying up the whole way. There are not cairns but the route is "obvious" and that means the "difficulties" too.
This place rocks
Summit in view
Gary nears the summit
As Gary gained the summit I got a little choked up.... I was really proud of his accomplishment and was so thankful that I was able to part of his journey. For planning, we got up in 5:15.
Gary on the summit block. I was worried about being "jjinxed" by his sign.
For our return, we elected to go back via the ridge. Both Paul and PKR recommended that course instead of the West Slopes. I am thankful we heeded their advice. It was an excellent way to go.
Looking back down the ridge
Gary down climbing
We got back to the gully and debated about whether to return by it or by trying the rock band to the left (on down climb). Even though I dislike loose scree gullies and think I am going to slide to my demise every time I am in one I thought it was the best option. As I stated earlier, if I do this again, I will look to the green line and consider down climbing that. I really don't like loose junk.
Once out of the gully we decided to take a "short cut" back to the trail..... not a good idea. The route we took involved a couple miles of bushwhacking and rock jumping. At one point, just as I was thinking of taking my helmet off, I totally endoed. (How do you spell that?) Anyway, I smacked pretty hard on the rock and was worried I was going to see a bone sticking out of my skin as I lifted my pant leg up..... twas a little flesh wound.
A few pics back to the truck:
It was a great trip. Once back at the truck, I gave Gary his 14er finisher gift (Roach's 13er book) and he enjoyed one of his own home brewed beers. The drive back was enjoyable but long. I had said earlier in the year that I would not drive that far for one peak. In this case, it was well worth it and I would have driven even farther just to be with my friend for his big day. For me, Snowmass was my first Elk 14er.... for Gary, it was his last. Congratulations again Gary.
Parting shot. Thank you Lord for a perfect day.