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Camping near Snowmass Lake

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Camping near Snowmass Lake

Postby Chad Hazelwood » Thu May 03, 2007 12:37 am

I am coming out in mid July with a couple of friends to climb Snowmass and poss another 14er. We are planning to camp near Snowmass lake and I was just checking to see if we need any kind of a pass to camp there.

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Postby Papillon » Thu May 03, 2007 12:57 am

I did the 4 pass loop in '05 with my final pitch at Snowmass Lake and didn't need a permit. It was late September and a bit brisk at 11,000 but that was and still is the slickest backcountry site I've had.

Are you coming in from the ranch or up and over Buckskin Pass?
The look in his eyes when it hit - Kid, it was tasty... - William Seward Burroughs

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Postby Chad Hazelwood » Thu May 03, 2007 3:15 am

Guess we are going to leave from the Maroon lake trailhead. The guy that is driving has a Chevy Avalanche an was not sure about making it to the lead king basin trailhead. Which would be the better hike in? We have the time so an extra few miles to hike are no big deal.

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Postby dave alex » Thu May 03, 2007 6:54 am

I would highly recommend the standard trail up from Snowmass Lake. This is an outrageously scenic route and only the last two miles feel like you are going uphill. Plus, you'll get to cross the logjam at the beaver pond. Any car can make it to the standard t/h.

Plenty of camping available at Snowmass Lake. The route up the mountain follows a trail around the lake, continues up a terribly loose scree gully (the worst part) and then progresses over a boulder field (which might be covered in snow). At the top of the gully, you'll want to bear to the right somewhat and aim for a gap in the ridge above the boulder field. Once through this gap, the route continues up the ridge on the backside of the mountain and is obvious to the summit. I would budget about a 5 hour r/t time from the lake to the summit.

Good luck with the hike. I'm sure everyone in your party will love it.

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Postby Floyd » Thu May 03, 2007 7:37 am

Are crampons or an ice axe generally needed in August or September for an approach from Snowmass Lake?

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Postby nickonov » Thu May 03, 2007 7:41 am

I would add one piece of advice to that last post. As you make your way to the top from Snowmass Lake, you'll see that the Peak consists of twin summits (you can clearly see this from a distance, as well). There's only a few feet of eleveation difference, so it's difficult to judge from below... but the one on the climber's left is the true one, and you'll want to ascend via the ridge to its left. The one on the right is Dumbass Peak, and the gully between the two is significantly more difficult (I like to call it The Library, as you'll be pulling out book-shaped slabs of loose rock on your way up). The view of Capitol Peak from that false summit is unobstructed, but you can easily traverse there along the ridge from the true summit.
Last edited by nickonov on Thu May 03, 2007 8:26 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby JimR » Thu May 03, 2007 8:09 am

Floyd wrote:Are crampons or an ice axe generally needed in August or September for an approach from Snowmass Lake?

We went up in late July (many years ago). We had (and used) ice axes, no crampons. Things could be a bit different now or this year, & we were there a little earlier in the season than August or September, but it's called Snowmass for a reason.
The lake is a beautiful place to camp, & the beaver dam is a great opportunity to take a refreshing dip with a full backpack.
I have more age than experience, more experience than knowledge, and more knowledge than wisdom.
Yet somehow I usually make it back to the car safely; and oftentimes, so do the people that I'm with.

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Postby Papillon » Thu May 03, 2007 12:39 pm

Chad Hazelwood wrote:Guess we are going to leave from the Maroon lake trailhead. The guy that is driving has a Chevy Avalanche an was not sure about making it to the lead king basin trailhead. Which would be the better hike in? We have the time so an extra few miles to hike are no big deal.


From Maroon Lake I believe it is 4 miles and 2500 feet of gain to Buckskin Pass and then a 4 mile drop to Snowmass Lake.

The road to the trailhead is heavily traveled, so much so that during the summer a shuttle bus runs all day. No vehicles are allowed through unless you are car camping or backpacking. To park at the trailhead, they'll charge you $10/car and you pay that at the gate en route.

This is the only red tape you will encounter.
The look in his eyes when it hit - Kid, it was tasty... - William Seward Burroughs

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Postby Chad Hazelwood » Thu May 03, 2007 7:16 pm

Thanks for all the info it will be a great help.

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Postby jwproulx » Mon May 07, 2007 7:12 pm

[quote="nickonov"]I would add one piece of advice to that last post. As you make your way to the top from Snowmass Lake, you'll see that the Peak consists of twin summits (you can clearly see this from a distance, as well). There's only a few feet of eleveation difference, so it's difficult to judge from below... but the one on the climber's left is the true one, and you'll want to ascend via the ridge to its left. The one on the right is Dumbass Peak, and the gully between the two is significantly more difficult (I like to call it The Library, as you'll be pulling out book-shaped slabs of loose rock on your way up). The view of Capitol Peak from that false summit is unobstructed, but you can easily traverse there along the ridge from the true summit.[/quote]

N. Snowmass is quite a nice spot, and I recommend the trip over from the main summit; but I'll agree about that gully between the two. Last July 2 there was snow to about 30' from the saddle. My party ascended the standard way, traversed to N. Snowmass, and descended via that gully. It looked easier than it was - definitely 4th class, and quite loose in places. I managed to pull out out a block about the size (volume) of a full pack, and it rolled right over my thigh (hard to describe the position). Luckily, it caused only a small bruise. It could have been really bad (e.g, by knocking me right off).

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Postby beazleys » Mon May 07, 2007 8:41 pm

I am curious as to why you would start at Maroon Lake. It is a gorgeous place to hike, but you put Buckskin Pass between you and Snowmass Lake, plus you have to pay a Forest Servce gate attendant an entrance fee.

The standard approach is to follow Snowmass Creek, which does involve a brief stint on a dirt road, but it is very well maintained. The mileage is similar but there is less climbing between you and the lake.

I have gone both routes and will say going over Buckskin provides an eye-popping view, but I definitely felt in my legs the next morning. The Snowmass Creek approach was gentler, not as dramatically scenic, but you spend a lot of time in aspens and pass some active beaver ponds.

The following link provides direction to the Snowmass Creek Trailhead.

http://areas.wildernet.com/pages/activity.cfm?actid=021501IO*199hw&CU_ID=150

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Postby frozenfire075 » Mon May 07, 2007 9:19 pm

throwin in my opinion....last september i did a little trip through the elks and started at Maroon Lake late friday, camped out at Crater Lake, climbed North Maroon, then headed over Buckskin to Snowmass Lake to camp there sat night, climbed Snowmass sunday then headed back over Buckskin to Maroon Lake...

unlike others, i reccommend starting at maroon lake.. though the crowds are a bit heavy, the area is still one of the most beautiful in the state and the crowds usually thin out really quickly once you round the lake and head up towards crater lake. Buckskin pass itself is beautiful with gorgeous views of the Bells, Pyramid, Snowmass, and Capitol. Then the descent into Snowmass Lake is decent and there are tons of camping available there around the lake (but still 100 yards away unfortunately)

oh and to get back to your original question: no passes are needed, you need to fill out a wilderness permit thing along the trail and carry that with ya, but other than that its just free land.

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