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Snowmass as Spring Snow Climb

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Snowmass as Spring Snow Climb

Postby Tornadoman » Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:21 pm

I have been becoming more interested in climbing Snowmass and have been checking out the different route descriptions and trip reports. It looks like it might be safest to attempt this mountain as a snow climb from the east slopes. I have no experience with snow climbing and am curious how difficult this route is? It *looks* relatively straightforward with an ice axe and crampons. Also, how is the avy danger on that route? I was thinking June would probably be the best time to try the route based on the reports I have seen and of course depending on the snow during the year.

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Re: Snowmass as Spring Snow Climb

Postby kaiman » Fri Oct 04, 2013 5:17 pm

You could certainly do this as an early season climb from Snowmass Lake, many people do. Technically I guess you could call it a snow climb during this time of the year, although you still have scrambling up the Class 3 summit ridge to contend with, which makes it more of a mixed route, unless you make a direct climb to the summit on snow but this section is super steep and melts out a lot sooner than the snowfield below it so you would probably be doing some scrambling.

One of the hardest parts of climbing Snowmass or just hiking to the lake in early season is that Snowmass Creek is deep and fast flowing and the log jam becomes a challenge to cross. It is also a long ways - 21.5 miles round trip so you will be looking at a couple days and some early season camping. The slopes above Snowmass Lake are also definitely an avalanche trap in the wrong conditions.

As it is your first snow climb, I would recommend something shorter and more accessible maybe like Grays and Torreys, Sherman, Lincoln, Democrat, Mount Bierdstadt or or maybe Quandary's standard route (East Ridge) or from the Christo Culiour for something more technical.

Just my 2 cents,

kaiman
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Re: Snowmass as Spring Snow Climb

Postby Tornadoman » Fri Oct 04, 2013 6:16 pm

kaiman wrote:You could certainly do this as an early season climb from Snowmass Lake, many people do. Technically I guess you could call it a snow climb during this time of the year, although you still have scrambling up the Class 3 summit ridge to contend with, which makes it more of a mixed route, unless you make a direct climb to the summit on snow but this section is super steep and melts out a lot sooner than the snowfield below it so you would probably be doing some scrambling.

kaiman


I guess I would refer to it as a snow climb to me since it would involve crampons/ice axe which would be a new experience for me. I am definitely game for the class 3 climbing part of the route too, I do enjoy scrambling... I guess I think climbing it with more snow could be safer as there will be less loose rock, and it also looks really aesthetically pleasing at that time of year.

[/quote]
kaiman wrote:The slopes above Snowmass Lake are also definitely an avalanche trap in the wrong conditions.


This is definitely my biggest concern. Avalanche concerns aren't something I have studied much beyond the CAIC website, and they scare the crap out of me!

Re: Snowmass as Spring Snow Climb

Postby Bean » Fri Oct 04, 2013 6:25 pm

Tornadoman wrote:This is definitely my biggest concern. Avalanche concerns aren't something I have studied much beyond the CAIC website, and they scare the crap out of me!

If you want to do snow climbs, I strongly encourage some avalanche education. Friends of Berthoud Pass offers free awareness/introductory-level classes, and there are countless AIARE Level I courses available in CO through any number of providers.

If you don't get yourself educated, you're gonna have a bad time.
gdthomas wrote:Bean, you're an idiot.

http://throughpolarizedeyes.com

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Re: Snowmass as Spring Snow Climb

Postby nyker » Fri Oct 04, 2013 6:30 pm

I'm looking to climb Snowmass in the Spring 2014 - probably around mid May area but will wait and see when conditions are ripe.

One concern I had was the bergschrund-like crack that often forms against the ridge - for those who have climbed this in the Spring snow, when generally is this more of an issue to deal with?

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Re: Snowmass as Spring Snow Climb

Postby DanielL » Fri Oct 04, 2013 6:58 pm

Tornadoman wrote:I have been becoming more interested in climbing Snowmass and have been checking out the different route descriptions and trip reports. It looks like it might be safest to attempt this mountain as a snow climb from the east slopes. I have no experience with snow climbing and am curious how difficult this route is? It *looks* relatively straightforward with an ice axe and crampons. Also, how is the avy danger on that route? I was thinking June would probably be the best time to try the route based on the reports I have seen and of course depending on the snow during the year.


I've climbed Snowmass once in late August from Lead King Basin. We climbed the S-Ridge and thoroughly enjoyed it! We descended a slightly alternate and more stable version of the West Slope route, descending on the crest of the rib to the north (climber's left) of the main gully. I posted a trip report a few years ago about this climb here: http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=10843&parmpeak=Snowmass+Mountain&start=20&cpgm=tripmain&ski=Include

If you're unsure about climbing the standard route in snow, I would recommend either of these routes from LKB, especially the S-Ridge. It's much less distance and a fun way to climb this mountain in dry conditions. I would really like to climb the East route in spring sometime, though...

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Re: Snowmass as Spring Snow Climb

Postby d_baker » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:31 pm

Tornadoman wrote:I have been becoming more interested in climbing Snowmass and have been checking out the different route descriptions and trip reports. It looks like it might be safest to attempt this mountain as a snow climb from the east slopes. I have no experience with snow climbing and am curious how difficult this route is? It *looks* relatively straightforward with an ice axe and crampons. Also, how is the avy danger on that route? I was thinking June would probably be the best time to try the route based on the reports I have seen and of course depending on the snow during the year.


I hiked Snowmass from the E in 2007 in mid-June. The steepest parts that I recall are right above the lake and just below the ridge proper (depending on where you access the ridge itself).
Most of the terrain is mellow.
Being your first experience on snow, I don't think it would be a bad climb. I do recommend getting some practice with snow climbing technique and self arrest practice though. As Bean mentioned, getting some training for avalanche awareness of some kind would also be a good idea. But if you don't, I wouldn't go so far as to say you're going to have a "bad time."
If you're climbing Snowmass in late May/early June, snow conditions will typically be "safe" in the early hours of the day if it had a good overnight freeze. Later in the day when it gets warmer/sun effected is when I would be concerned with wet slides.
But back to the overnight freeze......that is when you want some skills and experience for climbing on snow with crampons & axe in hand.

The opinions on the ridge vary, but I found it to be fun and I don't think the rock quality was too scary or bad.

Overall, it's a great route in a beautiful area! Enjoy!

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Re: Snowmass as Spring Snow Climb

Postby mtgirl » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:10 pm

It's a great snow climb. Of course, you should have knowledge and a little experience with self arresting with an axe and walking in crampons, but most of the slope doesn't exceed this angle:

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