Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  07/14/2012
Date Climbed:   07/13/2012
Author:  JA_son27
 Sweet SucceSS on the "S" Ridge  

My Elk Finisher

Peak: Snowmass
Route: "S" Ridge
Trailhead: Geneva Lake
Distance: 9 miles

After setting my goal of summiting all the 14ers, I knew it would take a few years to accomplish. However, I did not anticipate having to wait from 2010 until now to continue towards my goal. This left me filling out of practice, and less confident toward hiking this particular 14er. The "S" Ridge can be intimidating to the most seasoned of hikers, I was no exception.

I attempted to hike this particular route two weeks ago and felt like I had lost the drive, and the physical stamina forcing me to turn around just below the gully entry to the ridge. I returned home dejected, and wondered if I could accomplish this seemingly impossible goal I had set for myself 5 short years ago. My wife Amanda, who has always been so supportive of my hair-brained schemes, took a few days off this week and told me we would go back and I would try again, only this time, from a base camp at Geneva Lake.

We decided on site #5, awesome for both views and privacy!

Amanda made quick work of the hike up to the lake, leaving me with plenty of time for some R&R before my journey the next day. I set the alarm for 5 o'clock, ate a nice dehydrated meal, and went to bed.

Have you ever checked the Sodium content on these things?

The alarm relentlessly screamed to life at O'dark thirty, (not really) and I lazily applied my crispy hiking clothes to my salty body while still laying beneath my comfortably warm sleeping bag. This process took me about 30 minutes.

I took a little shooter of Gatorade-which wasn't bad by the way-and kissed my beautiful wife goodbye. She promised me she would hike up to Little Gem Lake to meet me after my summit. (She was more confident that I would summit than I was) I was delighted when she told me.

This was taken on my first attempt, I loved this little open area before little Gem lake.

I steadily made it back to my previous turnaround point-below the entrance gully to the S Ridge- and took of my pack. I ate a Starbucks Via, which I recommend everyone should do, donned my helmet with a deep breath and continued.

I chose the first gully because I wanted to hike on the Ridge sooner.

Slowly I made my way up this step, and incessantly loose gully. The higher I hiked, the looser it became. About 3/4 of the way up, I found myself pulling out a coffee table sized boulder with one hand, and gripping a sharp, tiny stable rock in the other. I dropped a foot or two, bashed my gluteus on the slope and nursed my ego for a minute before continuing.

Nearing the top of the gully with Snowmass's shadow dominating.

For some reason, once I topped out of the gully I thought I would at least see the second gully entrance as I crossed over the top of it. I never did.

Looking out into the basin. This place is Grand.

I stopped for a few minutes to rest, and to reflect on this beautiful day. I was starting to gain heart, and excitement once beyond this initial difficulty.

This is what you are first greeted with once topping out of the gully.

The boulder hopping is totally worth dealing with the slippery slope of the dreadful gully's! (What I didn't know, was that my descent would make that gully look solid) Just as advertised, everything was solid and inviting. My shoes were sticky and I was having a blast. I felt like I was starting to get back into the groove of this class three stuff. I had climbed Kelso Ridge a few weeks prior, but it doesn't compare to this!

After a few minutes of climbing, a very distinct landmark came into view.

The "Blade" like rock, illuminated by the morning sun.

After making my way up to the sharp landmark I sit down and take in the views. I am still trying to control my nerves, as I am solo and-beside my wife-there is no one in this area at the moment.

Looking back at my route I've covered from the Blade Rock. Geneva Lake is the larger body of water.

By this point you can finally see the summit. It still seemed quite a distance away, but I always love it when the shy face of a summit reveals herself. I knew from a previous great "S" Ridge TR that I was about a third of the way up at this point, and that the terrain would be a little more mellow. For now.

The summit is finally seen.

Making my way across this section is a welcome break, and gave my legs a satisfying refresher. I would need it for the upcoming section.

I made it to the beginning of the final third of the ridge in relative ease. It was a straight forward route, sometimes I would cross over to climbers right, left or just straight over. There were a few times where the moves were a little airy, but that is to be expected and dealt with. But the first section of the last third of the ridge posed my most difficult, or the "Crux" of the route.

As mentioned in the previous TR, you can either go up this ramp or around to the notch following a well worn path. I looked around the other side of the notch trying to avoid any unnecessary danger, but it didn't seem worth the elevation loss. Which, by the way is precious and hard to come by. I climbed the ramp using a series of cracks and ledges. It wasn't hard, but I needed to put the camera away. Sorry.

The notch can be seen on the left, and the more technically difficult route is what appears to be a smooth wall.

Immediately above this section are some intensely committing, and airy moves that gave me a slight pucker. I had not felt this sense of exhilaration since 2010 while climbing Capitol. A feeling of giddiness washed over me (adrenaline dump) at the prospect of me completing the Elks.

Taken above the Crux wall. The majority of my route can be seen.

With the completion of the crux wall behind me, my mind was put at ease and I began to smell the summit. Or it could've been me not wearing deodorant, either way I was enthusiastic with the summit at hand.

Albeit blurry, this lofty bird perch piqued my interest. It also shows how steep the climb is immediately following the crux wall

Looking back on my route

After climbing for another few adrenaline inducing minutes, the summit appears closer than ever

Nearing the summit

After securing my safety beyond the crux, I noticed my previous accomplishment looming in the distance. You people who have climbed that connecting ridge are crazy bastards! (I'm joking, but seriously, you guys are crazy)

Capitol Peak just sneaking a peak around Snowmass's S Ridge.

The entire "S" Ridge as seen from the summit!

The last few feet to the summit were thoroughly enjoyed. I had finally climbed my final Elk.

Capitol Peak as seen from the summit of Snowmass.

The majority of the Elk range 14er's are seen in this photo. The Bells up front, Pyramid Peak off to the left of the Bells, and Castle Peak way off

I did climb to the true summit of Snowmass, I promise. I wasn't able to get a shot of myself on the true summit block, the timer on my camera didn't allow it. Although, I will never be able to prove it.

Summit Shot

Snowmass Lake

Summit marker

Being the only person on Snowmass, I felt it would be safe enough to descend via the West Slip (Yes, I meant Slip) route. I could see that no one was coming up, so I wasn't too concerned about rockfall. Yes, I was careful nonetheless. I didn't pass a single soul on the way down that EVIL gully. I would never do that route in crowded conditions, after being beaten up by the "S" ridge it would be too taxing worrying about people above and below. It took me a total of 6 hours climbing that playground, I would gladly do it again!

It seems everyone on this site posts pictures of a celebratory beer after a safe summit. I prefer something of a more finer taste to celebrate. I say this in jest. Thanks Rick!

Nice celebratory drink after a wonderful summit day!

I met my wife at Little Gem Lake, and she gladly gave me her water since I had long finished my 3 liters. It was a wonderful hike back down to camp.

Wifey filters water in a wonderful field of wildflowers. Sorry I drank all our water!

Nice shot of a Columbine


Amanda loved this place!

Geneva Lake fed waterfall

This place is so lush!

Amanda liked the reflection of Snomass in the car window. She thought it looked "Artistic"

Amanda made this trip happen for me and I give her more credit than my conditioning in my success on this peak. She told me I could do it, and believed in me. While high on this wild peak, near the crux, I could hear her words of confidence inspiring me to continue. Thank you babe!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Good job
07/15/2012 13:58
Great pictures, way to enjoy this awesome route!


07/15/2012 14:15
on making it up the S-Ridge. Inspiring story. It is great to have the support of your spouse while out doing crazy things like this. The Elks are some of my favorite peaks as is this route (one of my favorites).


The man
07/15/2012 20:53
Jason, I enjoyed this report. Supportive wife, overcoming low motivation and jittery nerves, Glenlivet, excellent route solo, but..... you ”ate” the Via?


Caffeine Junky.
07/16/2012 01:16
I was too lazy to boil water for hot coffee, plus it staved off my caffeine headache! I forgot to mention I washed it down with Gatorade!


07/16/2012 14:49
Hoping to attempt this route in a few weeks, thanks for the detailed report and nice work on the climb!


07/17/2012 02:08
Congrats!! Great TR.
Haven't ever tried to eat Starbucks Via - when I was in college my bro and I used to eat Folger's Crystals on the way to class. We both finished our degrees. Hey, whatever it takes!
Well done


Great report -- Elks are over
10/26/2012 15:58
I enjoyed reading this one. It gives me confidence for a similar route summer 2013. Much appreciated. Vort.


Love your TR
07/22/2013 01:25
Can really sense how you felt up there. Hoping to climb this route the first week of September, appreciate the info in the TR. Props to your wife for her support, and to you for clearly appreciating her!

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