Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  07/21/2012
Date Climbed:   07/19/2012
Author:  14erdude83
 The Snowlessmass Mtn. Expedition.  

On Wednesday July 18th me and a buddy decided to finally climb Snowmass Mountain, this being my first 14er of the year I was a little hesitant simply because I'm not in 14er shape "yet" this year.

When we first started looking into all TR's we were a little skeptical about this beast of a mountain, simply because of the brittle nature of her west face. Well, I was more skeptical than Brady, Brady's kind of loco so it didn't bother him much at all, he was just as excited as a kid in the candy store. I tried talking him out of Snowmass and climbing a 13er in the San Juans instead, but he didnt budge and deep down I really wanted to conquer this mountain, so we started our trek wednesday afternoon and headed west out of Crested Butte on Kebler Pass. Its quite a beautiful drive to marble via Kebler and McClure Pass but a long one, we Left Crested Butte around 4:00 pm and did not arrive at the Geneva Lake TH until 6:30pm. When we arrived at the TH we were welcomed by a spectacular view of Snowmass Mtns. Daunting Westface. I have climbed a fair share of mountains in my life and I"m not going to lie, looking at it from the TH I had my doubts about this mountain, then again maybe it was just the pre-climb

We started up the TH at about 6:45 and arrived at Gem Lake around 9:30ish. The weather couldn't have cooperated more, we were greated with a slight breeze and a clear night sky. So clear in fact we decided instead of setting up camp we would just find a soft place to laydown in our sleeping bags and sleep under the stars. The plan was to wake up around 3am and start our journey upwards but as we laid there looking at her westface assessing our route in the morning and reading TR's, we decided it would be much safer for us to get a little more sleep and wake up after the sun had risen so we could actually see where we wanted to go. I typically like starting earlier but this mountain kind of made me a little nervous. After a wonderful night of chasing off porcupines, one of which ate my hat for me(wish I would have gotten a picture of it) it was time to set sail for the summit. When you are looking up at her from Gem lake she is quite intimidating and definitely gives you a sense of insecurity, but the closer you get the more comfortable you feel with the climb, it definitely looks tougher than it really is. Not taking anything away from her, she is challenging but not as scary as I thought it would be.


We had planned on following the class 3 route to the summit, and did manage to follow it until we got above the grass on the first pitch. After that we kind of looked at each other and decided we wanted a little bit more challenge, so we decided that we would blaze our own trail to the summit. The solid red line is the ascent route we took. All the TR's say stay to the left of the gully because there is less loose rock, which is absolutely spot on. But it wasn't as treacherous as we read it to be, The way down is when we figured out what everyone was talking about, i'll dive into that later. Following the ridge the whole way to the summit was brilliant. There is alot of solid rocks but also alot of exposure and some class 4 moves involved. At least what Brady and I consider class 4 moves. I know everyone's opinion differs some. The climb itself is pretty straight forward though, as long as you double check all your holds and your footing and don't mind some exposure this is a very fun route to take to the top. Never trust these rocks!!! period! even the biggest ones like to wobble and break loose. Once you arrive at the summit ridge you are greeted with a excellent view of Capitol Peak and her mind numbing ridge connecting Snowmass Peak to her. The summit ridge is straight forward, double check your holds and footing and take your time, there are a few spots you have to climb over some big rocks that show you just how small and insignificant you truly are but with a little gusto the peak is a short traverse away. We arrived at the summit of beautiful Snowmass at a quarter till 10 and enjoyed alot of yummy habenero summer sausage and cheese and took in the brilliant view on Capitol Peak. Sorry I didnt take more photos, I was to busy chatting with my mom on the summit haha. We didn't expect to see anyone at the summit, correction, we were hoping that since we decided to climb her on a Thursday and not the weekend, we would get the mountain to ourselves but we met 5 others that climbed her from the Snowmass lake side.


So the way down is where this trip became pretty treacherous. We were only about 300 ft off the summit when out of nowhere a storm developed, Thunder started clapping and the rain started falling. We decided to take the easy way down which is the Class 3 route up, the route with tons of loose rock. Well loose rock plus rain makes for an arduous downclimb. The mountain became a totally different beast and much more challenging to descend than to ascend. I told myself the whole way up do not trust any rock double check everyone of them before you put your body weight on it. Well, that didnt help, we were about 800 ft off the summit, I double tapped a rock, it appeared solid, about as solid as a rock can be, stepped on it and it gave way, knocking me off my feet and propelling me about 15 ft down the moutain. I thought that was it for me, as I was falling all I could think was I'm a dead man. As I was sliding face first down the mountain I just put my hands out, prayed quickly and grabbed the first rock I saw and it stopped my descent immediately. I was rather shaken by this, and I don't get shaken up very easily. I saw my life flash before my eyes, so I decided to just get rained on for about a half hour and shake off the pain in my legs and the hysteria in my brain. At that point I decided it would be better to traverse back over to the ridge and descend the same route we took up the Mountain. The way down is alot more challenging than the way up! It takes longer and the rock is alot less trustworthy! take your time, slow and steady wins the race!

This mountain is a beast and I am happy to say I conquered it with only minor bruising and cuts. Now knowing what kind of challenges this mountain presents, I do believe I will visit her again, but next time we will ascend the "S" ridge. Thanks for reading folks! Happy climbing and be safe!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

lesson well learned
07/22/2012 12:52
Did this one a few years back, also in July, and experienced much the same thing! Fact is, downclimbing is almost always more dangerous than going up. On this mountain in particular, wet rock makes it even worse. More than once, we came close to a tumble such as you took, but managed to dodge the bullets. And I, too, want to go back and do the S-ridge.


07/22/2012 19:22
Down climbing is always tougher, it was just amazing to realize, this is a different mountain(on the way down, opposed to going up). going up I didn't see what all the fuss was about. It was very straight forward, but I have to say this is one of the tougher ones to get down and the personality of the mountain completely changes when descending. Im just very happy I walked away with minor scratches and bruises, it could of been alot worse. It just goes to show you no matter how cautious you are on these mountains, they are still bigger badder and can not be tamed.


07/22/2012 21:10
An aspired individual could significantly reduce the elevation of the peak with a crow bar!


07/22/2012 21:15

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