Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  08/06/2012
Modified:  08/07/2012
Date Climbed:   07/22/2012
Author:  Thunder Dan

 Snowmass-East Slopes Route & A Challenging Traverse!  

On 7/21/2012, I and my friends Mark and Will began our Colorado adventure by backpacking to Snowmass Lake from the Snowmass Creek approach. We had originally planned to enter using the Buckskin Pass approach but the Maroon overnight parking lot was full. It was better this way because we needed all the acclimatization we could get just by hauling our packs up the relatively easy Snowmass Creek trail.

On 7/22/2012, we began our climb to Snowmasss by taking the wrong set of herd paths which brought us ~500 feet upward and above Snowmass Lake! At this point, I realized we were on the Trailrider Pass trail and now longer on the climbing route to Snowmass Mountain. We turned around and when possible, bushwhacked out way down to the edge of the lake where we found the sorry excuse for a herd path. All three of us have hiked on herd paths in New and New England which are better marked than this one. The herd path goes righ along the lake using rocks in the lake in places and going through mud and wet willows. It was difficult to stay on the correct route until we finally got to the end of the lake and the beginning of the scree field. At the scree field, the rock was solid down low but became more loose and steep higher up. It was pretty miserable trying to climb this un-acclimitized. One of us had to turn around and head back to camp. Two of us crossed over to the slab rock of the stream/ditch. It was very slick if you did not watch where you stepped. A fall here could be very, very bad for your health. We were glad when this steep part was finished with but dreaded returning for the down-climb.

The snowmass was completely melted out, making for a more difficuly climb, but still easier than the initial steep screefield. We aimed for the notch shown in Photo#51 of Bill Middlebrook's description for when the snow is melted out. This route worked pretty well. We had to take it slow, beign from out east only 2 days into our trip in the high mountains. I reached the notch and waited for my friend to reach me. Then we climbed the ridge and gully to the summit of Snowmass Mountain, reaching it around noon time, six hours after we had started climbing. This was my twelfth 14er and my friend's first. It meant alot to both of us to make it to the summit. We did not spend much time on the summit for there was a storm approaching. We got off the ridge and about 20 minutes of downclimbing below the ridge, there were a few raindrops. But then the raindrops ceased and it became partly sunny again. Unfortunately my friend set his camera down and forgot to pick it up again. He was pretty bummed about that. If anyone finds a camera on the East slopes of Snowmass Mountain, (~elevation 13,000-13,500 feet) please PM me as I know my friend would love to get it back. That would be a real miracle if it is found before the next snowmass covers it.As we descended, we saw what looked like a possible traverse to the Trailrider Pass trail to avoid that miserable steep scree field and the willows near Snowmass Lake. We decided to traverse over the rock glacier and below the cliffs of Snowmass Peak(the 13er). In retrospect, this was probably much harder than descending the standard route. I took a fall in which I missed breaking my right 5th finger by 1/2 inch(I have the dent in the hiking pole to prove it). My guardian angel was watching out for me. After we traversed most of the way under these cliffs below Snowmass Peak(the 13er), we came to a 25-foot cliff next to a gully which barred our way from crossing towards the Trailrider Pass trail. However, upon closer observation, I found a Class 3 traverse in the cliff band which brought us into the gully. After the gully, the major difficulties were in the past. A few more rocks and then we were walking on grass in the Trailrider basin. After walking on the grass for about 10 minutes, we came to the Trailrider Pass trail! We were happy to have the major difficulites behind us. It was an exciting route-finding experience and we were blessed to not have to retrace our steps back ovewr the boulderfield, which would have been necessary had we not found the class 3 weakness in the cliff band next to the gully.

My friend was feeling tired, he was really looking forward to water when we arrived at Snowmass Lake. We were happy to have made it to the top, but would enjoy our later climbs of Maroon Peak and Capitol Peak more when we were more acclimatize. The hike out from Snowmass Lake the next day was uneventful and then we proceeded to hike in to the site of our next adventures-Crater Lake near the Maroon Bells.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Good Pointers
05/06/2013 13:05
This report gives me some things to think about for our 4 July 2013 weekend attempt ... most notably that the Maroon parking lot was full. Hmm. We too plan to hike over Buckskin Pass. We'll also plan to be careful on the scree/slab area. Thanks. Vort

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