Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  06/26/2013
Modified:  06/30/2013
Date Climbed:   06/23/2013
Author:  IronSkiMountaineer
 Snowmass - East slopes under the supermoon   

This is my first trip report so a few quick lines about me as I finally created my profile today. I'm an MBA Candidate at the University of Minnesota and am in Colorado for a summer internship. I can't wait to get out here full time next summer but I've been having a blast every weekend in the mountains so far this year. I've done Elbert and Quandary, skied Torrey's and Democrat, and got chased off of Keiner's on Long's by weather so far. If people are interested in those reports I'll post them though they're a few weeks old.

So, my friend and I got to the trailhead around 3:00pm on Saturday after driving out from Denver. We started the hike around 3:30 and with the ski gear, climbing, camping and some photography stuff, my pack was heavy but not unbearable. The first few miles are fairly mundane through the woods until we started getting some nice views, especially just after 4 miles when you get your first glimpse of Snowmass Mountain.
Headed up on the way in

As the trail continued on we encountered the series of beaver ponds which were very nice especially later on in the afternoon. The log jam crossing wasn't an issue for us and we pushed on. The hike starts to switchback and climb around the 7 mile mark and heads up to the lake. We got to the lake after 8 as the clouds were starting to light up for sunset. I really wanted to get some pictures but we also had to get camp setup and food going. I was able to get a few nice sunset pictures at the lake, we made dinner, filtered water and set up camp and crawled in our bags around 10.
Sunset at the lake

Snowmass peak, lake and creek at sunset

We woke up at about 12:30 and packed up for the hike. The plan was to climb under the supermoon and be on top for sunrise. Well, the hike around the lake was kind of slow going as all of those thick bushes kept grabbing at my skis. Then the climb up the scree/boulder field was a nightmare. We were just to left of the stream as the route would suggest but it was very challenging and treacherous. Thankfully there was nobody under us at this hour!
Supermoon lights up snowmass peak and lake

We got to the snowfield at around 3:30 or 4, pretty tired and ready for some water and some food. It was pretty chilly at that point but it was cool being under such a bright moon. We put on our crampons and started pushing up the snowfield. This was my friend's first 14er so we were moving pretty slowly the higher we got. The sun came up as were at about 13,500 ft up on the snowfield. It was so cool to see it from such a high area as well as to be on the snow as it was basked in that alpenglow.

Hiking up the snowfield at sunrise

We stayed on the snowfield longer than the route suggests and gained the ridge just to the left (south) of the summit. This bit was quite steep but we made it up there and hung out on that flat spot for a bit. At this point, my friend decided he wasn't comfortable with the class 3 scrambling to the ridge so he glissaded back down a bit to a flatter spot in the snowfield to rest and wait for me.
I dropped my skis and climbed the ridge to the summit. On the way up I stayed high on the ridge was pretty exhilarating.
Summit shot

On the way back I stayed below the ridge where there was a bit more of a trail. I got back to my skis, clipped them on and dropped into the snowfield. The first few turns were pretty steep but a lot of fun.
Dropping in to ski

I skied to my buddy and helped him get the hang of glissading then we took off via our various methods of descent. The skiing was ok on the snowfield as the sun had definitely done it's work on the snow surface. I was able to make it down just to the left (skier's left) of the top of the scree field before having to dismount and take off my skis.
End of the snow

We went back down the boulder field, not any more fun in the light than dark. By the time I got back to camp I had just about hit the wall. It was a little before noon and I was just smoked. I drank a ton of water, had some food and we both took a nap for about 45 min.
We then packed up our camp and started the slog back to the cars.
Headed out

At this point, the pack with all that gear was brutally heavy!! The last 4 miles I was in head down, black out the pain, ironman mode. My feet, shoulders and back were killing me. We made it back to the car around 6 and made our way into Aspen for dinner before heading back to Denver.
The hike out was brutal but it was still a great trip! That was my first 14er in the Elk Range and it was definitely a beauty! It was my 5th 14er since coming out over Memorial Day and 3rd ski descent. I'm having a great time and am pretty fired up to be a member of this great community. I look forward to your feedback on this trip report and hopefully seeing out on the peaks!


I made a video of the trip. Check it out and make sure you watch in HD!!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

06/27/2013 05:21
Dude, nice photos!

Heading up the snowfield at sunrise - sweet!!

Cool that you guys were able to work it out to where you were still able to get the summit and hook back up safely.

Kudos to both of you for a safe, exhilarating trip. I look forward to more fine reports!


06/27/2013 12:29
We definitely had a great time up on that mountain! And I didn't mention in report how beautiful that lake is with so many big fish. Next time I'm going to hike up and just chill at the lake and fish for a while


Skiing under the moon...
06/27/2013 13:34
... in the Elks. Fabulous! Burly trip too. Love the sunset/sunrise/moonlight pics.


Hello Ironman
06/27/2013 14:11
Nice to meet you in the parking lot, on the mountain, and back beside the lake. I do not envy you carrying that heavy pack up and down that trail.

Awesome pics, what kind of camera did you use to take them? I almost don't want to post my TR now after seeing all your gorgeous photos.



Nice first trip report.
06/27/2013 14:23
So you were the turns in the snow that I saw.

”The last 4 miles I was in head down, black out the pain, ironman mode. My feet, shoulders and back were killing me.”

I hear ya. Felt the same way packing out and I didn't even have skis on my pack.

Great pics and congrats on a nice summit and ski descent.


Nice work!
06/27/2013 14:40
Nice job on the first Elk. How were the suncups on skis? Was it soft enought to break through?


Nice pics
06/27/2013 15:01
Thank you for posting the trip report. My partner and I were thinking of climbing Snowmass this weekend and were wondering how much snow was up there. Also, those pictures are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.


Thanks for the feedback!
06/27/2013 15:22
Dan, great meeting you, too! I use a Canon 5D Mark II for my nice shots and the others are pics or screenshots from my new GoPro Hero 3 Black which takes surprisingly really high quality pics and video!
Ameristrat, the sun cups were pretty big and even though the sun softened them up as the morning went on, they weren't a ton of fun. I tried to traverse over to steeper lines to avoid them when I could.


Nice Trip Under Special Conditions -- 2 lights
06/27/2013 16:46
Thanks for the report. At sunrise what was the snow condition on the snowfield? Did you need crampons and/or snowshoes? Postholing? I will make this ascent on 5 July. I want to plan ahead. Thanks. Vort.


Hey Vort
06/27/2013 17:03
The snow softened considerably as the day went on but still didn't worry too much about postholing. I think crampons were pretty important as the snow was pretty hard before and at sunrise. But if you start a little bit later you might be ok without. The way we gained the ridge was very steep so crampons and an axe were crucial. I can't speak to the standard way of gaining the ridge further to the left of the summit.


Awesome pics!!!
06/27/2013 19:42
What camera/lense did you use on your Snowmass trip? Did you use any filter? Great shots!!!


Amazing photography and great TR report
06/27/2013 20:22
Love shots 2,3,4,5..well ok all of them! Nice write up. Congrats


Cameras used
06/27/2013 20:34
I used a 5D Mark II with a 24-105L and 17-40L. I think the above shots were with the latter. Except for the nighttime shot I usually have a polarizer on there. I wanted to use a grad ND filter for sunset but without a good tripod I couldn't handhold it and I didn't bring the filter holder. For sunrise and sunset, i bracketed the exposures and merged in Lightroom. The other shots were taken with my new GoPro Hero 3 Black. It takes shockingly good video and pics!! Since this is probably the last trip of the year carrying skis, will start bringing my nice tripod and more lens options.
Thanks for all of the kind feedback!


Well Done!
06/28/2013 15:36
As if hiking 14ers wasn't hard enough, now you throw in skis and all that extra gear - phew! Looks like the downhill was worth it - well done and great pics to boot.


Awesome pictures !
06/29/2013 00:52
Love the sunset shot at Snowmass Lake ! I passed you on your hike in to the lake. I was coming down after summitting Saturday when you were hiking in. Thanks for sharing your photos.....impressive !


Holy Cow
06/29/2013 22:20
-nice photos.

Keiners TR? Yes please.


Hey Alpine
06/29/2013 23:43
Kiener's TR is here...

I backdated so it didn't bump to the front of the new reports.


Wow, way to get your first Elk summit
07/02/2013 12:33
how did you line up that summit photo?

It looks like you are taking the shot off your ski pole with a time delay

I saved those sunset shots for this weeks screen saver, superb

enjoyed living vicariously through your trip report
those first few turns look hairy
how long did it take before your friend met up with you after his glissade?


Hey Tom
07/02/2013 18:51
I took the summit shots with my GoPro mounted on my ski pole. The camera came with a remote so I was using that. I'll also sometimes take screenshots from GoPro video that has decent quality.

My friend had a head start since he didn't go all the way to the summit. And I'd wait for him after skiing a bit so he could catch up. After a while though I pushed on ahead and ended up waiting maybe 10-15 minutes for him. Not too bad.


Sublime Photos!
06/18/2015 16:52
Some of the best shots I’ve seen for this peak! Nice eye. Did you cross the stream at the top of the scree field or stay left? I know it was a couple years ago but hopefully you remember.


Re: Young...
06/18/2015 22:11
If I remember correctly we stayed left of the stream. I think....

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