Peak(s):  Hagerman Pk  -  13,841 feet
Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  07/22/2019
Date Climbed:   07/19/2019
Author:  WildWanderer
 Traverse  

Hagerman Peak 13,841 & Snowmass Mountain 14,092

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RT Length: 15.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 6211’

After my failed attempt last week I decided to do more research and try Hagerman again today. I learned the upper road to Lead King Basin had an avalanche about 1 mile after the stream crossing (very close to where I’d parked) so I decided to take the lower road from Marble to Crystal instead. I’d heard a lot of conflicting reports on this road, but when I searched it online I found this video, which was very helpful.

Marble to Crystal :

The road itself wasn’t that difficult with a 4WD (I wouldn’t attempt in a 2WD), and my Tundra handled it just fine. The only problems I can foresee would be passing other vehicles. Luckily there are a lot of small turnout areas on this road, especially before and after the committing areas. I drove in at night to ensure I wouldn’t need to pass oncoming vehicles, which I knew would be problematic in my big truck, no matter the size of the other vehicle.

Since I drove in when it was dark I wasn’t able to see the Crystal Mill, but I expected to see it on my way out the next day.

I made it to Crystal around 10pm on a Thursday night and all the lights in the ‘city’ were out. As I passed the Crystal Mill I saw a sign saying Lead King Basin was closed, so I dimmed my lights and parked at the east end of town, mentally calculating the extra mileage and what time I needed to start in the morning. Looks like I was getting about 3.5 hours of sleep.

As I was preparing to go to bed (my lights were out) I saw the lights go on in the second story windows of a cabin across the street. The two story 18th century style wood cabin had two tiny windows upstairs, covered in lace curtains. The light from the windows was glowing pale blue, and I saw the silhouette of a woman walking around. She was wearing a long nightgown and her hair was pinned up in a bun. The woman slowly walked around the room, picking up objects and setting them back down. Then the lights went out.

I set my alarm for 2am. When I woke up I crawled from the back seat into my front seat and started putting on my shoes. I didn’t need to turn on any lights because the full moon was shining bright enough to allow me to see. I saw a fox run down the center of the road, and then noticed the lights in the second story window of the house across the street turn on. Once again I saw the silhouette of a woman walking around. She was wearing a long nightgown and her hair was pinned up in a bun. She slowly walked around the room, picking up objects and setting them back down. Then the lights went out.

Whoa. That was spooky. I knew I hadn’t woken her up because I hadn’t made any noise, opened any doors, turned on any lights, etc. I was going to have to investigate that house in the daylight upon my return because that was just… weird. I mean, what are the chances she was up at 10pm and 2am, just like I was? Also, how many women still wear nightgowns to bed?

Ok, so I was on the trail at 2:15am. It was a 2 mile hike to Lead King Basin along a 4WD road that didn’t offer many turnouts, but was indeed open and my truck could have made it just fine to the trailhead. Oh well, I was getting in 4 extra miles today.

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The trailhead was about 2 miles from Crystal. I didn’t see any of this in the dark (these signs seriously need reflective elements to them for us who start before daylight).

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There’s a nice junction where you turn left to head up and around the north end of Lead King Basin to Geneva Lake

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Here the trail was quite overgrown with flowers, plants, and trees. I thought to myself how it felt a little like being in a rainforest, and how much fun the flowered areas would be on my way back (I’m not a fan of flying-stinging insects, so I was being sarcastic). On the positive side: no mosquitoes!

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It was in this area I saw my first ever porcupine on the trail. I see them along the side of the road when I’m driving to trailheads quite a bit, and one time I heard one under my truck at the Grizzly Gulch trailhead and had to fend it off in the middle of the night, but this was the first one I’d encountered on the trail.

He was just sitting there, staring at me. So I talked to him to get him to move. He turned around and waddled ahead of me, staying directly in the middle of the trail. I didn’t really want to follow a porcupine to the lake, so I talked a little louder to him. He scurried into the bushes and I immediately realized the error of my ways: now I couldn’t see him and didn’t know where he was. I didn’t want to experience porcupine quills and all that entails, so I nicely talked to the porcupine in a sing-song voice as I passed where I’d last seen him, crossing my fingers I hadn’t made him mad/scared and that he wasn’t sitting in the bushes: poised to shoot.

Mission “pass the porcupine” accomplished I continued on to the lake. The moon was full and bright so I conserved flashlight battery and hiked by the moonlight. Just as I made it to the lake I heard a faint barking in the distance. I was worried there was a lost dog out there somewhere (hey, it’s happened) but as I rounded the bend to the lake the barking got louder, and then I saw a flashlight turn on. The owner was pointing the flashlight in the direction opposite of me, and the dog was starting to bark really loud. I yelled up at them “It’s just a hiker!” I received no response, but the dog stopped barking and the flashlight turned off. It was about 4:45am. I immediately felt more secure hiking in the dark: I was pretty sure there wasn’t another animal in the area, as that dog would have been alerted to it.

Just north of the lake the trail continues north and then there’s a stream crossing. There were tons of areas to cross here, and all required taking off my shoes. At times the water was knee deep (I’m 5’4”), but mostly it was just high on my shins. Also, it was cold. When I was done my water shoes were quite muddy so I left them on a rock to dry and to pick up later.

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This is where my trip report diverges from some of the more popular field guides. I took the 1st west side gully to the southwest ridge.

I crossed the creek and headed north for about 100 yards, looking for a gully to my right (west gully). I’d seen pictures of the access gullies on the east that were still full of snow, so by taking the west side I was hoping to avoid any snow filled gullies. I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s the gully I took:

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This gully was steep and loose. I did not feel comfortable sticking to the scree in the middle, so I stuck to the right side where the rocks were larger.

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My goal was to gain the ridge as quickly as possible, aiming for this small saddle

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Here’s looking back on the route

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From the small saddle you can see Hagerman Peak

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I turned left (north) and faced a class 3 section and headed up and over the ridge.

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At the top of this point I could see the rest of the route before me

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It’s important to note if you’re attempting this ridge to start early and make sure you have a large weather window. This ridge is very committing. I went at it slowly and carefully. The rocks here crumble: I’d find a hand hold, grip, and the rock would crumble in my hands. I had to make sure to test out each hold several times before using it to secure myself. Luckily, the ridge was snow free.

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This is definitely a ridge you take by… sticking to the ridge. I was able to go directly up and over most areas, dipping to the left or right just a couple of times. As I ascended the rocks stopped crumbling and started tipping a bit (nothing fell, but not much was stable). Here’s the final push to the summit.

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I made it to the summit at 9:10am

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Hagerman

I started the ridge at 7:15am and ended at 9:10am, making this a 2 hour ridge to cross. Here’s looking back at the route

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The day was absolutely beautiful and it was still early morning so I considered traversing over to nearby 14er Snowmass Mountain. I’d done a lot of research and came up pretty empty with details, but I knew it could be done. I spent quite a bit of time looking around at possible paths before deciding if I was going to attempt traversing or not. I looked at Snowmass Mountain’s east side: nope, that was a no go. Tons of snow and no way I could see to begin from the summit. Next I looked to the left (west). A lot less snow but the shadows weren’t helping much.

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I stopped and did a lot of thinking here. I knew the traverse was possible. The rock looked loose, but I could also see goat trails (or maybe those were gullies…). I was confident I could find traction in the dirt. I mentally calculated how much time I had, the weather, and looked for exit strategies in case I got to a place where I couldn’t continue. I decided both time and weather were in my favor today so I decided to go for it.

Note: This may not be the safest way to traverse from Hagerman to 14er Snowmass Mountain. For me and my abilities, it was the safest way on this particular day.

The first move committed me to the traverse: I down climbed about 50 feet of… this. I’m not sure I could have climbed back up this wall. (Ok, I could have or I wouldn’t have climbed down, but it would have been a lot of work).

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I turned and looked towards Snowmass Mountain. This is what I saw. So I headed northeast and rounded the corner.

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I was taking this one section at a time, focusing on what was directly in front of me but glancing up at the rest of the route every so often to make sure I was on course. I found myself trying to stick to the ridge, but that is not the way to do this traverse: you need to drop down much lower than you want to. Every time I tried to regain elevation I was forced to head back down.

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My advice is to descend lower than the saddle, and then take the scree line up to where the trail connects with the east route. The best terrain was consistently 100-200 feet below the ridge.

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Once you connect with the ridge where the east route links up you can easily follow the cairns to the summit.

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This was a very slow climb. Everything was loose and what wasn’t loose was scree. I took extra time to be careful with each and every step, and kept the entire route in view as often as possible. I most likely made this take longer than necessary, but I stayed safe. I made it to the summit of Snowmass Mountain at 12:50pm, making this a traverse that took over 3.5 hours to complete. Here’s looking back at the route

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Summit photo

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Summit Video

I spent a lot of time on this bluebird day taking pictures. It’s harder than you think to set an automatic timer and then scramble up to the summit block. It took a few tries… and the ones that actually turned out were fuzzy, so I gave up.

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After spending much more time on the summit than necessary I needed to make the decision of how I was going to head back down. I’d been hoping, similar to the west side of Hagerman, that the west side of Snowmass Mountain would be free from snow. No such luck. There was still snow in the gullies.

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I did not want to do the traverse back to Hagerman because that and another 3 hour traverse would have been exhausting. I could tell the gullies on the west side of Snowmass Mountain ended/cliffed out in a waterfall area, but I could also see bare rock I could traverse either north or south to connect up where I needed to be. I decided to head down Snowmass Mountain’s west side, but for safety I would slightly alter the traditional route. It was too late in the day to safely take the gullies, so I was going to take the rock rib that wasn’t a rib but a bunch of loose rock that bulged from the mountainside. Here’s the route I took

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Do not let these photos fool you: this is where I encountered the loosest rock of the day. These rocks are the size of refrigerators and tables. Every 3rd rock would tip, and I would think to myself: “That’s a lot of rock to tip!” Luckily not one rock actually tipped/fell/tumbled/caused a rock slide.

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This was a very slow process but eventually I made it to the waterfall area. My feet were starting to hurt at this point from all the rock work.

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The snow ended just at the waterfall and surprisingly I crossed the waterfall pretty easily here and headed down. I made it down to this area at 3:30pm.

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The snow started up again after the waterfalls

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From here I looked down at the basin, and unfortunately there was a lot of snow covering the trail I was supposed to take back to Geneva Lake. That snow was going to be several feet of mush at this time of day so I decided to traverse south along the mountainside, looking for a safer route down.

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I made it here and unfortunately cliffed out yet again... but I could see where I needed to be: That goat trail should get me down.

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After searching around for a bit I was able to find a way off this spot by circling the area to the north and down the small cliff

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From here I followed the goat trail that went down a forested gully and came out ready to exit and head towards Geneva Lake.

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The area through the trees to the stream crossing was wet.

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At the stream crossing I reconnected with my water shoes. They were now dry but had been scattered and were now no longer sitting on the rock together but in the grass a few feet apart. I changed out of my shoes into my water shoes and crossed the creek

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I’m ashamed to say the creek ate my water shoes. Seriously. The banks were quite muddy and during the last two steps my water shoes got sucked off my feet and into the muck. I spent 20 minutes trying to dig them out with my ice axe, but no dice. I couldn’t find them. They were buried in the banks of the stream. Ugh. From here I sat and put on my shoes and new, dry socks. I looked back at the route I’d taken to Hagerman.

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My feet were hurting, and I still had 4 miles to go. Time to hit the trail. I skirted the lake and headed back towards Lead King Basin.

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One great part of this hike was being able to see the waterfalls. And, since it was so late in the day: no bees!

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At the base of the waterfalls the trail was running with quite a bit of water.

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In the daylight I could see the upper 4WD trail to Lead King Basin

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This is where my feet really started burning. I was surprised, since I’ve done more challenging hikes with greater mileage/elevation gain than this one, yet my feet were very sore. I made it past the Lead King Basin trailhead as the sun set and each step I took hurt more than the last. I wanted to cry. I’ve never felt foot pain like this. Also, I’d been hoping to stop in Carbondale tonight to get Subway for dinner, but it looked like I wasn’t going to make it back in time for that to happen.

It seemed as if it were taking forever to reach Crystal. I eventually came across a sign that said “Private Property next 2.5 miles” and mentally freaked out for a second. There was NO WAY it was 2.5 miles to Crystal! Not only could I physically not make it 2.5 more miles (My feet! My feet!!!) but I was pretty sure it had been 2 miles to the upper trailhead. Had I been wrong and it’d been 4? Ugh, I needed rest and I needed calories because my mind was playing tricks on me. Luckily it was only half a mile past that sign to the town of Crystal. I finished this hike at 8:45pm, making this a 15.5 mile hike/climb with 6211’ in elevation gain in 18.5 hours.

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Read on for gross feet pictures and segue into the next hike…

I limped to my truck and sat down by a small access creek about 1 foot wide on the side of the road. I took off my shoes and gasped: Yuck! My feet had never looked like that before! The heels and pads were completely swollen and red/gray, and very painful to the touch (no blisters though). I decided to wash them off in the water. I placed them both in at the same time and immediately felt relief, and then 2 seconds later started screaming because they started burning as if I’d placed them into a pot of boiling water. My feet turned bright red and were rendered useless. Seriously.

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I couldn’t walk the 5 feet to my truck so I sat there for half an hour in the wet creek bank and thought about what I was going to do. I was supposed to drive to the next trailhead for my hike tomorrow, but doing the math if I left now I would get there and only have 1 hour to sleep before starting again. This hike had taken much longer than anticipated. I’d only had 3 hours of sleep last night so it was a bad idea to try to drive and then hike at this point. Also… my feet. I wasn’t sure they’d function tomorrow. They needed time to dry out. But long distance runners/thru hikers have this stuff happen, right? They just tape them up and hike/run anyway. I decided I was really, really tired and should sleep before attempting anything. I’d adjust my schedule as needed.

I had pain killers but decided not to take them: I wanted to be sure of an accurate pain level when I woke up so I could plan my day accordingly. Unfortunately, I never really made it to bed. I crawled into the cab of my truck, thankful I hadn’t rolled up my sleeping bag this morning. I tried to nap but even though I was exhausted I couldn’t get myself to fall asleep. After 2 hours I gave up and decided to drive home, with the added bonus of doing so in the dark late at night so I most likely wouldn’t need to pass anyone on the shelf road out. My feet had dried out a bit and were raw but less sore. They still overreacted every time I tried to use them. My right foot was healthier than my left; I couldn’t press down on the pedal very hard, so I drove slowly, but I made it.

Oh, and since I’d returned in the dark I never got to see the Crystal Mill, or get a good look at that old house with the lady in the windows…




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
I Man

Cool looking route!
07/22/2019 13:48
I've always wanted to do this one, but after the events of summer 2012, I stayed away.

One thing I noticed was you said you didn't want to climb back up what you had down-climbed, which is the opposite of what you should be thinking.

Climbing down is harder than climbing up. Do not climb up what you cannot get down (i.e. down climb unroped or have a rope to rappel). Saying the opposite makes no sense.

Either way, nice report and nice effort


WildWanderer

Absolutely!
07/22/2019 13:52
I knew I could climb back up, I just didn't want to Thank you!


TomPierce
Questions and a comment...
07/22/2019 15:36
Hey Laura,

Nice report. The stats, wow...big day. Questions:
1) Why did you see the need to document the summit so carefully, like 4 photos?!? I'm baffled...;-) Kidding. Again, great job on a big day!
2) A more sincere question: What was up with the lady in the nightgown? Was that mystery ever solved? Maybe I'll start a new list on Lists of John: "Haunted 14er Summits." Ha!

Comment: I do some river running, and empathize with losing your water shoes. I've come close myself in knee-deep Yampa and Colorado river muck. Crocs are OK for the easy mud and stream crossing sections usually found in the alpine, but strapped sandals (e.g. heel strap and one over the instep) are a bit heavier but the norm on a real river. They'll stay on the feet no matter how sticky the mud. Just an idea.

-Tom


WildWanderer

Tom...
07/22/2019 16:54
Thanks!

I'm not sure what was up with the lady in the nightgown? I'm going to need to visit the area again to see what the house looked like and if anyone lived there (and to actually see Crystal Mill). It looked like there were about 6 houses or so in the town. None of them had lights on but there were vehicles parked in driveways. I'm guessing they're summer rentals. It was kind of spooky though (and will eventually be made into a cool campfire story).

Great advice on the strapped sandals! I'll be looking into getting a pair in the near future


TomPierce
Lady of the Lost Sandals...
07/22/2019 17:26
I can see the text in my mind's eye: "Gather 'round children and hear the sad tale of Water Shoe Wanda, who rises every night to light a lamp to find her lost water shoes,,,"


Peak200

Great reports
07/22/2019 18:14
Nice job on all these trip reports
Like them all. Since I am also working on
The centennials they come in handy.
Itâs going to take me a little longer though🤣🤣🤣; Kids, business and life


seano
Well-written report
07/22/2019 18:45
I've had my feet look like that after they have been wet all day, most often in the North Cascades. I'm guessing yours got soaked by dew in the morning, then kept wet by snow during the day. Faster-drying shoes (i.e. trail runners, not leather hiking boots) and socks can help, as can a spare pair of dry socks to put on later in the day, but sometimes there's nothing to be done.


cottonmountaineering

save yo feet
07/22/2019 18:59
Congrats on the summits - i saw similar foot issues with some other hikers when doing the PCT. Make sure to take time to rest/heal, that injury can get infected and cause larger issues


Kevin Baker

traverse
07/22/2019 19:24
The traverse between Hagerman and Snowmass is just not worth the risk in my opinion. I can't speak from personal experience, but I went from Hagerman to Snowmass Peak and it was bad enough. A well known forum member perished in a rockslide on the traverse back in 2012 and one of his partners broke his leg. I also had a friend who pulled down a massive block on the ridge proper that almost took out his partner below. Most people who have done the traverse go Snowmass to Hagerman because it is easier to tread lightly on exposed choss climbing than descending. It's really a game of Russian Roulette on or skirting near that ridge. Please don't take anything in the Elks lightly. Glad it worked out for you, Laura.

2012 accident


WildWanderer

Thanks Everyone!
07/22/2019 20:04
Peak200: Thank you! Kids and family come first: the mountains will always be there, but as the kids get older family time won't. I cherish every minute I have with my kids (which is few and far between these days now that they're in college, etc.). I'd much rather be with them around a campfire than hiking on a mountain. Good luck with your goals!

Seano: Good advice! I struggle between staying warm enough and being too warm, especially with my feet. The amount of snow we have this late in the year is also throwing me off footwear wise. Luckily my feet healed rather quickly and I was off again. I consider it a learning experience "

Cottonmountaineering: yes, I think it's also a thru-hiking thing and caused by wet feet. I changed my socks but maybe next time I need to do it a few more times. I work my feet hard on the weekends, and totally baby them on the weekdays (foot soaks in salt baths, essential oils, etc). If my feet don't work I can't either!

Kevin: Wise words. Always stay safe, and don't attempt a peak if you don't feel it's within your abilities. The mountains deserve our respect, and don't allow room for mistakes. I spent a lot of time looking for exit points before even attempting this traverse, and was ready and had gear to spend the night if needed. I found on this route the higher I went up the worse the conditions became. Staying low gave me more stability. This is not an entry level traverse, and should be respected. It took me so long because I stopped frequently to check my course and triple checked every hand/foothold. I found all aspects of the Elks in this climb: rocks that break apart and crumble in your hands, huge boulders that tip and fall, scree that sends you sliding for yards, and rocks that cause large rockslides. Each move had to be anticipated and handled with care. I was glad it was just me (and wouldn't recommend this traverse to a party larger than 2-3).


RohanFam
Questions
07/22/2019 20:39
Hey Laura, was just curious about a few things:
1) Is the upper road to Lead King Basin still closed due to Avalanche or is it Open?
2) Would you be able to do the West Slope without Ice Axe and Crampons currently? I will bring them to be safe; but wondering if there is a good amount of snow that still needs to melt before attempting without proper winter Mountaineering Gear and if so how much snow pack was still left and what the snow conditions were like.
Thanks appreciate the info and good job on this trip report.


cottonmountaineering

feet care
07/22/2019 21:04
WW - red coloration on your skin can be a sign of infection, see a doctor for real medicine if your feet get infected
On essential oils - "Aromatherapy may be useful to induce relaxation, but there is not sufficient evidence that essential oils can effectively treat any condition.(3) "


WildWanderer

Answers?
07/23/2019 07:50
RohanFam: I'm pretty sure the upper road to Lead King Basin is still closed. I was told they don't plan on opening it this year. One site I like to use when checking out 4x4 roads is Bushducks (http://www.bushducks.com/tripreps/passopen.htm). It's a little rough and not as good as 14ers.com, but contains condition updates for a lot of Colorado 4x4 roads. Yes, you can do the West Slope of Snowmass without an ice axe and crampons, as long as you're not married to the traditional trail. There's still snow however, especially in the area between Little Gem Lake and Lake Geneva. It looks like it'll take a few weeks still to melt out. I'll email you some pictures of the concern areas.

cottonmountaineering: You're absolutely right, red skin can be a sign of infection. However, I have Raynaud's, and my feet change colors daily and can be red, white, and blue at any time. For me, red is the good color. I'd been experiencing a Raynaud's attack from the stream crossing which was causing the pain, and waterlogged feet as well. I like the smell of essential oils, which is mainly why I use them. Epsom salts work well too


Jvinro
The woman behind the window
07/23/2019 11:18
Simple explanation. I would add, likely an "old" woman and the explanation: a function of old age. Restless legs, leg cramps, these are painful, and can keep a person awake, and even force them to move around or get out of bed. As can back pain, joint pain, stomach gas, numbness of a shoulder from sleeping on it, or numbness of a hand; these things can cause pain and awaken, especially, an older person. Stretches can help, walking around can calm the legs; lifting things to look for an aspirin or something to relieve the gas. In the process, maybe just removing the empty tea cup from the nightstand, and taking it to the kitchen, and returning with a bottle of water. Then turning off the light and trying again to get some more sleep. Vegas odds would favor this. Vegas odds for a paranormal would be astronomical; no bookie would take the bet.


glenmiz

You are the undoubted leader
07/24/2019 07:49
in trail report foot pics.

As always, it's great to read your reports. Congrats on a challenging route. My son and I climbed West Slopes of Snowmass (sans Hagerman) and vividly remember those moving refrigerators.


ltlFish99
Excellent report
07/25/2019 00:16
Your report was great, and brought back fond memories from many years ago.

A hiking pal and I went up the snowmass east route from camp at the lake, traversed to Hagerman.
We then descended south to flat territory and went left which was east for a while.
At a break before heading north back to the lake around the east side of snowmass peak we had a nice treat as a full moon was rising right between the maroon bells.
Thanks for this and all of your trip reports.


crowdsurf

Careful...
07/26/2019 17:05
with the feet pics. You might attract some weirdos! JK. Oh wait there are already plenty here!

Seriously though. Wow. I did the S ridge on Snowmass last year and was in awe of how gnarly Hagerman looked. Definitely beyond my skill level. The west side of that mountain is a brute. I liked your description of the 3 types of Elk range rocks. Exactly how I remember it and good info for anyone going out in that direction.


mickknu16

Epic!
07/27/2019 10:06
Great report! Take care of those feet though.... Were you on Mt. Meeker yesterday?


WildWanderer

Thanks everyone!
07/29/2019 12:15
mickknu16: yes, I was on Meeker Friday


mickknu16

Knew it!
07/30/2019 18:37
Ha that's wild, thought you looked familiar while reading this. Saw you just off the summit... what a cool mountain. Have a great summer out there!


Fisching

A general word of caution
07/01/2020 21:28
Others have stated it, and I will do likewise: This traverse is not to be messed with. Just because other climbers have completed it previously, does not equate to "doable." The risk factor due to the nature of the rock is astronomical - and the problem is it's completely hidden. The durability of the rock is akin to a house of cards.

I cannot whole-heartedly state this enough: The traverse between Snowmass and Hagerman should not be attempted. It's just not worth it.

I sincerely hope that those looking for "beta" read this comment and take it seriously.



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