Grays Peak - 14,270 feet
Torreys Peak - 14,267 feet
Snowmass Mountain - 14,092 feet
Grays Peak - 14,270 feet
Torreys Peak - 14,267 feet
Snowmass Mountain - 14,092 feet
|Late June Snow Climb|
Late June Snow Climb
All the trip reports I am writing for the summer is simply a byproduct of my thoughts, reactions, and experiences from my summer mountaineering project of climbing the 58 CO 14ers before I head back to CU in August. I hope that these trip reports help me to learn from mistakes, to document my experiences as beta for others, and to help me to think and become a better person and mountaineer. Thank you for reading and for your support!
25/58 in 2020
^^A Pano (not even the entire pano though) from the summit.^^
This trip turned out to be one of my favorite trips of the whole summer. Snowmass Mountain is an extremely underrated peak. The Maroon peaks and Capitol Peak gets a disproportionate amount of hype, because they are more accessible/harder to climb. Let me tell you, though, that Snowmass Mountain has it all: awesome approach, one of the most beautiful places to camp in all of Colorado (in my opinion) at Snowmass Lake, a fantastic beginner snow climb, a great bushwack around the lake, and some fun class 3 scrambling at the very top, and some very pretty views of the surrounding Maroon Bells Wilderness Area. All in all, it is highly undervalued by those interested in high peaks only because it is neighbored by other flawless peaks. The Elk range will never disappoint the avid explorer.
I left on Friday from my house in Erie, caravaning (is that even a word?) with a neighbor who had never done a 14er before. I was taking her up Greys and Torries that day, and knew that she would not be challenged very much since she was a trail-runner. She simply wanted me to show her the ropes of basic high altitude hiking, since by this point in my project, I had climbed more than 20 14ers already in 2020. She needed to learn about the logistics and challenges of this type of hiking, and I was glad to show her.
We got to the trailhead after successfully navigating through the 'infamous trench' along the road up to the Greys-Torries trailhead. When we set off, I was pleasantly surprised with how quick we were all able to move. My neighbor had brought along 2 of her trail-running friends, and while I have dabbled a tiny bit in trail running, I was mostly in shape from running track and cross country in high school and doing a ton of 14ers in the last couple months. We were all roughly going the same pace, and I was only slightly slower than my pace would've been had I been solo.
We were making good time, passing lots of people on the way up. I was getting jealous of a couple skiers who were hiking up and whom we passed. I got even more jealous when I saw 3 more skiers bootpacking up Dead Dog, which was still totally full of snow. I am now going to make more of an effort in future years to continue getting turns through the summer, because I saw how fun the skiing would be at this time of year: the snow can be in great condition and stable, the approach isn't dominated by skinning and you simply have to walk to the base of the peak, you don't have to wear nearly as much warm clothes since it's summer, and you sometimes have more people in the area watching you in case an accident happens than in deep winter. I will be back for you, Dead Dog.
It didn't take long to summit Greys. It was a lovely hike up, and felt immensely easy for me. I was pretty well acclimatized at this point in my hiking season, but my 3 climbing partners were breathing pretty hard. They all enjoyed it though!
We hopped on over and summited Torries in less than an hour, and set off back to the cars.
At the time of writing this report, I have climbed 57 of the 14ers ever (56 in 2020). Oftentimes, there is a stretch when trying to get back to the car when you're like, 'Where the f*ck is the car?!? I'm sooooo ready to be done with this hike!' This phenomenon on Greys-Torries is one of the worst of all the peaks. The segment between the upper basin and the parking lot seems to truly go on forever, never stopping. For some reason, I feel like this is one of the worst peaks for this phenomenon.
It took us 5 hours 9 minutes to complete this climb, car to car. Not bad for a 14er virgin!
I drove out to near Aspen later that day and met up with my family who were glamping near Basalt for the weekend with some family friends. It felt weird being kind of a dirtbag who had been camping an average of like 4-5 nights a week for 2 months suddenly going glamping with a bunch of city slickers. Glamping was nice, don't get me wrong, but I still prefer suffer camping over glamping. It's way more of a valuable experience, in my mind, because it really makes you appreciate everything a lot more and simply have more gratefulness in your life. Just my preference, though.
The next afternoon, I met up with Alec (CaptCO). Here's our plan: backpack up the 8 miles from the Snowmass Creek trailhead to Snowmass Lake and camp for the night. Wake up semi-early the next morning, go summit Snowmass Mountain, then come back to the lake and pack up camp. Backpack back down to the trailhead and drive home.
We began backpacking from the parking lot at around 5 pm with like 8 miles and 2900 ft of gain ahead of us to where we would set up camp at Snowmass Lake. We made it up to the lake at about 8-8:30, which was fairly quick I feel, considering we actually had quite a bit of weight on our backs with the camping gear, food, and ice axe and crampons.
The log jam wasn't really that difficult to find, nor was it that hard to cross. The pictures both here and other places I've found were making it look rather difficult of a crossing, but there were plenty of trees that were like 2 ft in diameter and were easy to walk across, and nearly all of them were sort of locked in place and weren't rolling or really moving in any way. You just gotta not rush across it and it'll be easy to cross.
We got up to camp, set up the tent, then I went to filter some water. About 7 minutes after we arrived at camp, a thunderstorm rolled in, shrouded Snowmass behind the clouds, and suddenly started downpouring and thundering. That fairly common Colorado afternoon/evening thunderstorm had hit, and we were super lucky that we had set up the tent only a couple minutes before the rain came out of nowhere.
Since it was 3 miles from here to the summit, we decided that we didn't need a super early start time the next day. We got up at 5, ate some food, and relaxed for like 10 minutes, enjoying the views of the spectacular location we were in.
We started hiking at about 6:15 AM, making our way around the lake. We managed to follow the trail for a little bit, but lost it not too far around the lake. We essentially stayed almost right next to the lake the whole around, dealing with extreme mud from the storm the previous night and doing some bushwacking through 7-8 ft tall willows. This was probably the slowest part of the whole trip. It took us nearly an hour to make it a half mile to the other side of the lake.
After we made it around the lake, we now had the worst, loosest, steepest scree/talus field of all time to climb in order to get over the headwall. It took us a long time to make it past this obstacle because we were hurting a bit from the hike up the day before.
A long grind later, we finally came into view of the upper basin of Snowmass Mountain. It was still mostly filled with snow, and should be much easier to climb than the scree field was. We got to the lower edge of the snow, put our crampons on and got out our axes, and began the snow-portion of the climb.
There was a moment when we were hiking up a small section that was a bit steep, and a group of 4 people who were descending down the mountain, who were traversing along the slope above us, decided to glissade down. They came straight towards us! No warning, no communication from them, nothing. Alec and I had to jump out of the way since they were coming right for us and decided to not tell us they were gonna glissade right where we were. Just a little rant. Sorry.
Anyways, we made it to the base of the notch variation, where the snow runs all the way up to a notch on the ridge, and there is a cornice perched above near-vertical snow. We chose this variation rather than the standard variation because it was harder and would be more fun to climb. Word has it that you can either go straight over/through the cornice, or you can go to the right around it for an easier way through this section.
I was first up, so I went straight over it. I cut out a small part of the cornice and hoisted myself up over the edge to safety. Alec followed. We took off our crampons here, and knew that we only had a tiny bit left to the summit, so we didn't stop for long. This was the crux of the whole route, and it was very worth it! Excellent snow climb for any beginner.
After a short class 3 scramble to the summit, we had done it! My first peak in the Elks! It is truly one of the most beautiful peaks in Colorado.
Risk is for managing, not for chance.
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