Peak(s):  Hunter Pk  -  13,497 feet
Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Hagerman Pk  -  13,841 feet
Cathedral Pk A  -  13,943 feet
Treasure Mtn A  -  13,528 feet
Date Posted:  06/14/2021
Modified:  06/16/2021
Date Climbed:   05/23/2021
Author:  SnowAlien
Additional Members:   sstratta
 Spring Elk Hunting I   

Hunter peak

NE face ascent, SE face ski descent

Date: 04.11.21

Trailhead: Conundrum Creek
~14 miles, ~4,900 ft, ~12 hours

On my previous Elk hunting trip (in the Fall of 2019), I orphaned this peak. I actually had a chance to tag it on the last day before the hikeout, but the scree slopes didn't look inviting and I was out of food. As a usual case with Elks, I suspected this would be a skiable peak. I made some inquiries to Aspen locals, and it was confirmed that indeed it was, with multiple options in fact. It also had a nice benefit of being a great observation deck for Pyramid views. So I lured unsuspecting Sarah and Billy into skiing the peak with me (although they happen to be big Conundrum Creek fans and just were looking for an excuse for another skin in the area). The day was supposed to be very cold (high of 33F), but bluebird and sunny, so we had a fairly late start after 6am. I have soon learned that 33F in the Elks with no wind feels quite different from the Front Range high of 33F. The 4 mile approach took a while, and we had to navigate through at least one significant avy debris field (in addition to the old ones from 2019).

NE face comes into view
Booting up the NE face

After quick transition in the basin (skis went on the packs), we headed up the left side of the face with the goal to gain the ridge. The face almost immediately got steep. Snow was not entirely consolidated. The ridge we eventually gained didn't relent either. However, the snow was much more consolidated on the southern aspect (with lots of fresh avy debris from the previous wet avy cycle).

The remaining ridge (NE face to the right)
Climbing the ridge
Deep snow near the summit
Views of Landry line were sobering and the coverage looked to be one the thinner side

Since the snow didn't look consolidated on the NE aspect with a lot of rocky layers, we decided to descend the SE face, which looked continuous from the ridge. Well, it sort of was. Rather soon, however, we ran into some avy debris, as well as cliffs, so we had to traverse a few gullies (kinda similar to the East face on Castle) to find the exit. Our options were constricted by the prior avy activity.

Going south
Off the top
Approximate descent off the SE face

Although the line seemed a bit contrived, it was satisfying to see what the heck we came down, and the snow quality wasn't bad either (ripe corn). Obviously this line can only be skied in the most stable conditions. The rest of the low angle basin was pretty nice skiing as well. We were able to ski down all the way to the trailhead (minus the creek crossings).

Skiing out of the basin
Navigating avy debris on the way out
Skiout through the avy debris
View of Hunter and our lines a week later from Cathedral

Snowmass Mountain (14er)

Snowmass creek approach, East bowl ski

Date: 04.23-24.21

Trailhead: Snowmass Creek

Another cold and windy weekend (and post fresh snow) finds 3 of us + Justin slogging up the East Snowmass drainage. I skied Snowmass in winter from approximately 13k, but this time I am hoping to ski from the summit, with Hagerman as a bonus. After a struggle session post logjam in glopping snow and with iced over bindings, I fall behind, but eventually find the camp at the Snowmass lake. We settle in for the night with an early start.

Sarah in the training (aka beast) mode for bigger objectives
All too familiar East Snowmass creek drainage. As usual, I am bringing up the rear

Next morning, starting still in the dark, we skin across the lake and into the upper basin.

Cold and windy morning
Windslab problem rears its head

Our initial attempt to gain the ridge is foiled by the windslab and almost stops us. Not easily discouraged, I go and investigate another, gentler option and make it to the ridge without issues. The rest of the group quickly catches up to me and takes over.

Ridge views
Sarah negotiating the ridge
Now to get down
Traversing the upper face

I tried to keep the skis on as much as possible, and eventually made it to the spot on the ridge where the rest of the group skied from (nobody else was interested in summit ski descent acrobatics). The rest was a very nice descent in deep snow. We stayed another day in camp with the next day's goal being Hagerman.

Wind is picking up
Turns off the ridge
Out turns all the way down to the lake


South slopes ascent/descent via Trail Rider pass

Date: 04.25.21

Another cold and windy morning found me and Justin heading towards Trail Rider pass. We turned right and traversed to the base of the south slopes.

Approaching the south side of Hagerman
South slopes
A little higher
Near the summit
Justin on the summit with Snowmass behind

Wind slab was still an issue, but not as significant as on Snowmass. We were able to get a clean summit ski descent.

Me on the upper face
Justin shredding
Me half way down
Skiing with the views
More turns down to the lake

Cathedral peak

Dawson-Perlmutter Route, East Face

Date: 05.05.21

8 miles, ~4,000 ft

We still couldn't access the Cathedral TH due to the lingering snow, but the Ashcroft gate just opened and the hike from the road went quick.

Approaching the couloir
Looking down the choke
Topping out
Near the summit

Unfortunately, the forecast was wrong, and instead of "mostly sunny and little wind" morning, we got "mostly clowdy and windy" morning, so we were too early. We managed to wait at least 2 hours, but the snow finally warmed up.

Justin drops in
Steep, narrow and aesthetic


Start: Yule creek TH, Exit: Crystal/Marble

Date: 05.23.21

13 miles, ~5,000+ ft, ~12 hours

After skiing highly enjoyable Castle and Conundrum (in powder!) the day before, I was convinced that we could find powder on Treasure's north slopes. It looked absolutely caked from Hagerman a month ago. Sarah was up for another sufferfest for the sake of training, which was nice. After debating which route to take, we decided on a car shuttle - leave one car in Marble and start from Yule creek. South slopes had a little less vertical to ascend, and that didn't even factor in the epic Crystal river crossing. With the great freeze and a north facing line we decided on a more reasonable post 6am start time. It didn't feel like we were making much progress in the first few miles. There was a lot of postholing in the trees, and we briefly got off-route. Then the trail got dry, went downhill and we had to do a pretty significant river crossing (although it had nothing on the Crystal river crossing on the other side). After a few miles of bushwhacking, as well as navigating over avy debris fields and a few minor creek crossings, we were finally under the base of the route, with just over 3,000 ft still to go. Whew! The views of Rugged 12ers were very nice and intimidating at the same time. Since the south slopes looked dry, we transitioned back to the trailrunners and started hiking up in the direction of Yule lakes.

First spring flowers starting to bloom, and 12ers are seen on the approach
Sarah's shot - focus on the flower
Yule creek crossing
Getting closer
Dry south slopes
12ers as seen from above Yule lakes
Approaching the summit
Summit views

Just before the Yule lakes we were able to switch back to skinning, once the snow became continuous. After 7 hours from the start, I made the summit (with Sarah a bit ahead of me). Along with spectacular views of the Elks, we ran into an unforeseen issue - cornices! They wrapped around the entire summit area, so we couldn't even see the line we hoped to ski. After studying some contour lines on CalTopo, I suggested we go down the ridge and see if we could make it into the Bear basin drainage. It also became clear very quickly that there will be no powder on the descent, another letdown. It was strange that just a day before we would be skiing cold powder on the east faces, and a day later it will be a refrozen corn on a northern aspect.

Initial descent down the ridge
Looking back at the massive cornices blocking the access to the north face
Initial descent into Bear basin
Looking back at the wraparound cornice and cliffs. I guess we picked the doable line!
view from the treeline
Below 10,000 ft we ran out of snow

The biggest surprise was awaiting us at the bottom. Another reason for us to visit the Bear basin was to swing by the Crystal Mill. Sarah hasn't been there, and it's been several years for me. So once we ran out of snow, we put our skis on the packs and started hiking down a logging road towards the river. We saw some people and approached them with a question about the river crossing. Well, turns out we ran into the owner himself and we were on his private property! He was nice enough to escort us from his property and gave us a hand in crossing the raging Crystal river. While the Mill is in conservation trust, it is still on private land which has been owned by the same family for the last 150+ years. After profusely apologizing for intrusion and promptly exiting the gates, we went to see the Crystal Mill from the legal side.

Private property
No access to Bear basin
What a treasure
Hiking out

After the tour of the Mill, we were hoping to catch a ride to Marble, but the timing didn't work out. We were finally offered a ride when we were less than a mile from the car. One of the few things we did correctly that day was to bring our trailrunners for the hike out :)

To be continued...

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Comments or Questions

Thug Life
06/16/2021 10:35
"I made some injuries to the Aspen locals" - Please don't - we are just people too!
Jokes aside - nice TR! Riding Hunter was one of my most gratifying days in the hills yet.


06/16/2021 15:58
I better fix the typos. Yeah, NE face of Hunter wasn't in the cards that day, but the SE face provided fun skiing too. If I forget about the approach, I may go back for more!


Very nice!
06/25/2021 18:03
Looks like a great day and great photography. Makes me want to be there.

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