Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  07/24/2007
Modified:  08/26/2007
Date Climbed:   07/19/2007
Author:  PKR

 Screaming Scrambling Fun on Snowmass's S Ridge: Part 1  

Snowmass Mountain: 14,092ft.
Assent route: S Ridge from Lake Geneva
Descent route: West Face to Lake Geneva
Miles: 4.5
Elevation gain: 3,142ft.

Before I went on this climb I tried to do as much research as possible on this route (referring to my assent route up the S Ridge) and did not come up with a lot of results. This was going to be my third attempt on Snowmass and I wanted things to go well this time. In Gerry Roach's book he says 'Only the ridge's loose rock prevents it from being a classic climb.' My experience was somewhat different.

Due to the lack of beta on the S Ridge I decided to take a camera and a pen and pad and take some notes along the way so that I would be able to do a more accurate report. My report will focus mainly on my accent of the S Ridge and will be in two parts. This is because to do a through photo essay of the entire ridge route requires a few more than 15 photos. At the end of the first half of the report I will provide a link to the second half. I hope that this does not distract the end user from gaining any value from this report.

In my report I describe the ridge as having three sections. The first section is the lower part of the S Ridge (the bottom third of the S) that begins at a set of cliffs and climbs to a false summit that marks the end point at which the ridge nearly flattens out for about 280yds. The second section is the 280yds relatively flat terrain (the middle third of the S). The third section is the upper steep portion of the ridge that ends at the summit (the top third of the S). I hope that this is not all too confusing. Thanks for your patients and I hope you enjoy the report. As always any comments on how I might improve future reports will be considered and if useful will be appreciated. PM me with your thoughts.

We hiked up to Lake Geneva the night before our climb and found a vacant campsite on the shelf overlooking the lake. After setting up the tents and pumping the evenings water my climbing partner Greg and I went on a little recon mission. I have been in this basin several times in the past (fishing, hiking and one failed attempt on the west face) so I was somewhat familiar with the area but as yet was still unclear on the best route to climb up the west face to gain the ridge. I wanted to climb as much of the ridge as possible so getting on top of it at its southwestern most end was my goal. Upon closer observation it was clear that climbing the cliffs at the ridges southwestern end would take some trad climbing gear we did not have so we settled on the idea of exploring the possibilities in the area around the two gullies just north of the cliffs. It looked as though there might be some nice class 4 stuff to play on that would do the job, if not there was always the gullies themselves. We had a plan. We returned to camp and bedded down for the night.

We were on the trail the next morning at about 6:10 am. Upon leaving our camp (campsite #2) we walked north to the first trail junction where there is a small almost hidden sign on the left hand side of the trail pointing the way to campsite #4. This is a deceiving sign because this is also the trail to Little Gem Lake, the approach to the west face climb and Siberia Lake. The other trail will take you around the lake and eventually out of the basin altogether. Here we went left and up the hill towards campsite #4.


At the top of the hill near a group of trees to the right there is another trail junction with a sign pointing the way to campsite #4 hidden in the trees. This time we stayed on the main trail. As we continued up the trail passing by and trough more groups of trees we came to our first small stream crossing and the passed through a few more trees into a clearing where the view of our approach began to improve. From here you begin to be able to make out where the trail climbs out of the basin that Lake Geneva is in and on to the shelf that Little Gem Lake sits.


We passed through a few more trees and over another small stream crossing and began our climb out of the basin on a trail submerged in a hillside filled with stunning wild flowers. The flowers were just unbelievable (I wish I had room in this report to drop some flower photos on you but I don't). We climbed on to the shelf and down the trail about 200ft. to where our path broke away from the main trail. Unfortunately the talus fields that gave us access to the ridge's west face were on the other side of the valley so we were going to have to trample a little tundra and cross another stream to get there.


We broke away from the main trail to the right and began our decent into the valley below. As it worked out we found a small game trail to access the valley floor where we crossed the stream and began our climb up the talus field to the gullies above. As we drew closer to the two gullies at the southwestern most end of the ridge it became clear that the rock to climbers right in the second gully up from the cliffs would serve as a suitable climb up onto the ridges west face. We also had the option of climbing straight up both gullies but the rock looked more interesting.


As we began our climb we were pleasantly surprised to fined a nice mix of class 3 and 4 to stretch out on .The rock was stable with ample hand and footholds. I was beginning to wonder about Roach's description and its validity. Things were shaping up nicely.

In this trip report I have included several photos that have my climbing partner in them. I did this to give a little perspective on the actual scale of the terrain. In some he is more visible than others so I included arrows to help in interpreting what you are seeing in the photos. Let me know if it helps.


As we climbed up this all to short stretch of rock (about 150ft) we found ourselves in the midst of one of the nicest alpine rock and flower gardens I have ever seen. There were flowers of every kind popping out of cracks and crevasses everywhere, it was really something to see. When we came to the end of this stretch of rock climbing we were at the top end of the gully and about half way to the ridge. From here it was an easy scramble on stable terrain to the ridge top.


We gained the ridge just above the cliffs at about 12,500ft. and with a short scramble ridge top we were in the sunlight. I took a few moments here to enjoy the view.


Upon reaching the ridge I was happy to see that it was comprised mostly of large stable fun rock that invited scrambling. Granted there were the occasional loose teeter-totter boulders that one needed to be aware of, but for the most part this rock was amazingly stable considering that we were climbing in the Elks. Again I had to wonder what Roach was talking about. I started to look around and eventually discovered that if you moved off the ridge top and down about 40ft. to climbers left that the rock was indeed s*^t but you had to work to find it. There was no point in being down there, the scrambling would be difficult, there was no exposure and the view from there was not as good. I continued to move on enjoying myself.


A little over half way up the first section of the ridge (about 12.950ft.) a false summit that marks the end of this section of the ridge comes into view. Just below this point there was a very distinctive blade shaped rock that caught my eye sticking out of the top of the ridge.


As we climbed towards and then above this blade shaped rock the true summit of Snowmass came into view.


It was a short climb to the top of this section; from here we had a great view of our rout.


We rested here and had a snack.


A photo of a flower might have been better there.

If you wish to continue reading this trip report just follow this link below to Part 2.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

07/24/2007 19:05
Sorry I seem to be having trouble with the link


nice details
07/24/2007 21:22
I like the superimposed paths. Nice job.


Nice job!
07/29/2013 18:29
Nice job on this! Looked like it was a lot of fun!


07/25/2007 23:24
like the way you did the images on this TR. Do you have a tablet or was this done in something else? Very pretty lines.


Still the Best ”S”Ridge TR
01/24/2013 21:56
Man. After 5 years, you think someone would post a better TR. This it still the best out there. If only you had posted coordinates for my GPS. No sweat though. 6 years later, this summer, I will use this one to make the assault. Nice job. We need more detail like this.

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