Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Hagerman Pk  -  13,841 feet
Pyramid Peak  -  14,018 feet
Date Posted:  08/12/2007
Modified:  07/28/2008
Date Climbed:   08/12/2007
Author:  lordhelmut
 What a weekend  

After climbing the NW ridge route on Pyramid friday, finally getting it done after all the bad weather that turned us back throughout the summer, I regrouped in Aspen and then was on my way to Lead King Basin. This was my first time and I really didn't know what to expect, but here's on idea of my introduction :

This ws along the drive in looking back @ Marble. And then....

This was my view of Snowmass and Hagerman a little ways before the Crystal TH, not too shabby.

I downed a few Beck's in the parking lot w/ a guy who had just finished Snowmass, studied up on both routes, since I was more concerned with the descent of Hagerman than anything else, and then hit the sack around 10pm. The alarm clock went off @ 3:30 but I didn't hit the trail till 4:30am, was just feelin so lazy. The hike to the lake was amazing, got a nice view of the backside of the bells, a first for me and before I knew it, I was staring the Serpentine Ridge right in the face from Little Gem lake. I felt like Jeremiah Johnson trying to find a logical way to the base of the ridge or atleast a reasonable gully to commit to. I was bushwackin for a long while and was having a good time doing it, I love that s**t. Here's a decent idea of what I was trying to get at :

How's this for route finding, I looked at the gully, figured it looked reasonable and headed straight for it :


And then a close view of the gully, it ended up being an OK gully, just a bit of loose crap :


The S-Ridge is real easy to follow once your up there, its just long as hell, after all that time finding a route on Pyramid's NW Ridge, I needed a break mentally and I got it more or less, here's basically what I was looking at for a few hours, the summit never really seemed to get any closer it felt like, this mountain really is tougher than you think :


Once I finally reached the summit, I ran into Jon Frohlich and a few of his friends who had come up the Snowmass Lake route. The weather, up to this point, had been beyond cooperative and didn't look like it was going to change, there were some rain clouds and we could see rain over in the Carbondale area, but it wasn't really going anywhere. After this shot of Capitol :


I decided to commit to the traverse I'd been thinking about for quite some time since SarahT introduced me to it. A little background on this route. Sarah pretty much gave it to me like this : "I didn't have to think about any of the moves on Little Bear-Blanca, on this one I did". For 99.9% of this ridge, its "manageable" class 3/4/and a few low 5 moves (I remember 2). The catch is that 0.1%, the crux tower.

For those familiar with Cpt Bivwacko on the Little Bear-Blanca traverse, Snowmass-Hagerman's is similar except on roids and the only way through it isn't some exposed class 4 skootch around, its an intense, exposed class 5 move (on the RIGHT side, very much not the left). I started out on the left side, let me tell you why someone would be on this side of the ridge. There are 2 reasons. One, you are stuck and trying to get back to the right side. Two, you decided to hop off the cliff. Other than that, there is no reason to be over there. When I looked to the left, I saw a faint glimmer of hope and decided to go along with it. Here is a few of what I was negotiating, keep in mind that the pic doesn't reveal what was under me, which happened to be air and splintered boulders about 500 feet below :

There was an old blue rope on this side still hanging there, I went about 10 feet past there, made some attempt at what seemed to me like mid-5th class very exposed moves on questionable rock and then called it quits.


This is the west side route I took in Red, the rock over here was much better and the exposure was somewhat better.


What seemed like eternity ended up being only 30 minutes or so. On that left side, there were ways to get up, even without a rope if your into that kind of thing, but I really didn't like the rock at all over there, it was being held down by dirt. I got halfway up and could almost smell the top of that tower, but my heart was pumping and decided to climb back down. On my short traverse back to gain the ridge, I heard some creeking boulders I was stepping on, this was absolutely nerve wracking, and more on that later.

The rest of the route from here was pretty straighfoward except for the last tower before Hagerman's summit.

This was my last difficult move on this ridge and the last part as well. I probably made the single hardest move right at that red circle, I'm no climber, but it felt harder than a 5.0-5.2.


After that, the summit was all mine and the last entry was a week ago. While I was sitting there eating, I just happened to notice some lightning bolts over in Carbondale and immediately grabbed my pack and began the descent. This descent sucked and I'm way too tired right now to get into details. I never gained Trail Rider Pass, I dont think I found a legitimate route the whole way down and those splintered loose boulders are a hell of a lot more scary than the Bells and Pyramid's loose slabs. I have a theory that in a couple years that Snowmass group will be a pile of splintered rubble, every single boulder on that mountain is loose to some extent, its unreal, I've never experienced anything quite like it. The S-Ridge wasn't too bad, and the traverse was decent but the descent from Hagerman was an absolute nightmare. I got cliffed out about 3 times, hiked across a 1.5 mile boulderfield, had Geneva Lake in my sights and got cliffed out again and had to bushwack for a good hour and to top it off, every other boulder I put my foot on shaked.

But thats neither here nor there, I got everything I wanted to get done, there was great weather and I snuck in the extra added bonus of the NW Ridge on Pyramid (gametime decision as I was heading up I-70).

Word to the wise though, find a different route down from Hagerman other than the SW Ridge if you do this traverse. And this is enough for one weekend , no need to throw anything else in there, I'm depleted right now. Here are some extra pics of the basin and area, its a beautiful place.

Looking back @ Snowmass after the crux tower

Me on the summit finally

A look at the ridge from Snowmass

Geneva Lake from some vantage point my dumbass found while bushwacking

View of the Lead King Basin from along the trail near the waterfalls

Backside of the Bells

And to finalize, thanks a lot to SarahT for all the help with the info you sent me for this route, it was a lot of fun, I'm spent right now, but I'm sure I'll look back on it w/ fond memories. The inspiration of your webshots pics in of itself was what got me through this day, it was an uphill battle from start to finish and its a great feeling to finish out the Elks in a blaze of glory.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

 Comments or Questions

08/13/2007 14:53
Phenominal weekend of climbing for you.. Great job..


08/13/2007 18:34
Was your car parked in the Maroon Bells Parking lot on saturday morning with a Blue ice chest sitting outside? Saw the maryland plates and thought it might be you when I walked by at 3:30 am.


nice pics
08/13/2007 20:21
I always want to take pictures of the crux moves on each route, but then end up stashing the camera in my pack so as not to throw myself off balance when making the moves.

Then I get home and see I have a dozen pictures of the mountain from 2 miles away.

nice job completing the traverse


we hit the trail at about 10 til 4
08/13/2007 23:02
We took the NE ridge on pyramid, and summited in about 3.5 hrs. What time did you summit?


08/13/2007 23:52
Yeah we were on the summit for about 1.5 hrs and left around the time he got there. Perfect day for climbing though.


08/14/2007 00:54
sweet pics...snowmass looks like hella fun

san juaneer
Very Nice B!
08/14/2007 00:59
Those are some crazy beautiful pics. Makes me want to go back for some more!!!

Jon Frohlich

Holy crap....
08/14/2007 17:14
We were watching you on the way down and about the time we lost sight of you one of us said ”how is he planning to get around that tower?”. Now I know...yikes. No thanks. Glad the weather held out for you though. Wow.


08/28/2008 00:37
Wow man, outdid yourself on this one! That is an awesome traverse!!!! That tower is pretty formidable looking! Way to hit it!!!


11/30/2010 17:28
Captain Bivwacko Tower on roids!? I can't imagine how crazy that must be! You did some really amazing routes on two tough as balls 14ers, and you did them alone, great job man! Also I love the first two pics of the sunset. BTW if you are ever going for something like that again and want a partner let me know.
P.s. I'm giving the NW ridge on Pyramid some serious thought so I may be asking you for some beta on that route soon, or let me know if you want to do it again (if not I can understand).


11/30/2010 17:28
We should definately climb something soon. I was thinking on the way home after Snowmass that that was probably the last 14er I really cared to do (besides Eolus) and since finishing them was never a goal of mine, looks like other peaks will get my attention. I'll send you a PM of things I have in mind, but I'd love to hit up something in the Gore Range (Powell or Grand Traverse) and definately Lone Eagle and Arapahoe Traverse in the IPW. For 14ers, I've been trying to get to the Wilson Group (my favorite group) to do a ED-Wilson traverse on day and then Gladstone/WP the next.

As far as Pyramid is concerned, I'd actually like to go back for that route, just dont know if it'll happen this summer, but I've got a vivid memory of the correct route so if you have any questions about beta, let me know.

And thanks to everyone else for the comments, I can't remember the last time I had so much fun in the mountains.


11/30/2010 17:28
yeah, that was me alright, I was awake about that time, but didnt hit the trail till little before 5. Must've just missed you on the summit, which route did you take??


11/30/2010 17:28
Really impressive trip report you got there. I'm sure it was a little scary solo on a few of those spots, but congrats on getting it done.


atleast the weather...
11/30/2010 17:28
looks better than what the LB-Blanca traverse threw at you. Awesome trip and great report man. I definitely want to check out this route at some point. Also, I'm thinking about the Wilsons this coming weekend. My current plan is to hit them up solo, in one day if I can. Let me know if you want to join in.


11/30/2010 17:28
Awsome day man..... I hear ya about the fourteeners.... Getting way too "cool"
Go climb the Grand Traverse and Lone Eagle... in that order. Fantastic climbs, have em all to yourself


11/30/2010 17:28
I cant remember the exact time, whenever Vince was up there, I think it was around 9am, took me about 4 hours total.

Prakash - I'd love to join but my buddies are here this weekend, doin Handies friday. Have fun, thats a phenomenal group, make sure to do Gladstone as well.

Chris - Grand Traverse is definately next, probably weekend after next.


Glad the traverse worked out!
11/30/2010 17:28
That blue sling was there last year when I did the traverse (along with a biner which I removed). We did climb up the left hand side of the ridge there where you backed off. I agree that it wasn't easy and definately exposed as hell. Good job finding an alternative. We decided to stick as close to the ridge crest as possible because every time we dropped down (especially to the right) the rock became pretty loose, not good at all for a party of 3.


11/30/2010 17:28
thanks man, the hardest part was the downclimb from hagerman, damn near killed me, literally. But thanks for the brief company at the trailhead and I'm glad you enjoyed the beer. And thanks for telling me where the trail started, my dumbass would've never figured that out at 4 in the morning.


You've got some balls
11/30/2010 17:28
So i was the guy you downed the Beck's (thanks for that!) with in the parking lot as you were contemplating your climb...glad to hear you made it! You've got more balls than I do, and certainly like to do the hard stuff, but i give you all the credit due!


Way to Go!!!
01/19/2011 03:38
Solo climbs just rule, sometimes.
As usual, nice photos and descriptions of what you were up to along the way.


What a weekend!
02/05/2011 00:22
Holy crap, Brian- that's incredible! I can't imagine how tired you are. Nice job doing those solo and congrats on finishing the Elks!

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