Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  08/27/2007
Date Climbed:   08/25/2007
Author:  CDecker40
 "Modified S" Ridge  

Sorry for the lack of photos. I was solo on this one so I never took any. PKR's trip report on this route is amazing, so check out that one for good beta on the correct way to climb this route.

I call this the "Modified S" because of my poor job of route finding in the dark.

I left the car from Lead King basin parking area about 4:00am. The climb up to Geneva Lake was uneventful save for a few deer on the trail. PKR and many others have done a good job detailing the route through the campsites around Geneva. Take a left at the first sign for campsite #4, and then stay on the main trail at the second sign for that campsite.

Some time after that, on my way up to Little Gem Lake is where I got off track. I was making good time, so my best guess is that I either got too far east near Little Gem, or just blew right past it in the dark. By the time the sun had risen enough for me to take a look at my intended route up the ridge, I realized that I was way too far north. I was about hole-high with Siberia lake, looking back southeast at the West Face.

Not wanting to bag the attempt on the S, I made a backtracking ascending traverse along the West Face. This lead to some great switch-backing class 3 and 4 climbing.

As noted by every other route description and trip report, there is tons of loose rock all over this mountain. I'd venture to say that there's not a stable rock below 13,000 anywhere up there. Don't trust a single stone no matter the size.

At one point I trusted both hands and feet on a Volkswagen sized slab, then rode it down about 20 feet before a roll maneuver onto my pack. After taking some time to clean out my underpants and let the heart rate drop, I continued up to gain the ridge at just below 13,000. From the other trip reports, I'd guess I hit the ridge a couple hundred feet above where one would hit it if taking the conventional route (if there is such a thing).

I stopped for a Luna bar on the ridge, then felt a little emotional, had a good cry, and continued on. Luna Bars… packed with estrogen…

The rest of the ridge ascent was super fun. The rock is a bit more stable (still test every hold before trusting it). There are a few areas that require some delicate route decisions. A few times I dropped below the ridge crest to avoid cliffing out, but overall, sticking close to the crest will get you right to the summit. I topped out around 9:30 am and was a bit surprised to be the first one on top for the day. I took my time and lazed about and before too long two more parties from the West Face and Northeast Ridge routes joined me.

I descended the West Face behind another group. The descent was quite a slog through loose talus and scree. Be careful to not roll rocks on to climbers below you. There was a massive rock slide in the gully just north of us which I learned later could be heard from Geneva Lake.

Overall, done correctly or not, I'd highly recommend this route over the West Face. There is much more opportunity for class 3 and 4 climbing.

 Comments or Questions

08/27/2007 19:19
My experience with the S-Ridge sounds familiar to yours : got kind of lost around Gem Lake and felt this was the most unstable rock in all of Colorado. It made the Bells and Pyramid seem like molded steel, if there is one mountain I will never repeat, its this one, I literally almost met my maker on my descent down Hagerman.

Nice job with the S-Ridge, that route is much longer than one would think.


S Ridge
08/28/2007 18:45
Your story brought back (not so) fond memories :-) I did that route a couple of years ago. Going up was lovely - we actually did not get lost and enjoyed a terrific scramble on solid rock (after that first gulley, that is) - but we ventured down a different route and, like you, rode the VW buses to the bottom. Scary stuff. Rocks are heavy, can move fast, and do not have brakes (or steering wheels). Congrats on making it out unscathed.

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