Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  07/22/2008
Modified:  07/23/2008
Date Climbed:   07/19/2008
Author:  cambo

 Snowmass Mtn - West Slope  

Left Denver Friday around 3PM with psycholoco (Mike), Summer, and Jackie Brown to meet Tomas and Coda in Carbondale. The full moon started to rise over the Elks as we reached Marble, and the views from the upper road on the way in were pretty amazing.

This is your tour guide Summer. Thanks Summer for taking the pics!
Let's go hiking. Left from Crystal Trailhead at 7 (we were slack).

The place was lush!

Above Geneva Lake (coming up to Little Gem Lake) our route came into view and, uh-oh, there was snow in all the gullies. We are supposed to climb the Y-shaped gully on the left.

I had not planned for this contingency by bringing crampons or ice axe (none of us had). So, we proceeded up to the grass patch to the left of the gully to see how it would go.

Looking back down on where we had come from the base of the gully.

We stayed left of the gully from here to the summit. The rock was sloper and loose all the way. Not exactly my idea of a good time! We spread out and mechanically scrambled up the 2,000 vertical ft without incident. I'm sure the easy path was just under the snow to our right. And it looks like it will be a good snow climb for a couple more weeks. On the ascent, we stayed a bit more to the left, where the rock was steeper but more solid. I'm no expert, but it did not seem like much class 2 to me- more like Class 3 most of the way we were going. I caught the rock rib in the center of where the snowfield splits and stayed close to the main snowfield all the way the the ridge just north of the summit. My companions, to varying degrees, gained the ridge above and to the left, which took them onto more steep, loose, and complicated terrain, which I believe only psycholoco could enjoy. Once on the North Ridge it was a thrilling and exposed (yet solid!) scramble to the top. That's Capitol in the background.

Tomas on top of the world.

Huddled for lunch in the small piece of shade.

Going down, we bypassed the North Ridge altogether, and headed west 50 yds or so from the summit to where you could enter the gully in a class 2 fashion. psycholoco (Mike) stands here above the S ridge- he is about to head North and enter the gully. The distance back to the trucks, where Jackie and Coda await our return, is clear: as far down as you can see. Image

Tomas had almost-mountaineering boots, and was able to kick step all the way down the snowfield, where he sat and watched the rest of us crab-walk down the face. The snow was far too steep and firm to safely glissade, in my opinion. Our perspective was improved, however, and we tended to stay closer to the gully on less steep but more gravelly terrain. The descent was easier than I had expected based on what we had gone up.

We arrived back at the trucks with sore feet but a pretty good sense of accomplishment. About 5 hours up and 4 down. The West Face was steep and exposed, and gave you a real sense of being "out there" in the air. It was sort of a unique vibe compared to every other 14er I've done. For this reason, it is a top-5 favorite so far.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Questin - Road to Trailhead?
07/22/2008 23:32
Thanks for the report. I‘ve been wanting to hike that route. How was the drive to the trailhead from Crystal on up to Geneva Lake?
Thanks, Debbie


re: road
07/23/2008 03:42
either the upper or lower road are fine for a jeep or tacoma.


07/23/2008 03:55
You could def summit in 4 hours or less if you are fast. We did a lot of route finding. As you pass Geneva Lake, stay left and up the hill. A sign that points to ”site 4” is actually your trail. We placed a small cairn.

The weather was perfect, so we took our time routefinding up the the face as well. I wanted to keep mental notes on where to climb down. You had to test every hold, too, so it took a while.


really want to do this one
07/23/2008 18:30
if you have anymore photos of the downclimbing you did, I would love to see more of what it looks like. I am fine going up, just not down on loose rock, esp loose class 3 crappy rock.


07/23/2008 20:05
Lo siento no hay mas photos. If you wait for the snow to melt, and route-find better than we did, you could probably keep it at Class 2 most of the way. I think the intended route is more in the gully in some places than we went or could go because of the snow. And on the down climb, we were able to route-find better, and stayed closer to the gully, and it was more like Class 2 mostly. I spent a lot of time on my hands and/or butt scooting down stuff, and my good gloves are my new favorite piece of gear. Take care and take your time and you can do it!

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