Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  04/30/2009
Date Climbed:   04/29/2009
Author:  elliojos
 Snowmass - East Slopes   

Having a week off between career changes (engineer to outdoor educator), I was able get a midweek climb in. My usual partners were all working, so I met fiddlinclimber through the 'Climbing Connections' portion of this site, who seemed up for the challenge.

We left Golden about 0730 on Tuesday, 4/28/09 and were near the Snowmass Creek Trailhead by 1100. In attempt to drive the final half mile, I succeeded in getting my 4-Runner stuck in the partially snow-covered road. By 1200, we were hiking/skiing towards our intended destination for the night, Snowmass Lake.

The first 6 miles of the approach were brutally variable. We would literally ski for a few minutes, hike over bare trail for a few minutes, and repeat. The inefficiency inherent in doing this was very slow and frustrating, but it was better than postholing.


We decided to camp near the lower lakes at 10,200 feet in order to set up camp before dark.


An early start the next morning put us at Snowmass Lake (3000 feet below the summit) just as the sun was beginning to light up Snowmass Mountain and the surrounding peaks.


From the lake, we pretty much took a straight line (due west) towards Snowmass Mountain. We were able to skin all the way to about 200 feet below the summit, at which point we selected an ascent line that gained the summit ridge about 250 feet north of the summit. The upper part of this line was an estimated 50 degrees, but seemed to provide the easiest access to the summit from the east side.


Immediately after gaining the ridge, the wind that had been blowing all day on the other side of the mountain made itself apparent. As usual when in the wind, the skis on my back went immediately into sailboat mode. I found myself crawling at a couple points along the ridge in hopes that my descent would be less rapid and with my skis on my feet instead of my back.

I reached the summit a little before 1100. Up to this point, I had anticipated a ski descent from the summit proper. Turns out this would have been possible, but I opted for a flatter, 50ish degree line with a safer run-out that started just south of the true summit.



Ideally, we would have summited earlier and descended earlier when the snow wasn't quite so soft. As it was, the fresh snow from a day or two earlier was in the process of rapidly consolidating and made for some super fun turns in a suspect snow pack with a safe run-out.


Granted, skiing this mountain involves a fairly rigorous approach, but I still couldn't believe that there were no other ski tracks on the mountain. The just over 3,000 vertical foot descent from the top to Snowmass Lake took us only a few minutes. After the initial steep section near the top, the rest of the ski was mellow, fun, and as fast as you wanted it to be.

Back at camp we filtered some more water, packed up, and prepared for the deproach. Prior to the trip, I had envisioned a quick ski back down the trail to the car. This was not to be. As it turned out, the most efficient method of travel was to put the skis on the back and posthole. I never thought I'd say that in a million years. We were back at the car at 2100, just after dark.

As usual, the views in the Elks were spectacular. We didn't see another person the entire time we were out. I highly recommend this trip for anyone looking for a somewhat arduous two-day early spring ski trip. It would be doable for a fast and efficient party in a single day, but it would be real hard to take in all the beautiful scenery in such a short amount of time.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Easy Rider

Great Conditions
11/30/2010 17:20
Thanks for posting this report. Sounds like the snow up on the north aspect was rotten, as it was for me with a more summer-like snowpack off the summit. Glad to see some more splitters too. No pics of Cap?

Why shouldn't I look behind . .. . AHH!

Today no less. Well played sir!


05/01/2009 00:43


Sweet trip report
05/02/2011 14:23
Looks like a great trip. Was really hoping continuous snow would start sooner than 6 miles in though. We‘re planning to head there Monday.


good stuff
05/02/2009 04:35
so what was the total RT mileage? Elevation gain? That 6 miles of variable crap does not sound like fun.

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