Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  06/07/2009
Date Climbed:   05/31/2009
Author:  phlakin

 Snowmass -- East Ridge  

We made it to the summit of Snowmass (via East Slopes route) on May 31. Luckily, a group had made it to the ridge the day before, so we were able to follow their tracks in the early morning on our way into the basin. The beta they provided undoubtedly allowed us to make it to the top. We left at 3:30 a.m. to be on snow while it was firm, and it made all the difference in the world. We used crampons the entire time (great purchase with each step on the way up), though the snow was awfully soft (up to knees in sections) on the way down.


You can see our trail up to the "rounded protusion" in Roach's book (walk up the "ramp" to the right of the 4 or 5 wet slides.

Here, you can spot our crampon tracks (firm, on the right) next to the plunge steps of the team from the day before.

The ridge is precarious. Serpentine curves, about 3 feet wide, go for at least 110 meters (we set up three belay stations, as we didn't know if we were walking on the ridge or over snow, though the snow was firm).

If you zoom in, you can see us on the ridge -- we've just crossed the whitest part of the ridge, in the center of the photo. One guy is belaying the final guy in the pack, and one is sitting on the rock outcrop. By the way, thanks to Paul M. for taking these photos of us from the summit -- he beat us to the top and boarded to the bottom.

After crossing to the part of the ridge in the pic, we descended off the ridge onto the west side and traversed to the steep face toward the summit. The snow was decent, but it's time consuming and sketchy kicking every step and making sure there are two points of contact with crampons and ice axe at all times. One slip and that's it, in most places. We did not go back over the ridge on the way down -- too harrowing, especially with sun warming the snow, and too time consuming. Weather was moving in as well. You can see some of Pauls' steps in the snow.

We descended until we got to a point in the ridge where we felt we could safely enter the basin without causing any additional wet avalanches (we counted about 15 such areas). We actually glissaded down one of those avalanche fields until we got out of all apparent danger, then traversed through the basin back to the "trail" we followed up. It took us two hours to get to the ridge and three hours from the ridge to the top. Summit back to camp (at Snowmass Lake), only took 2 hours -- plunge stepping and glissading saves tons of time.
The stream crossing was a bit dicey -- the river is way up and is flowing very quickly. There's a very long log dam that we crossed -- probably 150 feet. Take some shoes that you can get wet!
Snow below treeline starts shortly after the switchbacks, just after stream/lake crossing. We post-holed in this section more than anyhwere else. Snow is pretty much continuous up to camp at Snowmass Lake.

Good luck if anyone's heading up there -- be careful.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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