Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  08/06/2009
Date Climbed:   08/04/2009
Author:  James Scott

 One Day Solo  

21 Miles
5700 Feet Gained
Left Car: 1:41 AM
Snowmass Lake: 5:00 AM
Summit: 8:25-8:45 AM
Back to Lake: 11:45 AM
Trailhead: 2:55 PM
I had wanted to do Capitol or Little Bear on this day, but couldn't get a partner for either. Since I had promised my wife I wouldn't do either one solo, I turned my sights to Snowmass. Because of my hectic life, I chose to do a one day solo rather than hiking in for a high camp. Twenty one miles definitely had my attention, but I got inspiration from Dave Keep's trip report- he made it solo in one day.
Starting out at 1:41, I didn't have the usual level of excitement I'm used to. Maybe because I was such a long time away from seeing either sunshine or other people, I had this melancholy feeling from the outset, seeing nothing but the ground in front of me lit by my headlamp for six full hours. There was a nearly full moon that night, and it kept me company until the logjam, which signaled 6 miles in. Crossing the logjam in the dark had a surreal quality, but I was making really good time, and felt encouraged at the way point.
The moon:

Another hour later found me at the lake- 3 hours, 20 minutes for 8 hours. An animal was suddenly directly in front of me on the trail- small, like a beaver, raccoon, or skunk, but it wouldn't go away. Seeing two eyes staring at you in the dark always gets your attention, but I thought of Will Farrell in Elf, and considered giving it a hug. He finally waddled off, and I was on my way around the lake.
Going up the talus field didn't seem so awful to me based on what I'd read. I was able to hop between larger rocks and avoid the marble slides, and was soon looking up into the basin. The way down really sucked- I couldn't find a line of larger rocks, and scree skied most of the way.
Finally over the talus field, I got my first look at Snowmass Lake which I had just circled:
and of Snowmass Mountain:
My legs were feeling the trudge through the basin, and the snow was hard enough and steep enough that I decided to keep an ice axe out to help with balance, and as a safety in case I started sliding down toward the rocks. Once I topped out and rounded the corner, I felt rejuvenated to see the summit at the end of a surprisingly stable summit ridge
The summit replaces Blanca as the most beautiful I had seen. Capital to the left
The Bells to the right, and the Snowmass Lake right below you
There is a rock that leans against the Summit rock, making a perfect chair for you to sit and marvel at it all. I wanted to stay longer, but the 10.5 miles to the car, and my son's 7:30 baseball game that night chased me off after 20 minutes and a PBJ.
From there, it was the excitement of seeing all the views that I couldn't see in the dark that morning. This is a route that I definitely will want to repeat.
The kind of snow blocking access to the summit ridge:
Me, happy after summiting, with the prize behind me!
The lake from above the talus field
The talus field from behind the lake:
The amazing wildflowers around the lake:
And one last view of Snowmass (in the middle) above the lake
The logjam
Looking back up the long valley of the approach
And a grove of Aspens I had passed somewhere around 2:20 AM.
The car was a relief for my feet, and now, two days later, I am still feeling the effects of the long walk. It was probably kind of stupid to do this in one day, and I would recommend the overnight at the lake. Still, I kept getting a silly grin on my face all the way back to Denver, thinking of the accomplishment and the beautiful summit.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

long day
08/07/2009 03:26
I know 20mile+ days and they‘re long. Good job.

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