Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  09/17/2009
Date Climbed:   09/16/2009
Author:  Barrett Cooper
 Snowmass Splendor  

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....

Let me start off this trip report with the months of planning that went into it. My climbing partner turned Floridian and his wife were wanting to come out for the Blues and Brews fest in Telluride. The thought process went something like this:
Why not come out early and do a 14er?
Which one?
Wilson and company, to many days to do them right
Windom and company, too much $ for the train
Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre, we did that 2 years ago
Sneffels, both done it already
Holy Cross, I did last year
Snowmass.... Sure, that sounds fun

Months later we found ourselves meeting at the Snowmass trailhead.

Starting off in a light rain that was not to stop for the better part of the next 12 hours, we made our way up the trail. Due to the rain we stopped short of the lake by about 2 miles at some nice camp sites half a mile below the log jam. We knew it would make tomorrow 16 miles or so but figured that was better than continuing to get soaked and setting up our tents in an increasingly stronger downpour.

Waking up around 630am we made short work and were on the trail. Passing the log jam we saw a bald eagle fishing. I had not seen one in Colorado in a couple years so that alone made my trip. Past the lake we got soaked in all the wet brush as we made our way up.

Pretty loose rock past the lake as you head up into the basin more. We hit snow from the storm about 12000 feet, and it maxed out at about3-4 inches up towards the top section. Taking the ascending climbers right as suggested on the 14ers route we made slow going to the notch. Too much snow, or not enough, we hit an unhappy middle ground of hidden and slick rocks.

Up through the notch below the peak itself the summit came into sight. The last section reminded me of Wetterhorn in that it was surprisingly solid. And except for the snow we had little issues gaining the summit. The view was spectacular is all I can say. We got out of there after about 20 minutes on top and made our way down, passed the lake, broke down camp, and to the car around 8pm. Long day but well worth it.

Note 1: The fall colors were great around 10000. The next two weekends this trail will shine. Most of the small stuff is changing colors now as can be seen below, and the larger aspens are thinking about it.

Note 2: Kudos to my climbing partners. The woke up in Jacksonville, FL on the 15th and were camping near the log jam that night. Then on the 16th they did a 16 mile 14er in snow. Talk about a quick change of scenery, try sea level to Snowmass in 24 hours!

The Grand Floridians. Sea level to over 14k in 24 hours

Yours truly on the trail up. One of the 10 minutes rain free on the hike in.

The log jam in the morning light

Em and Jesse crossing

These are the pictures and memories that make all this worth it. Wow this is a neat place! I need a $3000 camera for times like this, not my $89 walmart special. I can not say enough how a wide angle lens would have improved the picture?

Looking up the route from the lake. Snowmass Mtn is the middle peak of the group on the right.

"You may not pass!"

Looking back down on the lake.

Em and Jes over the first hump above the lake. Those rocks just above the lake are the worst.

Looking down from around 13,400

Looking up from around 13,400. Aim for the notch center left.

Looking down from the notch.

The final push once past the notch

The Bells


Resting on top of the world

We got buzzed by a small plane. Came in to the valley, then circled around and did a fly by. Could see him wave. Seemed like he was 50 feet off the peak, but I bet he was several hundred yards in reality. Was kind of cool, never had that happen before.

Looked like he was heading over to the Bells as well.

The crew on the summit

So I didn't expect the blast of snow. My feet were frozen and I committed the cardinal sin of not carrying my extra set of wool socks that I do on winter trips to use as spare socks or mittens. So what is a guy who can not feel his toes anymore to do? I emptied out my two waterproof stuff sacks and cinched them around my feet. Worked like a barrier and my toes started to get feeling again. Of course at first it was the burning, oh my goodness my feet are on fire, type of feeling. But I must say that feeling is better than no feeling, and by the time I got below the snow I was able to take them off and my toes were normal again.

Heading out past the lake

Parting shot on the way out showing the fall colors

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
pictures! Congrats on the summit - looks like you guys had fun despite popsicle toes.


$89 Camera from Walmart
11/30/2010 17:28
Well, I'd say those are mighty fine looking shots for that camera. And, a word of advice ... if you have not already done so, spend some money on gaiters (it's worth the expense). They'll keep the snow (and rocks) out of your boots, they'll keep the lower half of your legs warm, and keep your feet dry. Your positive and appreciative nature is wonderful. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!

Barrett Cooper

09/17/2009 20:50
Thanks for the replies. Easy to get some great pictures out of a poor camera, just take lots of pics. Why I love digital.... 300 pictures on a hike like Snowmass and even I can get some good ones. Really though, if you get a chance get out there. The colors were wonderful and just getting better. Met several folks coming over from the Bells too, and they said the same around Maroon.


Duh ...
09/17/2009 21:05
Gaiters (not gaitors, I corrected my post). And, a big thumbs up to your friends from Florida for making the summit. Looks like my gaiters comment was unnecessary as I see, from some of your other trip reports that you already have them. Hopefully, others can benefit from the tip.


Beautiful Pictures
09/17/2009 23:12
Looks like a beautiful trip. Amazing shots of Snowmass Lake.


Cool summit shot
09/18/2009 22:11
with the airplane in the background!


5th pic
01/19/2011 03:38


Great Pics!
01/05/2011 17:15
Gotta be some of the best pictures I‘ve seen in a trip report! I can relate to the frozen toes. Got frost nip on a 12‘er a couple years back and they were numb for a couple days following!


Thanks Barrett!
11/30/2010 17:28
Hey Barrett, great trip report. I couldn't have said it better. Em is still sore from the hike... two days later, but we both agree it was well worth it! The views and scenery were some of the best we've seen in the years we've hiked 14ers. Thanks again for all the gear you provided to us out-of-towners. I can't wait until next year's 14er hike!


Very cool
09/19/2009 17:37
Great pics, any rockslides up there?

Barrett Cooper

09/19/2009 19:47
From the time we hit the notch to the summit I saw one ”slide” down the west face of Snowmass Mtn proper. Looked to be around the S ridge route. It was not that big but did have some basketball sized rocks, so big enough.

Snowmass peak on the other hand literally had a slide every two minutes. No exaggeration, the rockfall was near constant on its north face. All the rain and snow I am guessing exaggerated the amount coming down. One really decent one that I tried to take video of but didn‘t come out like I wanted. Anything off that face is easily avoided as it is a big basin above the lake, but I would not go near the snowfield on the north side of Snowmass Peak if you paid me. Those were all we caught from our trip.

I should have mentioned that in my report, but there were no issues for us in the climb above the lake or up into the notch on the ridge. Didn‘t seem like it would be prone to rockfall but always pays to keep an eye and an ear open.


09/20/2009 00:01
report! Great pics and a good read. Good idea with the bags on the feet!

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