Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
North Snowmass Mountain - 14,010 feet
Date Posted:  06/03/2010
Date Climbed:   05/30/2010
Author:  Dancesatmoonrise

 First Annual Snowmass Party  

First Annual Snowmass Memorial Day 14ers Party

Peaks: Snowmass Mountain, North Snowmass Mountain
Route: Several Variations of Standard Route from Lake
Date: May 29-30, 2010
Length: 22 miles RT with N Snowmass
Vertical: 6000 feet with N Snowmass
Ascent Party: group and CMC group



Maroon Bells-Snowmass was one of five original Colorado wilderness areas designated in 1964 with passage of the Wilderness Act. In 1980, it was expanded to include over 180,000 acres. White men are reputed to have first come to the area with the Gunnison Survey in 1853, when Captain Gunnison was ambushed and killed by Utes. Rumor has it that Brigham Young had paid the Utes. During the Hayden Survey of the 1870s, the 14ers were named. Daly was named for then-president of the National Geographic, Augustus Daly. Capitol Peak was named for the capitol building in Washington. (I'm not making this up : ) "Snow Mass" was named for the year-round snow between the two summits. The Utes' name for Snowmass translates as "Cold Woman," reputedly named because the mountain was often shrouded in clouds and believed to case storms and bad weather.

In early March, the original plan called for Como Basin on Memorial Day. I can't recall why it was changed; perhaps I'd suggested Snowmass (one of my favorite places,) but by late March the plan became Snowmass Mountain, and I couldn't have been more pleased. The only thing making it better would have been waiting a couple more weeks so we wouldn't have to lug snowshoes – but schedules pretty much set it for Memorial weekend. We later learned the CMC was also planning a graduation climb for their CMS alpine snow module the same weekend. Steve put out the word and we quickly realized it was going to be standing room only at the lake.


Weather couldn't have been better for the climb. A week's worth of sweltering heat at the lower elevations, while the snowpack consolidated up high, then a cold front came through the day before and gave us a fairly good freeze for the morning of the climb. Sunday was cool but calm and sunny.


Saturday, May 29, 2010
Most folks camped at the TH and started at 7:00 am Saturday morning. I arrived a little later. It was a nice day for a hike.


I bumped into Doggler, who was running back down the trail from the logjam, planning to hit it later that night – at Midnight – for a 4:30 am Sunday arrival to start with the group – basically doing the 21.5 miles RT as a day hike…Or I guess you'd say a night hike. I thought about doing it, but it was more pleasant to kick back in the afternoon sun at the lake with everyone.


About an hour up the trail, you can see Snowmass Mountain and North Snowmass Mountain, looking up the Bear Creek drainage. Note the waterfall at bottom center – it's about 200 vertical feet. This lends a perspective to the magnitude of the area. Note the rock wall right of the waterfall – it's "only" class 3 – if you can stay on route, which is the hard part. But that's another hike for another TR…


In this view, Snowmass Mountain is at left. At the far left, where the rock buttress ends, is where most of the group reached the summit ridge. Our immediate group (Britt, Eric, Jim) hit the notch between Snowmass and North Snowmass, just barely visible behind North Snowmass' east ridge, in this view. North Snowmass is the prominent feature in this photo, seen from the NE aspect.

The whole two weeks before the trip I was fretting about the logjam. I never go that way because it's too treacherous. I usually cross below it – but had never been across in May, and was concerned about high water. I asked Steve if he thought bringing a 6mm rope would be a good idea to string as a hand rail, or to self-belay across. He brought his 8mm rope – but it turns out the logjam was actually in the best condition either of us had seen it. But we were both glad he brought the rope. I ended up putting on microspikes and using poles, and that worked very well. I'd heard others used their crampons.

Stephanie contemplates getting Zion across the logs, as Zion patiently looks on.

The east facing hill above the logjam was dry, as anticipated, and the forest just beyond, to the south, was in snow, also as anticipated. Overall, there was less snow than sources suggested. I bumped into a group of three or four folks from Oklahoma who had been terribly ill-prepared for conditions but stuck out a cold night in what they called a postage-stamp sized piece of dry ground, ˝ mile below the lake. They hiked to the lake that day and were just coming out – in boots. Anyone wanting to do the route from this point on, I think snowshoes would not be needed – The Oklahomans postholed in a few areas, but most of the way the drifts were firm – and melting rapidly.

A short ways up the forested drainage, three wild humans came out of the woods. It was my first meeting with Dave (CarpeDM), Kate, and Bobby.


Near the lake I met the Russian team, Boris and Nikolai, who were just leaving. They had just summitted that morning. Within our group, there was to be a lot of talk about the Russians. Apparently they knew what they were doing. (They must have gotten word we were coming.)

The lake was gorgeous, as always. John fell in love with the place.


On the left you see Snowmass Peak, a 13er, and on the right you see three bumps. The left bump is the standard route, the middle bump is Snowmass Mountain (the 14er) and the right bump is North Snowmass (an unranked 14er.) This was shot from the southeast corner of the lake, just south of camp.

Here's the standard shot from camp:


I knew Dave and Emily were here when I saw those familiar frolicking fourteener border collies, Shep and Kiefer. I knew Sophie (Sharon's collie) must be around somewhere. Kiefer was delighted that he'd found a victim to toss the stick.


As the afternoon wore on, the east side of the lake filled up. Dry real estate commanded an exorbitant sum. Here Steve is making sure Eric has title to his 0.000001 acres. His gorgeous lake-front lot is the 3x6 area just right of the log in the photo.


I was afraid this was going to look like the San Francisco Bay. Fortunately all units were ground-level.


Britt, John, and Eric bask in the afternoon sun by the outlet stream, as Michael models the latest fashion in glissadeware.


Eric. (Photo by Stephanie)

UN 12,653 basks in the late afternoon glow coming through Trail Rider Pass, at far right.


Papa Steve orders lights out by 8:30 – we've moved up our start time to 3:30, because the Russians said the snow would be better.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's actually still Saturday, an hour before midnight. Eric is smarter than me. He's fallen asleep to the pleasing stereo sounds of his Ipod. For the past two hours, I've suffered with full-stereo snoring. Who the heck is managing this motel, anyway? I do some quick calculations. It will take an hour or more to pack up and claim some new real estate. It will be cold turf, camping on icy snow. It is possible to be settled shortly after midnight, and I can leave an hour after the gang and catch up – that gives four hours of shut-eye. Done. I pack up and bug out – across the stream to a hidden flat area I explored during a trip in July 2006 when I had to get away from the "Peoplemass."

Ah, this is more like it. Dead quiet, big dipper in the sky, moon behind the hill – and cold, but calm. Having brought an experimental ground pad (2 pads, actually), I found they did not work so well on snow. That dry real estate I left was warm – but despite my warm spring bag, in my new digs, any part I laid on got cold. I was able to cat-nap for a while before waking up to turn a different part to the cold. This was much better than not sleeping at all. At one point, though, I decided I couldn't sleep any longer and decided just to get up. Turns out it was an hour after start time anyway, so I was right on time. If a bit fuzzy-headed.

The creek crossing is icy at 0400, as the group starts out. Photo by Michael (Boggy B.)


Sunrise (Stephanie photo.)

The procession of headlamps around the lake after moonset makes for impressive photographic opportunities. Too bad I'm all thumbs trying to catch the back of that procession.

The first pitch seems very steep. The snow is hard but crunchy, nicely cramponable, but the axe spike won't penetrate.

It's light enough to see now, as I crest the top of the first stiff pitch, and catch up to Kate, Bobby, and Dave M. A little further up, Dave and Emily are making their way. We chat briefly.


Soon I find Steve, John, Michael, and Jeff on the flatter section. The sun is just coming up, and it's phenomenally gorgeous.


I'm a bit of a wreck on no sleep. I actually had my glacier glasses but thought I forgot them. I was simply not able to find them. John to the rescue, with a pair of yellow-rimmed goggles. It was certainly my day for fashion. Steve tells me he's going to hang back and help some of the folks at the back, and that I'll find Britt, Eric, and Stephanie at the front, headed up to do the saddle between Snowmass and North Snowmass.

Sure enough, Big Dog is in the pack at the front.


And here's Eric. Good thing. It's already getting steep.


Eric is amazing. We had folks from 15 to 62 on the trip. As the youngest of the crew, he's had more formal training in mountaineering than most folks twice his age, and if he is able to summit today, Snowmass will be Golden – his 50th 14er! To top that off, he is modest, sociable, and level-headed. There are people in the world that regardless of their age or age differences, you can relate with. Eric is one of those people. He is a joy to be around.

Ditto for Britt – though not quite as young as Eric chronologically, he is certainly youthful in his ebullience and energetic attitude. Here he comes now.


Where's Steph? Hmm… going for the Snowmass Direct, solo! Gutsy. Though she unquestionably has the skills and experience. The line Britt and Eric have picked out is going to be plenty saucy for me. You guys kick some good steps, ok?


Meanwhile, most of the rest of the group is eyeing a line left of the summit but right of the "standard" route. It is the chute just left of the left-most large rock buttress comprising the summit block.

Our line steepens up, as Britt takes the lead to the ridge.

Off to the right is our first objective: North Snowmass.

Steph monitors our progress: (Stephanie photo.)

Jim at the last rock before the ridge. (Britt photo.)

Turning the last set of rocks, we crest the ridge at the saddle between peaks…

…and make our way over easy 3rd class to North Snowmass.

The views from North Snowmass are what I came for….Incredible!

North Snowmass stands guard over the Pierre Lakes Basin, to the left, and the Snowmass Basin, to the right, divided by its east ridge.

To the north, the tight gulley left of center has been used to gain Capitol's ridge from the Pierre Lakes Basin.

The Snow-Cap Traverse (5.8R), connecting North Snowmass with Capitol Peak.
Nice backdrop for the summit crew.

The whole banana – Pierre Lakes and cirque.

Meanwhile, Zion changes his mind about ascending steep snow. Problem is, he changes his mind about descending steep snow as well. And also meanwhile, the snow is getting wet, loose, and won't hold an axe real well.

Steve, en route to the summit.

Belay on. (Photo by Boggy B.)

Beneath that mammoth coat, Zion only weighs about 70 pounds. Slightly less than Steve's pack. Steph ties him in, and Steve hefts him up.

Meanwhile, we are en route up the Snowmass-North Snowmass ridge. Eric takes first lead on the moderate mixed pitch.

Staying on the ridge proper gets interesting, while Jim gets stoked and pulls the final lead. (Britt Photo.)

Meanwhile, Zion is off belay, and Steph tops out.

Terra Firma. Well, sorta.

Steph, atop "Zion's Couloir"

The five of us head over to the summit to meet with arriving climbers.

Michael at the summit. In the background is our snow route to the saddle, and the ridge route we took to the summit.

Soon most of the gang is on top.

Summit shot. (Britt photo.)

Elevenski. (Boggy B. photo.)

Geneva Basin.

Lake Geneva.

Downclimbing south off the summit. (CarpeDM photo.)

The work crew heads down to go play in the slush.

Eric, motoring on a Sunday afternoon.

Dynamic Duo

Back at the lake, we broke camp, ate, socialized, and hung out for a while before packing and heading down.

On the way back we were once again treated to that beautiful NE aspect of North Snowmass.

Meanwhile, back at lower elevations, summer is coming in nicely.


Thanks to all who worked so hard to make this a successful trip. Thanks especially to Steve Gladbach for his indefatigable efforts in helping get folks up and down the mountain, and lending his knowledge and expertise so that many were able to successfully summit Snowmass today. Thanks also to Britt (Globreal) for his untiring efforts at organizing and orchestrating the logistics of our large-group climb.

And thanks to all who participated and made this a great day.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
Great job guys!
Jim, well done!


11/30/2010 17:28
Great photos ... great group (climbers and canines) ... wonderful text. (And, nice seeing Eric again ... he'll be a finisher this year for sure.) We were thinking of all of you on Sunday, and commented that there were many successful summiteers with such good weather and conditions. Oh yeah, and LOVE those yellow rimmed goggles (and, I speak from experience when I say "invest in some good earplugs”). Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


06/03/2010 22:18
nice pictures and report. Looks like a blast (except the sleeping arrangements). I think the last picture might be the best of all - enough snow already!


06/03/2010 22:30
Excellent images and writeup. Looks like it was a great experience.


Beautiful TR!
06/03/2010 23:56 go with a beautiful day. Well done Jim. I know that was a challenge organizing & selecting photos from so many people with soooo many choices. Great job of telling the story of our amazing climb. It will sit in my memory banks for years to come and as is already happening....coming gurgling back up to the surface like a geyser!

Boggy B

There it is!
06/04/2010 01:29
Great write-up Jim!


that last shot
06/04/2010 02:39
of the green covered aspens is the epitome of what spring is all about. Seeing stuff like this is such an incredible feeling after climbing snow covered peaks hours before. Nice adventure.


Holy crap
11/30/2010 17:28
Wow, I'm jealous. The Elks really are surreal. It sounds like an ideal climb: dry approach; camping by a lake; great weather; steep snowclimb section; glissading. Great job, Jim et al.


No need for floatation?
06/04/2010 19:09
I wouldn‘t say that. While it‘s only about 2 miles between the upper and lower lakes, I wouldn‘t want to hike that without snow shoes! No way!
And as it‘s getting warmer, they probably will become even more needed around Snowmass Lake.


11/30/2010 17:28
Misread when Jim said ”we wouldn't have to lug snowshoes” above. My bad. Comment fixed.


06/05/2010 20:28
Great job putting together a report that makes it feel like you were there. Fantastic photos as usual!


Now we know...
06/07/2010 13:59
Dancesatmoonrise huh? Moving camps. That sounds like the dances I know! Great writeup Jim. Hopefully we can get together for another adventure next weekend and you can teach me a thing or two!

You just let me know when you want to do that Man‘t traverse over to Capitol!


06/07/2010 14:41
I‘m contemplating going back to that area just because it is so beautiful. You did a fantastic job of capturing that beauty with your lens! Thanks for sharing, glad there were so many summiters on this great climb. Snow is the best way to do this peak, IMO. Bravo!

Ridge runner

02/05/2011 00:22
I had a great time climbing with everyone! Thanks to all for not laying into me on my route selection . Congrats to everyone who made it up there, even if it was just the lake. Gaircd, it was a pleasure to hike with you. Dave, Kate, and Bob, thank you so much for the rides. Steve, thanks for the rope and everything else you did up there. Great report, Jim.


Thanks all, Great times!
06/08/2010 18:25
Thanks to Britt and Steve for putting this great trip together. It will likely stand as one of the most memorable climbs for many of us. The Elks are incredible, the company couldn‘t have been better, and the weather was perfect. It was my pleasure and privilege to be able to assist in presenting and preserving it here for all of us.

Thanks to everyone who participated, and everyone who enjoyed the TR of this journey of friends into the ”Colorado Alps.”


Fantastic Report!!!
11/14/2010 17:54
I am starting my thinking about doing this climb around the same time in 2011. This report will be a primary reference. Thanks. Vort.


Awesome stuff Jim
06/22/2011 16:18
Thanks for the write-up. Even though this is a year-old, it should be helpful for me this weekend. Gonna bring the snowshoes and crampons, but not really looking forward to the log-jam!

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