Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  06/07/2010
Date Climbed:   06/05/2010
Author:  emcee smith

 Snowmass fail - conditions photos  

Snowmass Attempt Fail (Quick Conditions Update)

A week late and about 20 degrees too warm…..

After seeing the successful gathering over Memorial Day weekend, Don Eberl and I figured an attempt at Snowmass would be a good outing. We left Denver at 10am, and were on the trail about 2:30pm. In hindsight, an earlier start would be better for the average hiker (as we are), since it took us nearly 6 hours to reach the lake. Setting up camp at 8pm or so didn't set us up for a restful night and we were both tired the next morning.

The log jam was interesting. I thought about wading, but the water was high. For current conditions, I think it is a given that your feet are going to get wet. It seemed that the more solid footing was at times 3 – 6" under water. Other than wet feet, we both got across in good order and relatively good time. Swap out of the wet shoes, and into the dry.


Above the lake, once we got back into the trees, the post holing began. I don't have photos of the conditions, but it was mostly snow covered with post holing up to the thighs in places. Snowshoes would still have helped, but I cannot honestly say I would have preferred to have them on my back for the other 12 miles.

Finally to camp, there was a lot more real estate available from the photos of last week, but most of it was muddy. Set up, had a quick bite, and then to sleep.


The night was warm. One of the warmest nights I have spent out during the summer. Occasionally I would reach over to shake my water bottle, but nowhere near freezing. Alarm went off at 3:45 and we were off by about 4:15 or 4:30. Obviously in hindsight, an earlier start may have helped, but that early start might have been a week earlier versus a few hours earlier.

Around the lake was more solid than not, but already post holing. More so across the willows on the west side, but then onto more solid snow to enter the gully. The snow in the gully was softish but held fairly well.

Don coming up the gully

Finally to the top of the gully, looking back down the slope.

Above the gully, the standard "cool shot"

Not too much above the gully, at around 6:30 - 7:00am, we started to sink to our ankles. There was some wet slide indication up on the ridge; we were tired, aren't wet slide experts, we figured we still had about 2 – 2.5 hours to the summit, so we called it around 7:30am.

Our summit for the day

So close, but yet so far….

Also a bit frustrating because you can still get down so quickly. We possibly could have gone higher until we felt much more risk and then turned around and glissaded out quickly, but neither Don nor I wanted to be aggressive today. So 15 – 20 minutes later, we were back at the lake.

Looking back up from the willows; a lot of snow has melted in just the last week. I doubt the lower glissade will be "in" for much longer. Tight, bumpy, and rocky.

Some interesting small crevasses to get back to the lake proper

Coming back around the lake, much more post holing. Being on the slope so close to the icy water was for me a self belay spot versus a self arrest; not much margin for error.

The trail around the lake, still a bunch of soft snow, and much longer than I thought it would be.

Back at camp around 9ish, looking back up on the route

Packing up, resting a bit, and heading back down. there was soft snow back down to the log jam. Tired legs, water gremlins, or what, but both Don and I went into the drink on the way back across.

Don just before something grabbed his foot

Back to the car about 3ish, very tired, damp, sweaty, defeated, etc. Both Don and I agreed that it was a fun hike and a great experience, but not fun to hike 17-18 out of 21 miles. Gaining those last few will be costly. I expect that it will overall be easier in a few weeks when the snow is gone from the log jam up around the lake.

As much as anything, put into perspective the effort and accomplishment of the group on Memorial Day.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Didn‘t make it either
07/29/2013 18:29
Hey, I think I met you guys just before the first lake. I didn‘t make it either. I greatly appreciate the beta you provided. Got a bit overzealous at the log jam and fell in right away. My ”summit” was getting past the log jam without further incident. Wet and discouraged, I turned around immediately after crossing the lake. I figured if you guys were that determined to get beyond the log jam, and still didn‘t make the summit, the going must be pretty rough.

Don Eberl

Good Job Mike
06/07/2010 19:05
Thanks for a great time. Even though we missed the summit, I thought it was a heck of an adventure.


06/07/2010 22:30
to hear you guys didn‘t quite get there. That is a long way not to summit. But like the bumper sticker: A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work....

An unsuccessful summit/being in the mountains is still MUCH better than being at work!

Glad you still enjoyed your adventure and returned safely. That‘s what matters most.


Lake Side-Hill Crux
06/09/2010 05:18
Yikes, getting around Snowmass Lake was the real crux!

Gosh, you guys did all the hard parts.

For the logjam, this is the first time I tried microspikes (to hold the logs) and poles, and it worked surprisingly well. Normally I cross below the logjam - though it‘s usually later in the year.

You guys sure gave it a great try, and I think I would have done the same - we just lucked out with cold clear weather - the snow was just getting into shape by 6:30 on our trip. But by the time we were near the top conditions were softening rapidly. So, good call, I‘d say. And great effort.

Isn‘t that place incredibly beautiful!


As Always...
06/11/2010 13:06
Another fantastic trip report. Thanks!

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