Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Conundrum Peak  -  14,060 feet
Date Posted:  07/01/2010
Modified:  07/03/2010
Date Climbed:   06/26/2010
Author:  Nelson
 The Final Four, Part 2  


I spent Friday resting in Aspen and on Saturday I headed up the super gnarly Pearl Pass Road to begin my climb of Conundrum. As far as I'm concerned the crux of the climb is getting across the creek in the car! Damon and I had climbed Castle Peak a couple of years ago but were denied Conundrum by a fall snow storm that made getting off of Castle an adventure in itself. This year the road seemed to be in worse shape and I couldn't even make it to the Pearl Pass turnoff. Image I started hiking at 5:15 am. Image Image Instead of taking the standard route over Castle Peak I elected to do the class 3 climb to the saddle between Castle and Conundrum as I wanted to be back in Aspen in time to watch the USA play Ghana in the world cup. Image The route is short and sweet and I'm not quite sure why it is rated class 3.Image Image I was on top at 8:15 and back to the car at 10:15 and back in Aspen in plenty of time for the soccer. Alas, we lost. Image Image Image

By happenstance the swansong for my 14er quest would be Snowmass. The class 3 scrambling is not particularly daunting but the 21 mile round trip with the big pack is. In addition Snowmass holds an unpleasant surprise for those who, like me, wait for the water level to go down so they can cross Snowmass Creek more easily. I had dinner Sunday night with my dear friend and classmate Staman and his family and started my approach hike at 7:30 on Monday morning. The whole trip I had been worried about the infamous Logjam which is used to cross Snowmass creek. Image To my great surprise the water was not high and crossing was a piece of cake. I scampered across like a young gazelle (please hold comments til the end) and was at Snowmass Lake at 11:40. This has to be one of the most beautiful places on God's earth. Image As I approached the lake with my jaw gaping in wonderment I spooked at least 20 trout most of which were at least 12 inches long. Image They moved about 5 feet away for a minute and then came right back where they had been. I could literally touch some with my walking stick.

I set up camp in one of the many beautiful sites and gathered beta from climbers as they came down. One team that summitted had started at 3:30 in the morning and the others who had failed had started between 5 and 6. It was clear to me that I would have to start early. After a good nights sleep I was underway at 3:45 under a brilliant moon. The walk around the lake was a breeze but then came the aforementioned unexpected unpleasant surprise: The diabolical scree field. It starts at 11,100 and goes to about 11,800. The higher you go the worse it gets. These 700 or so vertical feet took me more than an hour and cost a lot of energy. Once I crossed the stream the terrain mellowed out and life became good again. Image I put on the crampons at 12,250 feet and cruised to the ridge line at 13,750 feet where the crampons came off and the scrambling began. Over a third of a mile you gain about 350 feet with a lot of fun class 3 scrambling. At the top I shifted to the ridge line where the scrambling was maybe a notch higher but very interesting. As I pulled on to the summit there was a little bird enthusiastically chirping his congratulations for my summit and for my completion of the 14ers (actually, he wanted some of the granola bar I was wolfing down). Image It was 8am and a beautiful day. I enjoyed the moment, gave thanks for my safe completion of so many worthy mountains and headed down. I was able to glissade about 1000 vertical feet and was back in camp at 10:45. I ate lunch, broke camp and headed down. I was slightly less gazelle like at the logjam but still back to the car in good time.

Looking back on my last four years of 14ers in Colorado gives me the fondest memories. I started at the age of 60 to get in shape and acclimatized for bigger climbs (Aconcagua, Elbrus, Denali, Mt. Blanc, Matterhorn inter alia). What I came to realize was that I was enjoying the preparation more than the big climbs. The terrain is interesting and beautiful, the mountaineering is as interesting and challenging as you want to make it, I get to come down and take a shower and drink a beer every few days, and I don't have to be away from my family so long. The 14er community is very timely and helpful in sharing beta and this makes the whole thing much safer for everyone. The website is one of the best I have used in any field and I hope Bill makes billions on it someday because that is what it is worth to us.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
James Scott

07/01/2010 20:49
Great job! I loved the Snowmass summit so much I found myself wishing I‘d saved that for last. Must have been quite a feeling sitting there with all that view in front of you, and knowing you had completed it! Amazing!


Way to...
07/16/2010 05:02
...finish in style. Snowmass Mountain is certainly worthy of that honor.

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