Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  09/19/2010
Modified:  08/28/2011
Date Climbed:   09/16/2010
Author:  unclegar
Additional Members:   Johnson
 S is for Snowmass - Looking Back  

Snowmass Mountain S-Ridge from Lead King Basin

September 16, 2010 - unclegar

Snowmass S-Ridge

Summit Block


Hallelujah! Snowmass was #58 in my quest to experience the summit of all the Colorado 14ers. I was privileged to have the company of my friend Barry 'Johnson' on this final trip. I say "final" but you know what I mean. It is the end of the checklist of 58 that has been in my sights and on my mind for the past two + years.

unclegar on Bierstadt (1st in quest to summit all 14ers)

I started this adventure on Mt. Bierstadt on July 16, 2008. I reached the destination after 2 years and 2 months but the journey is not over. I don't have another "list" or any other related goal at this time. My current thinking is that I will now be able to go back and repeat 14ers that I particularly enjoyed and try alternate routes on some. I will be able to help others with peaks that I am familiar with (after 1 summit I'm an expert ) and maybe encourage someone that needs encouragement or help someone who needs help at just the right time. Looking back...

I first climbed Longs Peak with my daughter, brother-in-law and friends in the summer of 2006. (I re-climbed Longs in 2008 for this list) We camped in the Boulder Field, got up before dawn and reached the summit the next morning. It was difficult and I barely got any sleep but I enjoyed it immensely. It was physically demanding but I had met the demand and that felt good. Here is the sunrise the morning of our summit bid.

Sunrise on the Keyhole

The following year my brother-in-law, Jim (longjim - a 14er finisher) and I decided we would summit Longs again from the Loft route. I printed a dozen or so pages from the route description, trip reports and any other information I could get on the web. When the time came to make the climb, Jim couldn't make it. We had been planning this trip for months and I decided I would make the trip alone. I had all the info so what could go wrong? right?

The night before I went, it snowed several inches. I left at 5am and made the trip up to the Loft and over to Mt. Meeker and called my wife and left a message from the summit. "The wind is nuts up here! It is blowing me over! I can't even stand up! It must be like 70mph! It's 10am and I'm heading for Longs. I'll probably be there within a few hours. I'll call again from there."

Loft from Mount Meeker (Southeast Longs in the background)

I took off for the Loft again and did not find Clark's Arrow on the way down the backside. I started up Keplinger's couloir and actually went all the way up to the notch at the top and looked down the front at Chasm Lake.

I started back down Keplinger's couloir and was baffled at where to turn to join the Homestretch on the standard route. My information said to traverse the couloir. First let me say that I didn't even know what a "couloir" was and I wasn't completely sure what was meant by "traverse", so that didn't help in my interpretation. I couldn't get the pictures I had to match anything surrounding me. Also, instead of color, my printer had printed everything in pink. (should have picked up on the sarcasm and tossed it out then ) O.K., so maybe they mean to go all the way to the bottom of this thing then way over there... Down I went to the basin floor behind Longs.

After walking in circles and trying to match the pictures again, I thought I saw a match in the distance. This seemed way too far! Oh well. I climbed up the south side of the Keyboard of the Winds, headed over to Pagoda Mountain, and was most of the way up Pagoda when I sat down in exhaustion. Then I saw it... I recognized the Keyhole from last year's trip...way over there. I was in trouble.

It was 3:30pm and I was SO far from where I needed to be. I slid down the gulley (S side of the Keyboard of the Winds) back to the basin floor to speed things up. On the way down I stopped to fill my 2L camelback from a small waterfall that I had passed earlier. Once at the bottom again, I started climbing back up Keplinger's couloir to Longs. The plan was to get to the summit of Longs and call from there with an update. Remember the last thing my wife heard was, "The wind is nuts up here!"

When I was about 2/3 of the way up I thought I'd check for cell phone reception. The cell phone was gone! It had come out of my side pocket when I was sliding back down to the basin. No way I was going back for that. Also no way to let my wife know I was o.k. To make a long story longer...

Staying high, I started crossing the steep slope back toward the Loft. I overshot it completely and reached a ridge behind Meeker. When I got to the top of the ridge, I looked over and saw a lake in the distance and realized what I'd done. All day I had overshot everything in every direction! I stayed high and tried to make my way back to the Loft area. I got cliffed out a couple of times and had to backtrack before eventually getting back to the Loft. Now it was about midnight. At least there was a full moon and the wind had stopped.

My information said to look for a white cairn at the top of the exit ramp so that you avoid the cliffs when going back into the Loft couloir. I wandered around for what seemed like an eternity because there were white spots all over due to the previous night's snow. Then I saw flashing lights down toward Chasm Junction and thought, "Oh no. They've called search and rescue." I blinked my headlamp as I moved around so they could hopefully tell I was o.k.

When I finally found the exit ramp I made good time down toward Chasm Lake. At 2am I met up with them above the lake. It turned out to be my son-in-law (a volunteer fireman) and his friend. They had radios and called back to my wife and daughter who were in the parking lot waiting. We reached the trailhead at 4am. 23 hours after I left. Talk about an epic death march. I didn't think I would ever try a 14er again.

Why am I going through all this on my finisher trip report? Good question. After a while I started thinking, even though that was a terrible experience, I actually hiked 23 hours basically non-stop and survived it. That was kind of cool in a weird way.

The following year I decided I would try again only this time start with a gps, some knowledge and some kind of logical order. And... I was going to try to summit them all. And that brings me back to the beginning on Mount Bierstadt in July 2008.

I want to thank Bill for creating and running this site. This resource has been invaluable in reaching my goal. I want to thank all the people I have learned from, been encouraged by, shared ideas with, hiked with and climbed with on this journey. I have met some great mountaineers, great hiking partners and great people in general while pursuing my goal.

I want to thank Jim for his ongoing advice. I want to thank my wife for the sacrifices she made to allow me to reach this goal. Most of all I want to thank my Lord Jesus Christ for the safety He has allowed throughout this time. I hope to safely climb many more 14ers and other peaks and I hope to meet many of you on the trail in the future.

I would like to share some of my photos from the past two years. Enjoy!

Pyramid goat

Holy Cross

Wetterhorn & Uncompahgre


Pikes Peak hail

Longs marmot

Lizard Head

Bells Sunrise

Sherman mining building

Blanca ascent



Longs Ptarmigan

Capitol sunset

Crestone Needle sunrise

Sunshine saddle view

View from Sunlight

Longs January

Grays and Torreys

Wilson Peak

Blanca from Ellingwood Point

Train to Chicago Basin

Climber on Lindsey Ridge

View on Mt Wilson descent into Bilk Basin

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Picture 3........
09/19/2010 12:18
says it all! I wish I could've joined you guys. Congrats.


09/19/2010 14:05
Crazy Longs Peak story, and unbelievable pictures!


great pictures, Gary
09/19/2010 14:49
Way to give the people what they want! Congrats again.


06/02/2011 14:57
Way to chronicle your journey. That Longs trip could have easily turned into a Colorado 14er Disaster for sure. Glad you stuck with it as it allowed me to get out on some mountains with you. Sweet pictures by the way.


Great Journey
09/19/2010 19:26
Thanks for the great pictures and the memories of some great hikes.
Glad we got to do the loft route with Meeker and Longs.


Congratulations, again!!
09/19/2010 19:52
Agree with Barry, this is a beautiful chronicle of your 14er journey! Congratulations! It was great meeting you this summer! Glad I wasn't with you on that infamous Longs climb back in 2006, but hope we can get together for a climb sometime in the future now that you're a veteran! All the best! Doug


Great Pictures
09/20/2010 01:44
Thanks for putting together this photo journey.


Nice pictures!
04/18/2014 19:27
Those pictures are sick!


09/21/2010 15:20
Excellent pix & great pick for a finisher!


Well done Gary!!
09/21/2010 17:30
Glad to have joined you on one climb. Your photos are a beautiful representation of the 14er challenge. congratulations!


Thanks all!
09/22/2010 19:29
Thanks everyone for the nice comments!
Jason - Totally agree!
Barry - Yeah. I'm thankful I didn't end up in the book.
Jim - True. For the record Jim and I did successfully complete the Loft/Meeker/Longs route last year. So now I shouldn't get lost.
John - Yeah. Great route. I heard it's been done as a finisher before.
Steve - Thanks! I appreciate that coming from someone who should know what the challenge looks like. You are one I think of when I write ”great mountaineers”. Thanks for showing me the ropes, literally.

Brian C

Great report!
09/27/2010 01:13
You have some fabulous photos. Glad I got to hike a few with you. To answer the saxmotor question, I decided it was easier to have my real name for partnering up (and it matched my SP profile). Keep on climbing and hopefully we'll meet up again (we need to go back again for Longs this winter!).


10/01/2010 15:31
Thanks! Definitely need to get back to Longs this calendar winter.

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