Snowmass Peak

Date to Climb: July 06, 2009

Date Climbed: July 27, 2009

Elevation: 14,092

Range: Elk

Latitude: 39.11870, Longitude: -107.06650

Route: East Slopes ll, Class 3

Round-Trip Mileage: 21 Miles

Pre-Climb Comments

We have decided to make two days of Capitol and Snowmass. At this point in the trip we are so tired we are trying to keep things as easy as possible. We are not trying to set a record, just trying to climb some mountains.

We will backpack to Snowmass Lake on the 26th and climb and pack out on the 27th.

Post-Climb Comments

The Snowmass trailhead is about 20 miles from the Capitol trailhead, even though they are only six or so miles apart by trail. After driving down from Capitol we drove to Basalt to stock up on some food and ice.

Returning, we found the Snowmass trailhead and a nice place to camp for the night.

We woke to a rainy day. We got our final packing complete and headed up the trail. The hike to Snowmass Lake was on an easily graded trail. The path was rather long, but we moved quickly with light overnight packs (less than twenty five pounds each.) We did have to deal with the rain as it never stopped drizzling and sometimes poured making our misery level high. Oh, the log jam was interesting, but not hard. Trekking poles helped keep us in balance.

Snowmass Lake

Snowmass Lake

Plugging along, we eventually made the lake. Finding used (hardened) campsites was easy, finding the seven numbered sites was impossible. The campsite signs were missing (probably burned in a campfire!) The rules for the area were stated on the signage, but no one seemed to care. People camped everywhere. Some were close enough to the lake they could have fished out of their tent. Paths and poop trails led everywhere. Fires and evidence of fires were everywhere. It was a sad state of camping affairs. The poor area has been overused and abused. We hope the Forest Service bans (and enforces the ban) camping in the area, similar to the Twin Lakes area of Chicago Basin. It must happen in order for the area to recover.

Shivering in the drizzle we sat up our tent and started doing camping chores. As I filtered water I overheard some others saying that nobody climbed that day, the weather was so bad.

We finally warmed up and ate our sandwiches. Instead of carrying a stove, fuel, etc. we planned on a cold camp by bringing sandwiches and other ready-to-eat foods. A hot drink would have been warming in the drizzle but not worth the extra weight.

Early to bed, we finally warmed our cores. We had hung our food bag so high that a bear would have had to have been a trapeze artist to get it down. We had no bear troubles.

Dressed in all of our rain gear we started the climb on Monday morning. A post warned of the wet willows surrounding the lake. They were so right. We were drenched by the time we got to the talus on the other side of the lake.

After a brief drying out session, we were climbing scree slopes and back to business as usual. Snowmass Mountain is just a bump on a ridge, but it is the highest bump. Snowmass Peak is a more majestic mountain, though lower in height. Snow found us around 13,000 feet and we got to climb the white stuff again. We both brought crampons and ice axes on this trip!

Snowmass  summit

Snowmass summit

Gaining the ridge we went into a nasty couloir which was not the worst we had seen, but it was pretty ugly. On the ridge the climb was fine. The traverse to the summit was on fairly solid rock and we were able to move quickly. Once on top, we had the summit to ourselves - in fact, we had the entire day to ourselves!

The view to Capitol was incredible. The knife edge looked more formidable when viewing it from Snowmass.

Capitol from Snowmass

Capitol Peak from Snowmass Mountain

Going down we found a way to avoid the nasty couloir by passing it on the ridge and going down a stable talus/boulder slope instead. We then stayed to the climbers right and descended snow into a large basin and then down to the top of the nasty scree slope. We also found the trail through the grassy slope to the right (ascending) of the scree slope. It would have made the ascent much easier.

Back at camp we packed and headed down. On the trail we passed numerous large groups struggling up the trail with immensely large packs. We are sure that they were planning a life of luxury at the lake. One group even was carrying folding stools! Of course they would have probably sold the stools pretty cheap before they finally reached the lake.

At the trailhead we ate, drank, and headed back toward Aspen. Castle is next.

49 climbed, only 5 to go.

Snowmass Peak - July 27, 2009 summit check