Snowmass Mountain -- What a Glissade!

3-5 Jun 2004 - by T Colorado

The three of us (my husband, Michael, and our friend Ron) took the long drive from Denver to Aspen (shortened, of course, by the open road over Independence Pass) to hike in on the traditional trail up Snowmass Creek to Snowmass Lake to climb Snowmass Mountain (Ron is still working on completing his 14'ers). Michael and I had not hiked this trail to climb Snowmass since our first ascent of it back in 1987. Things have not changed much on the trail except for the unlimited number of downed trees from the winter. When we arrived at the trailhead, there were two other vehicles there and a group of four camping from Kansas City (who were on their way in to camp at the beaver ponds).

We started our backpack in on Thursday and made it in to the lake in 8 hours (which is pretty good considering the numerous obstacles and snow -- mostly from the beaver ponds up to the lake). We took snowshoes but did not use them. There were only two campsites that were dry (everything else -- literally -- was entombed in snow). There were two other guys (Al and Joe) in the one campsite on the other side of the outlet to the lake.

On Friday, we rose early and picked our way around Snowmass Lake (which is thawing) on a mixture of solid snow and post-holing snow. It took 5-1/2 hours to get to the summit. The three of us shared the summit with Joe and Al (still working on completing their 14'ers). This is the earliest that we have climbed Snowmass and the conditions were absolutely FANTASTIC! The snow was good (almost like being on a glacier in the North Cascades), the weather perfect and the company was enjoyable. The views of the Maroon Bells traverse, Pyramid Peak, Capitol Peak and Clark Peak were stupendous. The Bells looked so inviting! Not! We intersected the ridge as high as possible and 3rd-class scrambled to the top. There was so much snow on the peak that it necessitated staying on the ridge proper to the top (which took less than 10 minutes once we hit the ridge). We were the first of the season to "uncover" and sign in the summit register (that's kind of cool). The glissade down started at our high point on the ridge (literally) and continued for what seemed like miles (haha). It was probably actually at least 1-1/2 miles of great glissading. Whoops and hollers were heard by all! The snow continued all the way down to the inlet of the lake (practically). A big thanks to Joe and Al for postholing back to camp (around the lake) as we elected to take a break and soak up the scenery. We eventually got back to camp and celebrated with margaritas and bbq potato chips.

It took 6 hours to backpack out on Saturday. By the way, the fishing at Snowmass Lake was excellent (even though the lake was not totally thawed). I caught my first two fish ever (and I've been trying for four years though not very frequently). The first was a rainbow (about 15" at least) and the other was a brook (about 10"). Kiss and release. Both were caught near the outlet of the lake. Happy trails!

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