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Snowmass - Advice Needed

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby schrund » Sat Jan 05, 2013 11:43 pm

We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams... as "wild". Only to the white man was nature a "wilderness".
-Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Chief

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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby d_baker » Sat Jan 05, 2013 11:47 pm

Fletch wrote:Everyone gets emotional, even you Darin.

Oh I know.
I was giving the Cheese and PW some background so maybe they would understand why Fischer responded that way.

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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby Gene913 » Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:00 am

Wish I lived in CO wrote:Other alternates for a camp / climb trip would be Holy Cross and maybe Bel/Ox.


I neglected to respond to this suggestion earlier, however, I think both these alternatives provide much better options than Snowmass for a first 14er.

There are many reports of folks backpacking into East Cross Creek, and doing Holy Cross as part of a night or two stay at the established sites at East Cross Creek. I did Holy Cross as a single day climb, but the camping areas at East Cross Creek looked very comfortable and inviting.
Similarly, there are a multitude of established dispersed sites in Misssouri Gulch, from which Belford, Oxford, and Missouri can be accessed. I did a solo backpack into Missouri Gulch, spent the night, and climbed Oxford/Belford the next day by way of Elkhead Pass. It was a serenely peaceful trip. Spending two or three nights in Missouri Gulch, and adding Missouri, would provide anyone with a pretty ideal introduction to 14ers.
"If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, and you say to this mountain, 'move from here to there,' it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:21

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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby d_baker » Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:00 am

I may have offended some people with what I wrote.
So for clarification, I wasn't trying to insinuate that those that died on the mountain made poor route finding decisions. I have no idea what kind of decisions they made, nor do I know the decisions made by those on this thread that declare the route easy.

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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby TallGrass » Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:15 am

While I understand the allure that Snowmass would carry being your first in the Elks, I think there's good reason to take Holy Cross on account one factor: experience. You have some there and he (presumably) has little to none. If you want to be the Uncle both in terms of guide as well as guardian, it would make sense to go where you have first hand knowledge. At 18, he's likely to lean on you, and you in turn can lean on your experience with the area, but if it's terra nova for both... :-k (P.S. You don't want to count on being able to "lean" on the rock in the Elks for support. :wink: )

That said, I'm sure you personally don't want to slog all the way in from the Mitten State (or are you a Yooper?) only to do a re-tread route. It's nice for there to be something novel for you as well.

Get your NatGeo/Trails Illustrated: #126 map for Holy Cross and look at all the other ways of doing Holy Cross. I came in from the south via Homestake and Fall Creek. Fall Creek is a CAKEWALK from the Notch Shelter intersection to Tigiwon Road, but MUCH more interesting over to Hunky Dory Lake. Cleveland Lake, Missouri Lakes, Lake Constantine, "Coat Button Lakes" at 11,921 (see my TR), Tuhare Lakes, Seven Sisters, and others make some great and uncrowded camping areas with good water access (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate). Many have ascended to Holy Cross from the Tuhare and backtracking along Halo Ridge offers plenty of exposure to, well, exposure at points but isn't long enough to wear on one who doesn't take to it (the end of the tunnel/catwalk is clear). Holy Cross City, the mines (observe; don't enter), Notch Shelter, and offer tales of history. Some have done the Holy Cross Ridge from as far south as Fancy Pass (three more 13ers and a 12er). Traversing the Notch offers a buffet of Class 3 through 5 sample portions that one can easily bail from should he find them unappetizing (researching the Notch first is key). Descending from Notch Mountain (north summit) avoids the endless switchbacks of the Shelter route (Class 1 bail option) while providing a decent opportunity for him to practice route finding. Holy Cross Jeep Road (Grade 8?) would be a spectacle for any 4x4s you catch on it.

Logistically, Minturn is far more friendly than Marble for supplies and or help. I-70 is just a few miles away and there's a 24-hour Walmart in Avon as well as other stores should you need gear, food, or such. Minturn has a decent backpacker grocery, gas, bar (he can be your designated driver :twisted: ). You can see US-24 from Notch Ridge and often get five bars on your phone should you want to summon help or just update route plans. More variety, options, on-the-fly adjust-ability (+ or - the difficulty), flexibility, accessibility (less car-time = more mountain-time), and more. Just remember that save for snow (melt), there's no water for a long ways once you leave Tuhare, halfway up Shelter Trail's switchbacks, or East Cross Creek; I'd take no less than 3 and maybe as much as 5 liters depending how much time I planned on staying up there.

Lastly, talk to your nephew! Half the fun is planning, half in doing, and half in telling tall tales afterward. Why leave him out on any of it???
Not sure if I'll do more 14ers. The trip reports are too tiring. :wink:

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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby ChrisinAZ » Sun Jan 06, 2013 1:52 pm

Fletch's description of Snowmass as having "bad juju" is pretty spot-on, at least for me. It's a fantastically beautiful mountain, but I can't think of many other 14ers that have even come close to making me feel as uneasy as Snowmass did (maybe the 30' of slick, cold Hourglass on LB). Even Capitol, made of the same kind of rock, felt more solid...if only because it's so steep most of the loose chunks of rock have already slid off. That mountain is a collection of loose, giant shards of granite that feel ready to slide at the slightest touch, and I didn't feel even somewhat safe again until I was back off the ridge on the standard route. The scrambling may not be overly difficult, but I'll take solid class 4 over horrifically loose and dangerous class 2 any day of the week (and parts of Snowmass were definitely class 3). Being acquainted with many of those involved in the two recent fatalities on that massif, the common theme seems to be that parts of the mountain just give way, and bad news for you if you happen to be there when it happens.

I'm planning to go up there again to get N Snowmass next summer, but a part of me is going to be on edge until I get back down that mountain safely, and it has me more worried than any remaining climbs I have planned on any of the 14ers. In short, I would strongly agree with anyone who recommends you climb a different mountain. Pick an easier and noncommitting class 3 (Wetterhorn, Crestone Pk as an overnight, etc.) or climb something easier with incredible views.
"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason."
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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby Gene913 » Sun Jan 06, 2013 4:55 pm

Fletch wrote:And the more people I talk to, the more they are referring to Snowmass as sort of a "bad juju" mountain. I, for one, have no plans to ever climb it again. And a lot of folks I know have said the same thing.


I agree. A very experienced friend of mine - with 79 fourteener summits - has made the trek into Snowmass Lake three times and has yet to summit Snowmass Mountain. He has been stymied by two weather-related turnarounds and the most recent episode in which he was hit in the shoulder by rockfall that had been kicked down on him while ascending the first few hundred feet of loose rock just above the lake. He would definitely agree that Snowmass is a "bad juju" mountain. The only reason I will go back is to be there with him when he finally makes the summit.
"If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, and you say to this mountain, 'move from here to there,' it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:21

Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby MonGoose » Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:19 pm

In the summer of '09, I did the 4-pass loop with a good friend during which we camped an extra night at Snowmass Lake and climbed Snowmass Mountain. It was one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on. At that time, I was still in the teens in terms of the number of 14ers I had climbed and Snowmass was only my 2nd or 3rd Class III peak. Snowmass is a very interesting mountain: the scree field, if not approached correctly can cause problems as can the snowfield, depending on the time of year. In spite of the technical sections along the standard route, the greatest risk on Snowmass is the looseness of the rock. You can't mitigate instability. To add to the challenge, the recent change in climate and strange snowfall levels we've experienced in the past few years can make it increasingly difficult to predict the factors that contribute to dangerous situations 6 months in advance.

I view climbing Snowmass Mountain as follows: If you are careless, you are putting yourself into a very dangerous situation. If you are skilled and make good decisions, you are still taking some risk due to the looseness of the terrain. Any trip on Snowmass Mountain comes with added risk. Remember that any 14er experience your nephew experiences this summer will be his best, and there are a number of peaks that present a lower risk. Perhaps in a few years, after he has a few peaks under his belt and understands the risks better, he may ask you to climb Snowmass with him.

-Edited for clarity
Last edited by MonGoose on Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby d_baker » Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:40 pm

Mongoose, I'm assuming you climbed the 14er Snowmass Mountain and not the 13er Snowmass Peak. Is that correct?
Snowmass Peak is much looser, from my experience on both.

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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby cheeseburglar » Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:45 pm

I'm sorry about the terrible accidents that have occurred on Snowmass.
But one bad accident on a route doesn't make it a bad route.
If the Snowmass standard route is loose, no one should go anywhere near the Bells, Pyramid, or Capitol.
The marmot said “Nobody is perfect and you are not nobody.”

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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby MonGoose » Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:01 pm

d_baker wrote:Mongoose, I'm assuming you climbed the 14er Snowmass Mountain and not the 13er Snowmass Peak. Is that correct?
Snowmass Peak is much looser, from my experience on both.


Dangit, you're right d_baker.

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Re: Snowmass - Advice Needed

Postby ameristrat » Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:25 pm

cheeseburglar wrote:I'm sorry about the terrible accidents that have occurred on Snowmass.
But one bad accident on a route doesn't make it a bad route.
If the Snowmass standard route is loose, no one should go anywhere near the Bells, Pyramid, or Capitol.


This is advice for taking a beginner on the mountain. There is a very good chance that if the OP and his nephew took this route, they would have a great time and see very few issues. But in the off chance that an accident did happen (history has shown the probability is higher here), why is there any resistance to offering the advice of looking towards another, safer route?

And I can think of at least 3 accidents in the immediate area in the past year or so - please be safe up there, guys.
You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know. - Rene Daumal

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