Peak:  Snowmass Mountain (14er)
 Route:  S Ridge (aka South Ridge)
 Range:  Elk
 Posted By:  MC.Ikema
 Date of Info:  08/22/2020
 Date Posted:  08/23/2020

Just here to hype the S Ridge (aka the South Ridge)...

Having climbed Snowmass via the East Slopes and now having descended the West Slopes, I'm happy to report this scenic alternative avoids the scree slogs of both the east and west slopes. The S Ridge felt solid enough that I told my climber partner he was being cheated out of the traditional Rockmass experience (you know... those microwave sized boulders that wiggle with just a stare).

Ascent Notes:
We gained the ridge by starting at the base of the left gully and ascending the rock rib that splits the two gullies. We found a nice Class 3 stair step up to the rib within probably the first 50-100 feet of the gully's entrance (on climber's right). Once on the rib it was pleasantly solid rock to the ridge and summit. See Wentzl's October 2019 trip reports for gully pictures (photos 8, 10, 11). Our starting gully is photo 11 labeled "Left Gully".

Once on the ridge the optional crux is "the slabs". We opted to scamper up the short class 3+/4 slab (~20/25 ft. vert.) and around the pinnacle rock tower on the exposed side (climber's right). If you don't want the spice of the slabs it looked like there was a walk around to climber's left, avoiding the slabs and the exposure. See merrion13's August 2017 trip report for a picture of the pinnacle rock tower above the slabs (photo 6). "The slabs" are not in view as they are behind and below the towering rock pinnacle; however, you can see the Class 3 gully walk around to the right in photo 6. The airier slabs ascent leaves you on the left side of the pinnacle in photo 6.

Outside of these two areas it's a straight forward Class 3 scramble on nice rock. We ended up descending the West Slopes, and were very glad to have only set foot in this gully once given how ugly and loose it is.

Just as the West Slopes became a favorite to avoid the long approach of the East Slopes, I believe the S Ridge (aka South Ridge) could eventually become a favorite to avoid the garbage chute of the West Slopes. Happy scramblin'!

 Comments or Questions
Eli Watson

"S" Ridge
08/23/2020 18:10
Nice work!

I always read it's called the "S" Ridge for the shape of its curve? Otherwise it would be the southwest ridge, with the traverse from Hagerman being the southeast!


West Slopes
08/23/2020 21:00
When I climbed Snowmass via the West Slopes recently, I found the rockfall very overhyped, and found almost the entire descent to be decently solid, easy yet long, a decent trail at times, and overall had a pretty nice time in that gully. That impression was entirely flipped on its head on the descent. Descending that gully sucks. Up was easy and fun, down made me very sad. Would the S Ridge be a bad descent route if you had also come up that way?

S Ridge trailhead directions
08/23/2020 22:24
Can you please tell me how to get to the S Ridge trailhead? It sounds like a nice alternative to the East and West slopes. Thanks for the info.


08/23/2020 23:06
Eli - you are correct, edits made!

9patrickmurphy - Descending the S Ridge might be tricky at the gullies. You can probably descend straight down either gully (they looked fairly Class 3 and others have climbed up them), however, they're narrow enough any rock fall would be concentrated and dangerous. If descending the rib that splits the gully, finding the exit stair step could be a challenge. There are a few cairns on the rock rib, but if you go too far you will cliff out. If you're the observant climber who has the sixth sense to tell when Class 3 is drifting into Class 3+/4 territory you'll probably be fine. If you're the Class 3 climber who pushes halfway up a Class 5 pitch before deciding to reassess the route, this probably isn't your descent.

Iron Mike - the S Ridge uses the Lead King Basin trailhead, same as the West Slopes. You share the same approach trail as the West Slopes route until Little Gem Lake. At Little Gem Lake the West Slopers continue north up the valley, while the S Ridgers head east across the valley to catch the ridge.

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