Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  06/14/2012
Modified:  07/06/2012
Date Climbed:   06/11/2012
Author:  fourseasoncyclist
Additional Members:   DeMers, Kory Lieberg
 First Fourteener Completed- A Few Mistakes Though  

I received a text message from a buddy who lives in Casper, WY stating he was coming to Colorado for the weekend and wanted to go out camping. We were ready for something harder than the 12,000 and 13,000ft mountains we were used to. After spending several hours searching for good fishing and a difficult workout on and, I called up my friend's Brice and Kory and presented the idea of camping at Snowmass Lake and then climbing Snowmass Mountain the next morning. Being big into fishing they we're both game.

Off work at 7pm. One beer at the bar and we all decided to drive that night from Longmont to Glenwood Springs to get an early start Sunday. After arriving in Glenwood Springs at 2am we attepmted to get some sleep in the back of Kory's Subaru Outback. Interesting to say the least... three guys in a wagon. The smells we're bad enough yet alone sleeping that close to another man.

5:30am wake up. We parked in the Village Inn Parking lot. BREAKFAST!
Arrival at trailhead around 8am
Village Inn Bed and Breakfast, lol

8:30 departure to Snowmass lake. We all felt really good that morning and set around a 2MPH pace. The views get better and better as the trail goes up in altitude.
Brice and Kory with Awesome views

After reading the other trip reports I was very excited for the log jam. We had no iccidents and most of the logs don't budge.
The much anticipated log jam crossing

The trail becomes slightly more difficult at this point around a few switchbacks to the lake. It felt like this part took forever, but this was just anticipation.
Top of the switchbacks. You're almost there

We all took a long moment in awe when finaling seeing the lake. It's much better than this picture.
Snowmass Lake Arrival, Great Fishing

We set up camp on the north side of the lake. Right after setting up camp my fishing buddies got right to catching dinner. The fish are almost too easy to catch here. Mountain house and trout. Delicious.
Camp. What the hell is Kory doing with his sleeping bag?

Fish Dinner

The next morning was going to be a tough one so we got an early nights sleep. We started our walk to the other side of the lake at around 8am.
Sunrise the morning of the summit

Morning Frost

After traversing the boulder field over to the glacier run off waterfall we began our steep accent. This was a not technical route other than not being able to see some of the ice under the water. A few spots took some slowing down to make sure you had a good hand hold in case your foot slipped.
Waterfall Climb- ICE!!!

Looking back on the lake on the waterfall, again I stress watch for ICE

After gaining the first ledge onto some greener areas it was time to repair some blisters. Kory and I both had sore ankles from moving to fast on the way up. Kory and Brice both had blisters due to new boots.
Blisters Anyone?

We continued up another several hundred feet in elevation and left Kory on a flat rock. His ankles we're not in good enough shape to traverse to the top of Snowmass and I am glad this decision was made after personally crossing the ridge to the peak. I wish I would have had an ice axe at this point. There were several areas that we were post holing, sometimes to our waists. The snow was soft and made glisading down tough.
Kory and I with Snowmass in the backround

Steep Snow Climb. Catching Mike at start of ridge

After reaching the ridge I learned what Brice and I had not researched. The ridge to the top. We met another gentleman named Mike at the ridge that has done all the fourteeneers and he was very helpful. We kept good distance from each other to keep from having a rock incidents. At several moments we all knocked rocks free from the size of a classroom globe to the size of a old fashioned chest. Everytime a rock would come down I was having to slow my heart rate and pull myself back together to complete what I had almost finished (I wasn't even thinking about the decent yet which was just as hard.
I think I bit of more than I can chew

After making it almost to the top I looked back to take a picture of a terrifying moment in my life that I will never forget. The rocks on the Elk Mountains are just waiting for the slightest pressure to break free and possibly take you and other rocks with it. This was a big lesson for me. I will do much more research in picking my climbs from here on out. This was past both my ability and Brice's ability. I was risking my friend's life and mine. My next climb will be a class 2. We are both in good physical shape and have done some bouldering. It is a whole different story with the exposure we faced on Snowmass. To anyone who is in the same position I am in ( just starting to climb 14ers), this is not a begginer climb! Do NOT make the same mistake I did.
Looking back at my death defying stunt. So I thought

After reaching the summit. Mike, our savior, told us we should have done an easier mountain. He did give us a congrats on our first 14er however and was impressed with our abilities. (He must not had seen me having to sit down 4-5 time to stop shaking and slow my heart rate, lol)
Brice and Myself reaching the Summit of our first fourteener

USGS Banech Mark, Why no elevation?

The route down seemed much easier after spending some time with the exposure. I can see how people are addicted to climbing these mountains and I think I am ready to start my adventure of climbing every 14er in Colorado. The glisading was ok. You could make it about 500ft at a time, but we we're trying to avoid rocks the whole way.
Brice and Mike Decend the Ridge

This was a great trip, other than some minor injuries. I was also given a lesson in humility. From this point forward I will stick to mountains within my abilities.
We will see you again Snowmass...

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

 Comments or Questions

Great lesson learned
06/15/2012 02:33
Thanks for admitting it. Most people wouldn't/don't. This site is chock-full of great advice, updated condition updates, route descriptions, and gear/equipment recommendations for any given mountain in every season. Horrible things can/have/will happen on these mountains even for the most prepared climbers. Reverence might be the best thing you can bring to the table.


Looks pretty dry.
06/15/2012 02:37
I am looking forward to hike this mountain this summer and I think, I will do it pretty soon, looks really only few snow left. Is the ridge completely snowless? And agree with dmcool, nice write up. Thanks for sharing.


06/15/2012 02:47
Your respect for the mountains is refreshing 'round these parts. Thank you for the fine TR.


no snow on ridge
06/15/2012 03:06
The ridge is completely clear of snow. The snow in the bowl is unpredictable. I was post holing every fifty feet, sometimes to my waist.

06/15/2012 03:27
Snowmass is no gimme, as you discovered. Similarly, preparation, research, proper gear (leave the jeans at home!), and understanding are key; again, as you discovered. Way to gut it out, summit, and figure out what you did wrong/can do better. I hope you enjoyed your first summit. Your arduous and mistake-laden journey made for a good read, and it was nice reading a first-timer's POV on a challenging peak. Glad you learned from the trip. Hope you continue to get out there!


Excellent TR
06/15/2012 04:19
A valuable piece of information for our climbing community. I have yet to do a class 3 peak (and I can't wait to), but for me I think it's best to start easy and gain that experience. This site has a category that ranks 14er routes by difficulty and is worth checking into. Yale and Harvard/Columbia have some really fun class two scrambling and columbia has some challenging terrain on the descent. Would recommend trekking poles during hikes (especially class 2) because it gives you 4 points of contact with the ground and saves your legs the extra work. Increased surface area should lessen the postholing too. Agree with JosephG, have some polypro layers for the summer hikes. Congrats on your first 14er. Impressive that it was Snowmass!


A daring first effort
06/15/2012 05:05
You were right to feel uneasy on least in my personal experience, it's been one of the three or so scariest and most loose 14ers I've climbed, and I've done most of them. This mountain has a sad recent past. Kudos for realizing your limits were being stretched, and with more experience you'll develop a keener sense of understanding where your comfort zone lies. Congrats on making it up--and more importantly, safely back down--an oft-underrated 14er!


Glissading Without an Ice Axe
06/15/2012 06:10
First 14er? Hell yeah!

You made it out alive and successful, so that's more than a great trip. For a first time 14ererererer, I wouldn't expect you to glissade with an ice axe. You're just there for the good time! Congrats my friend! I hope the 14er bug sticks with you

Lessons learned
06/15/2012 13:49
Thanks for taking the humble road in writing this trip report. It seems like too often you see young, arrogant guys come here to show of the size of their cajones so it's refreshing to see a report where the mountain put some humility back into the mix. As others have said, Snowmass is not a mountain to be taken lightly (I was just up there last weekend). On Memorial Day weekend last year, a climber died at the summit simply because a large rock came loose while he was standing on it. He did nothing wrong, but paid the ultimate price. I'm glad to hear your experience wasn't as tragic. Learn from this and continue to grow in your experience and endeavors. These mountains call to you like the sirens of ancient lore. Even though they are beautiful, do not forget that even the most unassuming ones can still be deadly.

Thanks for the write-up and good luck on future hikes!

Matt Lemke

Great first one!
06/15/2012 14:01
Snowmass as a first is something you don't see often. I do have a question for the masses though...
It may be the route I took (we ascended the snowfield to the high notch literally right below the summit instead of heading to the lower notch further left) but when I was on Snowmass I never had any loose rock problems. Is this a problem mainly on the lower part of the ridge? We only did the upper 150 or so feet of the ridge and missed most of it. may be able to help here.


Great TR; What's Next?
06/15/2012 14:03
This is a very good trip report. It's informative, honest and has good photos; three things that you don't always find in every TR. I wonder what percentage of those in the 14er community chose Snowmass Mt. for their first 14er? What's number two going to be guys, Little Bear or Capitol?


I also have a question
06/15/2012 14:07
I am attempting Snowmass on Sunday and am curious about the beta from Matt Lemke's question. I also am wondering about the postholing...can it be avoided, should I take snowshoes, etc.?


06/15/2012 14:14
When dmccool and I did it last year, we also took a direct snow route and popped out about 100-200 feet from the summit. We stayed high on the ridge for the last section and didn't have much trouble with loose rock. The standard trail is well below the ridge crest, however, and the rock there is a nightmare. And Terry, Sean's accident actually occurred in mid-July.

Oh, oops
06/15/2012 14:31
For some reason I thought it was over Memorial Day. My bad.


solid report
06/15/2012 15:03
Snowmass is a solid 14er to start out on cause its not incredibly difficult and it'll most likely get you pumped about future endeavors. You probably wouldn't get that on G and T or Bierstadt.

Thanks for the introspective TR. Goodluck in your future climbs.


06/15/2012 15:20
I just climbed Snowmass over Memorial. We took the standard route up and back and encountered very little loose rock but we were being extra careful. We might have been too low on the ridge also. I think it all depends on your line and how carefully you move.
To the OP, I can't imagine Snowmass as a first 14er. Congrats on a great summit and learning experience.


Thank you for your comments
06/15/2012 16:05
I want to thank everyone for their support and even the constructive criticism. My knowledge of mountaineering can only get better from listening to experienced individuals. This seems to be a great group on and I am excited to be a part of it. Thank you and I hope to see you out on the Mountain.


Loose rock ...
06/15/2012 18:28
Let's admit it, once you become more seasoned, you tend to do better with not moving loose rocks around (you learn how to push into the rock to keep it steady; you're better at selecting which rocks you're going to step on or around; having momentum, weight shifting, and balance work in your favor, etc.). I would encourage all three of you to develop the habit of yelling ROCK loudly if you do indeed accidentally dislodge rocks from the size ”of a classroom globe to an old fashioned chest” ... you never know the route someone else may be taking that could be below you (even on the other side of the ridge coming from a different direction). Welcome to You have some beautiful photos. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


Congrats, man!
06/15/2012 19:40
The vast majority of us have had our metaphorical cojones handed to us on a platter by some route or another. And then the added stress of leading friends into a dangerous situation. Been there, too.

It comes with the mountain territory and picking up the rules of the game.

Thanks for posting and good luck on the future climbs! Seems you'll learn pretty quickly.

Below the ridgeline is hideously loose and dangerous, though as Presto says, you learn to move on it.


Nice, good job on the first.
06/15/2012 21:13
Nice report and good pictures. I'm glad that you guys all made it back safely. One minor point- if you would have left earlier on Sunday morning (report said 8AM) the snow probably would have been firmer for your ascent. We usually like to start between 430 and 6AM if we can. Still, nice job and welcome to the website. Good pictures as well.


Don't Stop Climbing
05/06/2013 13:17
There is one trip report out there that recounts a guy climbing Little Bear for his first 14er. Really!? ... then another who completed the Snowmass ”S” Ridge as his first 14er ... solo. I think you discovered the Elks are not for the faint-hearted. Everyone on this site needs to have more nervous moments. Snowmass will be my 53d when I get around to it this summer ... and I am reading TRs like this one to get my head around it. Vort.


05/30/2013 05:43


05/30/2013 05:44


04/02/2015 19:45
you glissaded on Snowmass without an ice ax? hmmm.

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