Peak(s):  Hagerman Pk  -  13,841 feet
Belleview Mtn A  -  13,233 feet
Date Posted:  02/09/2011
Date Climbed:   10/16/2010
Author:  Matt Lemke
 Maroon Bells 4 pass circuit with summits   

Day 1 - Friday October 15, 2010
I was very excited for fall break which marks the half way point for the semester. This would be a nice break from homework and tests that never seems to end at the School of Mines. The plan was to hike the 35 mile Maroon Bells circuit 4 pass loop and hopefully get to explore some other areas in some side trips. It was going to be a three night backpack. The main goal for me was too capture some awesome fall photographs and as you will see, I think I did a pretty good job at making that goal a success.

We took the scenic route over Independence Pass as we drove to Aspen, CO from Golden, CO.
Upon arriving at Maroon Lake around 3pm we saddled up and started hiking. We quickly passed by the tourist ridden Maroon Lake. Maroon Lake is only very spectacular in the morning anyway so we didn't bother with many photos. Passed by lots of day hikers on our way to Crater Lake, which was nothing more than an area of dirt this late in the season. Completely dry!

After a short break at the trail junction we were on our way up to Buckskin Pass.
The Pyramid Peaks with foliage

We were making progress very quickly and made it to the top just before sunset. We were able to watch the sunset over the distant Snowmass Mountain and Hagerman Peak. Looking the other way we had some stellar views of Pyramid Peak.
Beautiful evening on the Pyramids from Buckskin Pass

After the sun set we started descending as we had to get to Snowmass Lake for camp. Just as the moon rose, I was able to get some very nice alpenglow photos.
Moon rises as the sun sets near Buckskin

As the last alpenglow went away I shot this photo.
Twilight and Moonrise

Darkness quickly came upon us and we finished the hike to Snowmass Lake in the dark. The only regret about this fantastic trip I had was not bringing the tripod. The twilight reflection shots I could have obtained of the Maroon Bells on the stream we passed would have been fantastic. Believe me I tried to get some photos but I just couldn't keep the camera still (duh!)

Got to Snowmass Lake and quickly set up the tent and went to bed.

Day 2 - Saturday October 16, 2010
We woke up to a beautiful sunrise at Snowmass Lake. Although is was very cold is was still nice as the sun was coming out and it was looking to be a beautiful, crisp fall day.
Sunrise at Snowmass Lake

Quickly ate and packed up and started the ascent to Trail Rider Pass. About 400 feet below the pass we hit sunshine and stopped to warm up. Got superb views of Snowmass Peak towering above us.
View at Trail Rider Pass

Upon summiting Trail River we were greeted with Panoramic Views.
Hagerman Peak

After a nice break we started descending where the spectacular Hagerman Peak came into view.
Hagerman Peak and Tarn

A short bit later we came to a small tarn where we took another break.
I decided to take a side trip to Geneva Lake while my partner climbed Hagerman Peak.
Backside of Snowmass

Got to Geneva Lake and wandered north towards Siberia Lake. I didn't make it that far but I will be back to get to Siberia Lake and climb Siberia Peak!
View from the trail junction

Met my partner at the trail Junction just below the small tarn and we were on our way to Fravert Basin where we would camp that night.
Fravert Basin

The Maroon Bells from Upper Fravert Basin

Moonrise over the Bells

Upon getting into the bottom of Fravert Basin, the moon started to rise and I got some excellent photos of the Maroon Bells as the moon rose.
Beautiful Maroon Bells

Hagerman from Upper Fravert Basin

These were also taken right from our camp spot for the night. We got to relax and watch the sunset while having a nice campfire and talking to the other half of our group who met us here. They decided to do the loop in the other direction.
Once it got too cold, we went to bed.

Day 3 - Sunday October 17, 2010
We woke early and quickly hit the trail to warm up. We ascended our way into upper Fravert Basin passing a hunting group who was living at the base of the Coors Waterfall for three weeks and counting.
Crossing the stream proved very challenging and we were stuck on the wrong side all the way until we got to the very bottom of the waterfall where I was finally able to design a makeshift bridge to get us across without wading the frigid waters.

Once again had great views of Hagerman as we ascended Frigid Air Pass.
Hastley Basin

Upon summiting Frigid Air, the cold winds chased us down in a hurry. Took a very quick side trip to the Hastley Basin Overlook.
View from West Maroon Pass

Took my time and enjoyed he hike from Frigid Air to West Maroon Pass. Although the meadows had all died away everything was still so beautiful. Upon summiting West Maroon Pass a beautiful view of Bellview Mountain and the Pyramids came into view.
After another break, I descended and explored around in the upper basin while my partner, whose goal was summits instead of photos, climbed Bellview Mountain. Shot this photo of Bellview Mountain as he just summited.
Pyramids Panorama

I relaxed and took photos as sunbreaks came about. A storm was slowly moving that would mark the end of hiking season. That is why our timing was so perfect...a beautiful weekend that marked the end of hiking season not to mention the lack of people in this usually popular area.
Pyramids Panorama

When my partner returned from Bellview, we started running down the trail back to Crater Lake. Didn't take long to get back but it also didn't take long for this to fog up.
We ate the remainder of our food and camped near Maroon Lake. The other half of our group (and our ride) wasn't coming out until Monday as they spend their last night at Snowmass Lake where we booked it out before the storm came in.
We hung around Maroon Lake that evening skipping rocks.
Day 4 - Monday October 18, 2010
I awoke early to get the famous sunrise shot of the Maroon Bells from Maroon Lake. The winds were calm so I seized the opportunity and ran to the other side of the lake and captured what is now my Summitpost profile photo and probably my best photo I've taken to this date.
It was a little cloudy but it was early enough that some of the suns rays poked through.
The famous photo

Only 5 minutes after I took this the winds picked up and the reflection was gone.

So we had to wait for our rides to get back. They had to hike over Buckskin. Too bad they missed the views due to the clouds and snow but they still had fun. We just hung around the lake all morning until they returned. Didn't see very many tourists either since it was a Monday and cloudy.

All in all, probably the best set of photos I have taken since I started photography a couple years ago and my favorite Colorado Trip to date.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

02/10/2011 06:38
That is a beautiful area, but you have some serious skill with a camera. Thanks for one of the most photogenic trip reports I've seen.


Very Beautiful Photos!
02/10/2011 16:25
Amazing! Thanks for Sharing


Um Wow
02/10/2011 18:52
Crazy good photos. Especially that last one of the bells.


02/10/2011 20:52
Great photos!!! Love the shots from behind the Bells!


02/10/2011 21:39
that area will make everything seem like nothing. Nice Pictures!


Wow is right!
02/11/2011 01:48
Nice report! Some fabulous scenery! Thanks!


Gorgeous pics !
02/11/2011 02:07
I did the Four Pass Loop in the opposite direction, and your report brought back some good memories....although your photography skills are MUCH better than mine ! Great job capturing the beauty of a spectacular area !!

Matt Lemke

Thanks everyone
02/11/2011 05:25
To be honest I didn't realize this site was so popular. I'm very happy I joined. Thanks for all the nice comments. I'm glad to share my photos.


02/11/2011 12:05
I agree with the other comments - incredible pictures of the hike.


Great fall shots
02/11/2011 18:36
Fall colors really change the look of the Elks. Good end to the season and great job with the camera!


02/12/2011 13:32
Excellent pictures! Thank you for sharing.

Dave B

Awesome Pictures!!!
06/22/2012 13:18
Amazing panoramas. I was really looking forward to coming back with some great pictures when I did that loop in October. But alas the skies were mostly grey and the lighting flat. I look forward to seeing some more of your pics!

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