The SnowCap Loop
Snowmass Mountain and Capitol Peak Combination
also visit: Day 2 or Day 3 or the Main SnowCap page
Jason Friesema and I left Woodland Park at 3 am and headed for the trailhead. We made a brief stop on Independence pass where I took a shot of Lackawanna Peak with a sliver moon and clouds surrounding.
We arrived at the trailhead around 7 and began hiking up the trail. The trail begins rather gently. For a while it even follows an old road bed. There are several gates along the way that are in place for the local ranches to use this land for livestock grazing. Please remember to close all gates.
It's not too long into the trail before some of the distant mountains begin to come into sight. The wildflowers also abound along this trail.
The creek was very high during Jason and my trip up there. Knowing later on in the trail we would have to cross this was a bit disturbing.
The further we went up the valley and the further the sun rose, the more dramatic the scenery became.
This was our first view of Snowmass Mountain. It's the one hiding just behind the obvious rocky point of North Snowmass Mountain. This was also our first view into Pierre Lakes basin. We would be crossing this basin the very next day.
Avalanche Debris on the trail.
More Avalanche Debris.
Still more debris.
And yes even more avalanche debris. It's amazing what a record snow year can do.
We had been hoping to use a snowbridge that a couple of avalanches had created to cross the creek. Our first view of it made it look like it wasn't going to happen.
Farther up it was still in place but very cracked.
Fortunately just before the lake there was still a very large section still intact and looking good.
Looking back across the snowbridge at the depth of the remaining snow. Probably around 10 feet deep.
This crossing was about a mile below the standard log jam crossing that is usually used. However from people who had been up earlier this year we heard it was much easier to cross early and bushwack our way for a mile than to deal with the log jam in high water. The bushwacking turned out to be pretty easy.
We were still below 10,000 feet at this point and having to cross snow fields even though we were hiking the last days of June.
We reached the log jam and joined back up with the trail. The logs did appear to be a lot more underwater than most other pictures I've seen. We were quite happy with having been able to use the snowbridge.
Just after the lake created by the log jam the trail begins to gain elevation and head up the mountain toward Snowmass Lake. Looking back down on the valley we had just ascended we were amazed how green everything was.
Not long after leaving the valley bottom did we begin to run into a lot of snow. Quickly it became more common to be on snow than on ground.
The falls just below Snowmass Lake are amazing. The photo doesn't capture it at all, but the falls run over a perfectly flat rock at a consistent angle. It looks alot like the spillway of a dam.
A few steps later though the falls are all but forgotten with the view of Snowmass Peak reflecting on Snowmass Lake. Click the photo above for a panorama shot of the lake.
We stayed here for a while just taking in the glory of the creation before us.
Getting around the lake was quite a chore due to all the snow. We had to go much higher on the hillside to avoid being on very steep snow that fed directly into the frigid deep blue lake.
Just after passing the lake we got our first good look at Heckert Pass. It looked perfect on this side. Snow all the way to the top.
After the lake you must choose how you will ascend the headwall. We took the gulley up along the creek. It was some boulder hopping at first, but then finished as a snow ascent. It looked like the summer route was just to the left of this gulley.
Jason Friesema finishing off the headwall with Snowmass Lake behind.
After getting beyond the headwall you realize how much distance you have to cover still. That's a lot of snow. We did a gear dump before continuing. We dropped anything we didn't need for the summit attempt and marked it on the GPS, with a cairn, and in the snow. (We didn't want to waste time trying to find it again.)
With the snow in such great condition it just takes a lot of patience to cross the great snow mass.
This was one of the latest ascents of a peak I've done in a long time, but the weather was holding beautifully so we didn't want to waste it.
This was where one of two scares occured on the trip. Just to the left of where Jason is standing is where I tried to get from the snowfield onto the ridge. Unfortuneately something similar to a bergshrund had formed but was covered by a weak snowbridge that failed as soon as I stepped onto it. I fell about 6 feet down between the snowfield and the rocks. It turned out pretty minor, but gave the two of us quite a scare for a second.
After getting beyond that little challenge we got onto the ridge and finished off Snowmass pretty quickly.
Jason Friesema's summit shot.
My summit shot.
Summit Panorama, click for larger version.
A few quick glissades put us back at our gear stash in 20 minutes.
There is nothing like a good glissade to revive your spirits.
We were amazed that the weather had held all day for us, though we did see the occasional rain shower in the vicinity.
We made camp that night on a ledge near the entrance the the Heckert pass couloir.
That evening we were treated to a great sunset.
or visit Day 3
or the Main SnowCap page
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