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Snowmass Lake and Snowmass Mountain (14er)

  • Aug 15, 2013 · 3:00 PM


Backpack to beautiful and remote Snowmass Lake. If your up to the challenge, climb Snowmass Mountain, a class 3 Colorado 14er.


• On Thursday August 15, drive to the trailhead.  Set up camp near the trailhead.  We might have to backpack in a bit from the parking area.

• On Friday August 16, hike to Snowmass Lake and set up camp.

• On Saturday August 17, climb Snowmass Mountain or hike around the lake area.

•  On Sunday August 18, hike back to the trail head and drive home.

• On Monday August 19, back to work :-(

The additional details below are for the backpack to Snowmass Lake.  For details on the climb up Snowmass Mountain, see the pdf file titled Snowmass Mountain - East Slope (Standard) in the "Files" section of the "More" drop down menu at the top of the web page.

Please Note: Anyone attending our trips must have a signed Waiver & Release form on file with us. This waiver covers all trips and activities so you only need to sign it once. If you have not already signed this form it can be downloaded from our "Files" section and turned in to the organizer when you arrive for the trip.

If you RSVP "Yes" for this trip please plan on attending. Please read our RSVP Policy located in our "Pages" section.

Trip Dates: August 15 (Thursday afternoon around 3:00 PM) thru August 18 (Sunday hike out)

Drive Time to Trailhead:  8 hours from Albuquerque

Trailhead Location: Snowmass Creek Trailhead at the end of Snowmass Creek Road or Divide Road.

The trailhead elevation is 8400 ft.

Directions Trailhead: From Albuquerque, drive to Aspen Colorado. Drive 6 miles west of Aspen on Highway 82 and turn left onto Brush Creek Road. Continue on Brush Creek Road 5.5 miles and turn right onto Divide Road. Divide Road turns into a gravel road and passes the Krabloonik Restaurant and Kennels. The road descends steeply to the valley bottom where it forks. Take the left fork. The Snowmass Creek Trailhead is at the end of the road. A high clearance vehicle is recommended.

Or, From Albuquerque, drive to Aspen Colorado. Drive about 8 miles west of Aspen on Highway 82 and turn left onto Snowmass Creek Road and begin measuring mileage. Drive 1.7 miles and turn left to continue on Snowmass Creek Road. The road turns to dirt at 7 miles. At 10.7 miles, turn left and cross a bridge over Snowmass Creek. At 10.9 miles, turn right at another junction and continue to the trailhead at the end of the road (11.3 miles).

Suggested route from Albuquerque to Aspen:

1) I25 north to NM599
2) NM 599 around Santa Fe to US84/285
3) US84/285 north to Espanola
4) US285 north out of Espanola to Alamosa CO
5) US160 east out of Alamosa to CO17
6) CO17 north to US285
7) US285 north to US24
8) US24 north to CO82
9) CO82 west to Aspen

Trip Rating: Moderate to difficult going to Snowmass Lake

Trail Length:  8.3 miles Friday, 8.3 miles Sunday (16.6 miles total) to Snowmass Lake

Elevation Gain: 2,580 ft

Elevation: 10,980 ft (at lake)

Expected Temps: Highs in the 60's, lows in the 40's

Link to Snowmass Lake Weather Forecast

No Dogs Allowed

Contact Eric Krosche with any questions.

Be Prepared

Climbing Colorado 14ers does not require technical rock climbing skills if the appropriate routes to the summits are selected.  The climbs do require very good physical fitness and several of the mountains require rock scrambling.  Several climbs involve breath taking exposure requiring careful hand and foot placement to prevent life threatening falls.  The 14er in this description is NOT known for dangerous exposures along the climb.

Weather changes on the mountains can happen during any season and can be rapid and extreme.  Come prepared for all types of weather conditions: intense sun, heavy rain, high and low temperatures, wind, snow and ice.  Bring gear for all these conditions.

• Sun: wide brimmed hat, sun screen, sun glasses

• Rain: waterproof outer layer of clothing

• Heat: thin layer of clothing, plenty of water

• Cold: an insulating layer of clothing, insulated head cover, gloves, face coverWind: windproof outer layer of clothing which may be the same clothing for rain

• Snow and Ice: traction devices for your boots, trekking poles, same gear listed for sun and cold

• Other Gear: compass, map, headlamp, knife, fire starter, emergency shelter, whistle, signal mirror, first aid kit, portable water purification, insect repellent

Your first aid kit should include aspirin and ibuprofen for treating the symptoms of mild Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Symptoms include headache, fatigue, stomach illness, dizziness, and sleep disturbance.  A recent study found that people who took four 600 milligram doses of ibuprofen over a 24 hour period in which they ascended to 12,570 feet above sea level were less likely to experience altitude sickness than people taking a placebo.  There is some evidence that an 80 to 120 milligram dose twice a day, beginning five days before ascent and on summit day, of the herb Ginkgo Biloba may reduce the chances of experiencing AMS.  Symptoms of dehydration can be confused with AMS, so drink plenty of water during the climb.

Even though the climb is only for the day, you should be prepared to stay out for a night should an unforeseeable situation arises.

A pdf file of my 14ers backpacking kit checklist can be found in the Files folder.  It can be downloaded by hovering your mouse cursor over “More” on the Meetup page tool bar and selecting “Files”.

Lightning Safety

If you are in mountains and climbing high, the primary way to ensure safety from lightning strikes is to get an early start.  Thunderstorms are much more likely to develop during the afternoon, especially in mountainous areas.  So if you’re planning a hike at higher elevations, try to be off of the trail before noon.  Follow the summer-in-the-mountain rule: "Up high by noon, down low by two" to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms the generally occur between 2 and 6 P.M.

Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from the thunderstorm. If you can see or hear it, you are close enough to be a target.

If you're in the open or on a ridge, retreat to a sheltered area. Shallow caves or picnic shelters aren't good enough. Lightning can bounce around and strike you. Enter the forest, but do not choose the tallest tree in a stand of trees for shelter. Avoid isolated trees and water. Stay away from lakes, streams and marshy wet soil, as water is a good conductor of electricity.

If you cannot find shelter, make yourself as small a target as possible. Crouch down with your heels together.  If lightning hits the ground, it goes through the closest foot, up to your heel and then transfers to the other foot and goes back to the ground again. If you don't put your feet together, lightning could go through your heart and kill you. Put your hands over your ears to protect them from thunder.  Do not lie down as doing so creates a larger target for lightning. Crouching on your pack does not lessen your chances of being struck.

Do not place your campsite in an open field on the top of a hill or on a ridge top. Keep your site away from tall isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees. If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine, or other low area. A tent offers NO protection from lighting.

If you're in your tent, get out as the poles attract lightning.

Toss away metal objects (backpacks, cameras and tripods, crampons, ice axe, trekking poles, tent poles, climbing gear).Hiking partners should stay at least 15 feet away from each other.

Watch out for danger signs. If your hair begins to stand up on your head, arm, and the back of your neck; your skin tingles; you hear clicking sounds, a lightning strike may be about to happen.  Run like hell or crouch down in the “lightning crouch” position.

Lightning can strike before or after it has stopped raining.

How far away was that lightning? Count in seconds, you know how, one thousand one, one thousand two, etc. Each five seconds is one mile.

Danger from lightning may persist for more than 30 minutes after a storm has passed or after the last known lightning strike. This is often called "blue sky" lightning and is just as deadly.

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  • Chris R

    Nice pics. Looks like a good backpack. Congrats on #53

    September 3, 2013

  • Eric K.

    Bagged 14er number 53, woo hoo! Only one more 14er to go. The valley up to Snowmass Lake was quite beautiful. The vistas around Snowmass Lake were stunning. I highly recommend the 8 mile backpack trip up Snowmass Creek to Snowmass Lake! The elevation gain is spread out over much of that distance making the hike relatively easy. There was plenty of wildlife and wildflowers to enjoy along the way.

    August 22, 2013

    • Keith F.

      Which one are you missing?

      August 24, 2013

    • Eric K.

      Capital Peak. See the photo of me on the summit of Snowmass Mountain; Capital Peak is just over my shoulder in the distance.

      August 24, 2013

  • Keith F.

    Hey Eric. I posted almost the same thing except for the beginning trail head. I wasn't sure if my van would make it to the Snowmass Trail Head. Let's see if we can coordinate.

    August 1, 2013

    • Mark N.

      Eric, Do we need helmets for Snowmass? I am out of shape for backpacking and I know it's a long hike in, so I want to minimize my weight, but not at the expense of climbing safety.

      August 8, 2013

    • Eric K.

      I am bringing mine. I remember the rocks showering down on me on that prior accent of the first scree slope.

      August 9, 2013

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