Snowmass Mountain, Nothing But a Pile of Granite, Right?

( ^Click To Read More!^ )

Following the failed attempted of Wetterhorn, I spent much more time preparing for Snowmass Mountain and the more information I dug up on the route, the more uneasy I was about going.

Last year a 14ers.com member passed away when a rock slide occurred on the very same route. It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but none the less the dangers of rock slides are real, especially during heavy rainfall, or snowmelt.

Snowmass Mtn gets its name from the bowl of snow that accumulates on its east face. It is the 31st highest mountain in Colorado at 14,092 ft, and the 4th highest in the Elk range. The whole Elk Range was inhabited by the Ute Indians and they called the mountain Cold Women since it was believed that the mountain brought on bad weather. The Utes now primary live in Utah and Colorado. Intresting enough, my high school mascot was called a Utes, however I'm sure it has Irish origins instead of Ute Indians.

Last year, the mass of snow on the bowl was still melting well into August. This year, the snow melted by late June, but the monsoon season has brought heavy rainfall to the area.
With that in mind, I read many warnings about boulder sized rocks that were just loose and ready to go if you nudged it the right way. Every thought about summiting Snowmass kept me very reserved about going. Of course, danger is always part of the game, otherwise it wouldn’t be as fun.

I planned to drive out of Grand Junction at 6pm, Friday night and camp out at the trail head for a 3am start.
Unfortunately, work called in and I had to perform a soil nail test in Telluride, about 3 hours the opposite direction of where we were heading. My day started at 4am, out to Telluride and back into Grand Junction at 4pm where I took a short nap and off we were to camp out at Snowmass Mtn.

It was a pretty easy drive out to Carbondale, but the 13.8 mile 4x4 trail beginning in the middle of the night at 930 was a whole other story and adventure on its own.

The 4x4 trail sign reads 4x4 access only, but neglects to mention that the trail runs up the side of sharp hills with very narrow roads and very….VERY sudden drops.That means long wheel base need not apply. (you can click the photos for the full size 3+MB ones)

Mt. Wetterhorn, A Failed Attempt.

Ill say this up front, what you are about to read is the story of utter failure. Failure in basic land nav, basic compass use, and failure to use better judgment. Where do we begin? Obviously the planning!

My first 14er, Mt. Sneffels was painfully easy. The geography was easy to read on the map since there were large bodies of water and distinctive peaks, it wasn’t hard to figure out where you were. If you followed the trail it brought you straight up the mountain and on to the top.

Mt. Wetterhorn on the other hand was completely different. I followed the same planning stages of getting the map, checking out the geography and then setting the idea aside until I had time to climb. I didn't spend as much time on planning for Wetterhorn as I did for Sneffels since the trail on Sneffels was so well defined that I thought Wetterhorn would be the same. Not to mention there were crowds on Sneffels so it was relatively easy to figure out where the heard was going. With the trail map and an outline of the trail in my hand, I deemed myself “ready” for Mt. Wetterhorn. (click to read more)

Mt. Sneffels, My First 14er

Its been a month since Ive been living in Grand Junction this pass summer and its only right that I climb a 14er….or maybe several 14ers!
It was hard to really plan the trips since you have so many factors working against you; availability, work schedule, weather and time.
Needless to say, it isn’t easy to coordinate a trip up a 14er. It takes time and good planning and lots of luck.

I was recommended Mt. Sneffels as the first 14er due to its relative ease and giving the best overall view. I looked up the trail maps and decided that I wanted to do a night hike and try to reach the summit by sunrise. July 4th (Happy Birthday America!) was a full moon and the weather was perfect. Showers only from 10pm to 3am and 11pm and on. A 4am start and return from summit by 11am was perfect for this window of opritunity.

It was a chance I couldn’t give up on. Rally the troops!

My coworker and I who I've been bugging to do a 14er with me for the past several weeks, left grand junction at 2am. The moon was out. I was tired and hungry. But when has that ever stopped anyone? Click to read more!

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