Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,105 feet
Date Posted:  07/27/2014
Date Climbed:   07/26/2014
Author:  mojah
 Snowmass via S Ridge from Schofield Park (Crested Butte)   

From Crested Butte, I drove up Gothic to Schofield Pass. From the first parking lot in Schofield Park (trailhead for West Maroon Pass), continue about 1.4 mi to a warning sign. From all I had read about the road through the Punch Bowls, I knew I couldn't take my Subi down there. A high clearance 4WD is indeed necessary, but a short wheelbase isn't strictly needed as there are no steep, sharp switchbacks to Lead King Basin trailhead. Descend at your own risk.

Warning at top of the Punch Bowls

From here, it's about 4 miles to the Lead King Basin trailhead through the Devil's Punch Bowls, mostly downhill. Once you cross a bridge (There was also a ROAD CLOSED sign at the same point), you can continue down the road where you'll have to ford the river (had to do it barefoot; too deep to stay dry). To avoid this, you can backtrack a couple hundred feet from the bridge and cross over a footbridge onto a trail in the woods. Unless you know where to look, you'll miss this following the road. It was only when I was hiking back that I discovered the other end, which conveniently begins right before you have to cross. The trail meets back up with the road at the top of the Punch Bowls. Close to the bottom of the Punch Bowls, I passed a blue Jeep getting ready to be towed out. The front of his roof was caved in, but everything seemed to be OK. I was trying to make Geneva Lake before dark (I had left directly from work), so I didn't stop to ask questions. Not sure if he had flipped off the road or if a boulder had come crashing down on him, but he certainly wasn't happy about it. Not a kayaker or river rat otherwise, but the rapids looked pretty nuts.

Right at the top of the bowls

At the bottom of the bowls. Wrecked jeep right of and above center

A great diversion for the trip back included me jumping into the pool from the 15(ish) foot cliff just below the jeep. Great way to end a trip!

About 2.3 mi from the parking lot, you reach the Crystal/Lead King junction. Go left and you reach the Crystal Mill and the town of Marble past that. Stay right and continue on to Lead King Basin. From here, you get the first view of Snowmass and the aptly named S Ridge.

First glimpse of Snowmass

The road will eventually reach an open meadow and you'll want to cross the bridge at this point. The trailhead parking lot is shortly up the hill. If you hit a switchback, you've gone too far. A few navigational snafus cost me over a hour here, and the quickly coming darkness forced me to camp at the trailhead rather than Geneva Lake. Lesson: Get a larger scale map for more details. Also, I found that I had lost my headlamp along the way, meaning I couldn't continue or get a super early start like I wanted. Lesson: Secure your shit

Cross this bridge

Don't miss the trailhead!

Was out of camp by 5:45 (late) the next morning and quickly made my way up to Geneva Lake. Here I ran into a Denver couple (Andrew and Lindsey:marit77) also planning on doing the S Ridge. After my solo Bells experience, I decided a little company would be welcome and they seemed friendly enough (and they were through the whole thing). Stay attentive and stay left after Campsite 5 or you'll miss the hill that takes you up to Little Gem Lake. Once you reach Little Gem, you can hang a hard right and go down to the creek and back up straight to the base of the ridge. From here, take whichever route looks best to gain the ridge. We chose the second gully from the right.

Took the dark gully (center screen) to the ridge

Looking back from the gully entrance

Geneva from the top of the gully

On the ridge, the rock was surprisingly solid. The large granite slabs were a nice change of pace from the fractious mudstone of the Bells. Not much to say here but just keep on trucking. If the ridge gets too difficult, the best course is usually to drop to the left (west) side and find a path. There was one section close to 14,000' (ish) where it looked good to go over a notch to the left (west), but the better course was to climb some solid slab to the right (east). We decided later that that section was probably the crux of the route.

Andrew and Lindsey on the ridge

Soon enough, you'll gain the summit! At this point, we took a quick snack break and took some pictures. A couple cloud to ground lightning strikes accompanied some mean looking clouds to the northwest past Capitol and we were eager to not be the highest objects in the sky. As we descended however, we didn't see any more lightning and we only got a few drops of rain. By the time we got back to Little Gem, it was a bright and sunny day.

From the summit looking down to Snowmass Lake. Pyramid and the Bells in the distance

North Snowmass and Capitol

Me on the summit block

Any idea why the actual elevation isn't listed?

Oh, Colorado weather, how you tease

Hiked back to Schofield Park that same day. Andrew was nice enough to drive me just a little ways past the Crystal junction, saving a bit of downhill hiking stress on my knees. We exchanged contact info, hoping to team up for another 14er in the future. Shortly thereafter, I was back at the Punch Bowls. At the end of the long day, their cool pools were a welcome reprieve from the heat.

Ticked another one off the list, made some friends, and on to the next one!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
great report
07/28/2014 02:53
Hope to do this in mid-August. Any idea what the mileage was on that approach?

re: screeman57
07/28/2014 04:27
From the parking lot at the top of the Punch Bowls to the Lead King TH, it was about 4 miles. It's about another 1.6 miles to Geneva and an additional 1.2 to Little Gem.

Nice report...
07/28/2014 16:26
...on an lesser used TH approach. I'm still debating if I want the S-ridge or the standard (with snow) for Snowmass & North Snowmass...

Perfect timing
07/28/2014 16:35
Tried the standard route a month ago and failed. Was planning to try the S-ridge the week of 8/3 so your report's timing is perfect. I think this is the best way to go and will never go up the standard route slog again. Great job!

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