Peak(s):  Hagerman Peak  -  13,841 feet
Belleview Mountain A  -  13,233 feet
Buckskin Benchmark  -  13,370 feet
Date Posted:  10/22/2014
Date Climbed:   09/21/2014
Author:  SnowAlien
 A Long Road to Hagerman   

Attempt # 1 - weekend of 09/13-14/14

Original plan - Hagerman
Actual result - Belleview
Stats: ~16 miles RT, ~4.3k vertical, ~10.5 hours (with stops)

There were a couple of hiking goals this summer, one of them being the Four Pass Loop. I have perused many recent 4 pass loop reports with great interest and anticipation, but after a trip to Weminuche I was out of vacation time for another extended trip in July or August (sigh). At the same time, I wanted to climb Hagerman in the Fall, as I remember the colors were quite nice in the Lead King basin when myself and a group of others climbed the S-ridge on Snowmass back in 2012. The longer I postponed the 4 pass loop trip, the more I liked the idea of combining the two objectives. The crux of the route for me was the TH access. Lacking the 4x4 ride with high clearance, I was at the mercy of my hiking partners. After a couple of cancelations, some last minute, I tried to make a drive to Crystal Mill in my Subaru, but had to abort within a mile. It was time for Plan B. I hurried to the Maroon lake TH, snached one of the last spots in the day parking lot and set off in the direction of West Maroon Pass at a non-alpine hour of 8.20am. The trail is great, and I've never been in that basin past the standard trail on South Maroon. Here are some photos.

Just slightly too late in the day for the alpenglow and a bit too early for aspens

Sleeping Sexton

Some other nearby mountains c) Moneymike


West Maroon pass

Heading up the ridge from West Maroon pass

Hagerman and Snowmass look far across the Fravert basin

Figuring out the route in the last section ~Class 3

South Maroon from Belleview

Pyramidial traverse (left portion)

As I started my descent, the weather looked iffy, but only for a short while

Crater lake

Attempt # 2 - weekend of 09/20-21/14 (this time for real)

Original plan - Hagerman and all nearby 13ers
Actual result - Hagerman + Buckskin BM

Hagerman approach: ~7.5 miles, 3.0k vertical, 4 hrs 45 min
Summit day: ~13 miles, ~5.4k vertical, ~13 hours (with stops)
Buckskin BM day: ~10 miles, 2.7k vertical, ~7 hours
Weekend total: ~30 miles, ~11.0k vertical, ~25 hours

A week later, still lacking high clearance 4x4, I finally settled on approaching the peaks from Maroon lake TH. Obviously, this is not the most efficient way (Snowmass TH would have been less elevation gain), but it allowed me to hike a large section of 4 pass loop, and add another 13er along the way.

Delayed by road construction in Glenwood canyon and heavy in-state and out-of-state foliage-viewing traffic between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, I didn't get to the Maroon lake TH before 6.30pm on Friday night. Shouldered the overnight pack and departed the lot at 7pm, as the sun was setting. After almost 5 hours of hiking in the dark, I found a good campsite very close to Snowmass creek. It was eery to wake up next morning to the backside view of the Bells.

I set out from the camp around 7am and made a good time to the Snowmass lake (only a mile away) and a Trail Rider pass.

Good morning, Snowmass lake

Hello, Trail Rider pass

Looking back at Snowmass lake on a brilliant fall morning

From Trail Rider pass, the trail drops down about 1k feet.

View of Hagerman from 4 pass loop trail. The grassy gully on the left is the one I ascended to gain the SW ridge.

Higher up in the gully and the beginning of SW ridge

Somewhere in the gully I started feelling very sluggish, as the 10+ mile approach, 4k+ vertical and the lack of rest from the hike the night before caught up to me. But there was nothing left to do but to press on.

Looking back at the approach

I bypassed the first ridge difficulties on the right and regained the ridge near 12.8k, where the real fun began.

For the most part, I stayed on the spine of the ridge as the rock there seemed more solid.

The route felt mostly Class 2-3 with an occasional Class 4 move. There was probably an easier bypass, but I found it safer to stick with solid rock.

Only within the final 100-200 feet from the summit, I grew increasingly concerned about the rock quality, and had to come up with some creative route finding to avoid pulling on rocks that didn't seem to have much support.

Terrain suddenly starts to feel less secure

Snowmass and traverse from Hagerman

Snowmass lake and the Bells from Hagerman

I didn't linger on the summit for too long, as the weather was starting to look a bit iffy. The route was a bit easier to read on the way down, but still, some harder downclimbs were unavoidable. I made sure to give wide berth to rocks that didn't seem to be attached to anything.

Regaining the Trail Rider pass on the way back

SW ridge

Snowmass lake in the evening.

I toyed with the idea of adding another 13er to the day, but SW ridge took quite a bit longer than I expected and I was feeling pretty fatigued, so I just decided to head back to camp. As I was near the Snowmass lake, the skies opened up and it hailed and graupeled on me for the last mile.

Buckskin BM and the hike-out
Stats: ~10 miles, 2.7k vertical, ~7 hours

Sunday was expected to be rainy, and it was, so I decided to pack up the camp and head back to Buckskin pass.

Rainy Sunday in the Elks

Quite a few other 4-pass loop hikers were on the same schedule, so one by one we gained the pass.

It was only 9am and I felt pretty good, so I decided to stick around for another peak. Now, I don't often hike in the rain, but when I do, it is Buckskin BM from Buckskin pass! The light drizzle and clouds created an unusual backdrop. Soon I noticed a thicker white fog rolling over the ridges. It was time to hurry up if I wanted to see any views!

Thick white fog is chasing me

Snowmass and Hagerman

Snowmass in the fog

The last few hundred feet I had to hurry, as the fog was about to overcome me.

I started descending in the fog and somehow took the wrong ridge down! As soon as the clouds parted for a minute, I recognized the error and backtracted to the correct ridge. It was fairly easy to make that mistake in low visibility, but at least the terrain was very mellow.

Pyramid in the fog

From the Buckskin pass, I joined many other hikers heading down to Maroon lake. It was very scenic and I stopped to take many photos. I was glad to be able to see what I missed hiking in the dark nearly 2 days prior.


Although I was unable to complete all my objectives at this time, this area never disappoints. I hope to be back again next year.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Comments or Questions
10/22/2014 22:48
Nice photos Natalie! Took me back to my climb of Hagerman. Good stuff, congratulations.

Stunning color!
10/22/2014 23:13
Wow! What stunning color in a very colorful place. The fall just blessed it even more. Very nice, Nat!

the elks look a little different...
10/23/2014 14:43 the fall! Nice report Natalie. We've done a lot of similar outings this year!

Great report.
10/23/2014 16:07
Hagerman is a really nice peak, and you sure made the most out of your trips. The LKB road is not easy. We actually hired an ATV to get take us up to Geneva Lake (insert joke about puny car, etc.).

Glad to see the fall foliage here! Last time I was in the area, everything was white with snow.

You got a workout in!
10/23/2014 16:46
And great pics of all of the ”nearby” mountains.

Nice pics!
10/23/2014 18:54
Looks like a good trip.

What a great fall weekend, Natalie!
10/24/2014 15:13
Just seeing this TR now as we've been busy with our new addition - a good busy Congrats on Hagerman! Gorgeous country and pics.

10/24/2014 21:49
Nice job Natalie, shows real confidence going up Hagerman alone. Some really great pics too, particularly Snowmass Lake.

10/25/2014 03:02
Not the TR, those shots of the Hagerman/Snowmass ridge. Holy smokes those future widow makers make the spidey senses go haywire.

Nice shots, Natalie! Nice and scenic way to do the approach.

I've always held the belief...
10/28/2014 15:55
...that the Elks are third behind the San Juans and the Sangres. I might still be right, but damn, your photos make a strong case. Beautiful shots and nice hike, Natalie. I doubt I'll ever return to the Snowmass/Hagerman region so I'll have to live vicariously through you.

10/30/2014 05:23
when did you become a badass photograhper?

As Ryan said, man that ridge, don't look too hospitable. Solid work here Nat. Thanks for the Invite, but couldn't find the time!

11/15/2014 17:49
Great report, Natalie!

04/02/2015 19:45
SoCool - great comment, thanks! I will be lying if I wasn't concerned about Hagerman's rock, especially in view of Rob's accident back in 2012 and another accident on Snowmass a year before. I did extensive research on the route and several people who had done the ridge said it was pretty solid. I wouldn't necessary qualify it as ”solid” per se though unless you are pretty good at route finding and identifying solid holds. I told myself that I will turn around if something didn't seem right. Except for the initial part of gaining the ridge, which wasn't solid by any measure, class 3 on very loose rock (I bypassed it on the way up in the interest of time, but downclimbed it on the way down) the rock quality overall was acceptable with careful route finding. Only about a hundred feet or so away from the summit I got more concerned about the rock quality, so I ended up climbing some slabs to avoid tilted talus I didn't trust. I honestly would be more concerned to have less experienced partners on something like that than going solo (same issue I had with the Wilsons). That said, I am still looking for competent partners for Thunder Pyramid and Gladstone!

wow, thanks!
04/02/2015 19:45
Abe - *blushing* - do you like that ”leaves with rain drops” shot? I think I've been working on it the last three fall seasons, it finally came out the way I like That's so nice of you to say that I don't think it's possible to take bad photos in the Elks though.

Ryan - nothing to add here. Yep, the traverse looks really sketchy

Jeff - given the recent history, which is still so fresh on everybody's mind, I can't blame you, but I urge you to give the Elks another look. They are far too beautiful to be avoided. And it's hard to pick favorites, but imho, they do give Sangres a run for the money, by a big margin. Cathedral in snow wasn't that bad, huh?

Bill - thank you! Fall is a magic season in the Elks, isn't it?

04/02/2015 19:45
Dillon - thanks - I guess if we go after Centennials, we'll end up with similar peaks? I haven't been much to Gores or RMNP this year though, but had lots of quality time in the San Juans instead. So much to explore! Elks are beautiful, in all seasons.

Joe - thanks again for the great info and the links. Without a solid 4x4, one has to be creative (or stubborn), but I really like your ATV idea! Way to do it with snow.

Mike - ”the nearby mountains” is such a classic. I am still laughing. Is it ski season yet?

Brandon - I think congratulations to you and Kristine are in order! and I can't believe you still find time to read the TRs

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