Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,105 feet
Date Posted:  07/28/2015
Date Climbed:   07/25/2015
Author:  michaelgrundy
Additional Members:   marcstrawser, rohit, markanolan
 Muddy Mess to Get There   

Route : West Slope
Time to Summit : 4 hrs
Total Time : 9 hrs (includes breaks and summit time)
Party: Rohit, Mark, Marc, and Mike

"When dry, it is the easiest and smoothest of the trails for a vehicle with 4-wheel drive. When wet, it is probably the most difficult." - Taken from's entry for FR 315 (Lead King Basin)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rohit and I met up with Marc and Mark in Carbondale after the drive from Denver at 6 PM. We were on our way to Lead King Basin to climb up the West Slope of Snowmass Mountain on our quest for the 58 fourteeners. We left Carbondale and made the 27 mile drive to Marble quickly. Rohit and I were in my F-150 and we were following Marc (slightly older F-150) and Mark (Dodge Nitro).The road was recently re-paved so it was very smooth sailing to this point. Once we were in Marble, things quickly heated up and the next 1.5 hours were spent on the edge of our seats. It had been raining since we left Carbondale and it didn't seem like it was about to stop.

At the bottom of FR 315, Mark parked his Nitro and loaded into Marc's F-150. The next 7 miles were going to be rough and Marc wanted to give it a shot. We were about a mile up the road when Marc's truck was unable to continue. He placed it in 4WD but the front tire didn't seem to be getting power and there was a grinding sound coming from the front of his truck. We decided it was best for him to return to Mark's Nitro, park the F-150, and continue in Mark's vehicle. While they went to exchange vehicles, Rohit and I continued up the road towards Lead King Basin.

The road was... scary. I can easily say that it was the most uncomfortable I have been while driving. The road was very wet and muddy. As you climb higher up, the switchbacks become very steep. I noticed that the truck sensors were telling me that we were ascending 14 degree muddy slopes. I had the truck in 4 low for the majority of the upper section of the road to keep from sliding around. At one switchback, I had to stop the truck because I misjudged the turn. When I came to a stop, the truck slid down the hill a few inches. Luckily, I was able to reposition the truck and keep moving forward. Needless to say, I was on edge the entire time we were driving on this road.

After around 1 and 1/2 hours we pulled in to the level parking lot for Lead King basin. We set up the truck to sleep in the bed, got changed, and were just getting ready to call it a night when Mark and Marc drove up in the Nitro. The whole group made it unscathed! They set up their sleeping arrangements and we all called it a night.

Rainbow as we approach Lead King Basin. (Photo by Rohit)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

After a sleepless night, the alarm went off at 3:30 AM. We all quietly got ready, ate some breakfast, and started up the trail by 4:15 AM. The weather was clear, cool, and calm. It was a good way to start the hike. As we hiked away from the vehicles we quickly learned that waterproof pants would have been a good thing. The rain from the night before made everything wet and as we walked through the fields, we became soaked. The trail goes through several fields of wildflowers, willows, and brush... all covered in water. The gaitors that I was wearing only did a little good, and before long, I was soaked from the waist down.

At 6:15 AM we reached Little Gem Lake. We ate a little food and took a few pictures of the lake at first light. The lake was surrounded by lush green grass which made for some very pretty pictures.

First light near Little Gem Lake.

After a short break, we left the lake and continued towards Snowmass. After about 10 minutes, we were standing at the bottom of the West Slope. We put on our helmets and started to climb through the boulders.

The route up the slope has a three different personalities. At the bottom, the route has small gravely/sandy rock. Traction wasn't too bad but it was a little more effort than climbing a dirt path.

Personality #1

As you climb higher up, you encounter the second personality. Piano sized boulders that were somewhat loose. I had to pay attention to what rocks I stepped on. Some were perched in a manner that any extra weight would cause them to move.

Climbing up the slope. (Photo by Rohit)

Personality #2 (Photo by Rohit)

Finally, as you near the top, the third personality emerges. The rocks become larger and more stable and you can safely scramble your way to the summit.

Climbing higher up the slope.

Personality #3... with Marc and Rohit about to summit.

At around 8:30 AM we climbed out on to the summit! We had the summit all to ourselves so we spent about 45 minutes eating, taking pictures, and enjoying the view. The large snowfield on the east side made it easy to understand where the mountain gets its name. We enjoyed great views of Capitol and the Maroon Bells from our vantage point above 14,000 ft.

View from the summit.

Classic picture of someone taking a picture.

Summit shot!

The group on the summit. (Photo by Rohit)

Summit! (Photo by Rohit)

Summit views. (Photo by Rohit)

At 9:15 AM, we said goodbye to the beautiful summit and started our way back down.

Starting down.

Looking up at Mark as we begin our descent.

The descent went smoothly and we all moved at our own pace. The slope really wasn't too bad and I feel like the looseness was over-hyped. Yes, there are some loose boulders, but nothing worse than other routes I have been on (Challenger Point comes to mind). As long as you take your time and pick your rocks carefully, you will be fine.

More views.

The route.

Little Gem Lake on the descent.

The trail. (Photo by Rohit)

The basin containing Geneva Lake.


Wildflowers with a waterfall.

After a little over 3 hours later, we were all back to our vehicles and ready to start our trip back over FR 315 to Marble. Luckily, the sun was shining all morning and the road had dried up. The descent only took 1 hour and was uneventful (thank goodness).

Snowmass on the drive out! (Photo by Rohit)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Congrats, guys!
07/29/2015 09:34
Awesome job!
Mike we gotta get a cheesehead on you!

07/29/2015 13:16
Nice job looks like a fun route, I believe Rohit only has 1 left, good luck on your finisher.

07/29/2015 14:30
zdero1 : No way! That hat / towel have been with me on the majority of the 14ers. They are kind of my good luck charms. Besides, I have to stay true to my roots! (Grew up just north of Pittsburgh)

WarDamnPanic : You are right. We are headed to Crestone peak > Needle traverse this weekend. The Needle will be Rohit’s finisher. I will be finishing up on August 22 on Pikes. Thanks for the "Good Luck".

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