The Snowmass Lake Slog

Post by blogger | April 26, 2010      

Last weekend Jordan White, Ari Adler, and I went for a nice three day slog, with a bit of skiing thrown in.

We started out with our skis on our packs, but that only lasted for a quarter mile. For the next 7 miles it was skis on for a hundred feet, then dirt hiking for the next hundred, with a few debris piles thrown in for good measure.

5.13 skinning

5.13 skinning

After 9 hours of hiking (that’s less than 1 mph), we made it to the lake, and set up camp. We used the energy we had left to build a nice snow kitchen, then set about making a massive dinner. The rice, beans and chicken filled up each of our 1 liter mugs, and soon our stomachs.

Digging our snow kitchen, the snow was a little dirty.

Digging our snow kitchen, the snow was a little dirty. Click to enlarge.

The next morning we woke to a few inches of new snow, and it was still snowing heavily. We ate a quick breakfast, and then set off into the blizzard. We had to navigate around the lake to the other side where the climb to Snowmass basin begins. It was debatable whether having your headlamp on helped or hurt, and either way you could only see a short ways ahead. I figured as long as I wasn’t on flat ground I was on the shore and not the ice. We eventually turned up toward Snowmass Mountain, or so we thought. Once it got light, we noticed Snowmass peak was on our right, instead of our left. Oops. We traversed back toward the lake, and got started up the right slope.

The dirty snow we had seen the day before was nicely covered up by a few inches of fresh snow. Click to enlarge.

The dirty snow we had seen the day before was nicely covered up by a few inches of fresh snow. Click to enlarge.

We hiked for a while longer, untill we made it to the base of the couloir on Hagerman Peak, our objective. What looked like one diagonal couloir from far away was actually two, with another one splitting them in half. We skinned as high as we could, and then commenced postholing to the base of the couloir. Once we got to the top of the first section of the chute, we decided it was too risky traversing the loaded avalanche slope to get to the next section, so we clicked in for the ski down. It was short, but full of deep powder. I ski cut it, then Jordan dropped in.

Jordan dropping in to our first run of the trip.

Jordan dropping in to our first run of the trip. Click to enlarge.

I finally got a bright colored jacket!

I finally got a bright colored jacket! Click to enlarge.

We skied out onto the apron, where the powder was even deeper. Ari decided to take a nap in the sun, while Jordan and I switched modes to boot up another couloir that led to the top of Snowmass Peak (different than Snowmass Mountain, the 14er). The clouds from the morning were nowhere to be seen, and the deep powder booting was a nice way to cool off as we made our way to the top.

Jordan hiking up to Snowmass Peak.

Jordan hiking up to Snowmass Peak.

We eventually reached the top, waved to Ari, and enjoyed some spectacular views of the Elks. We hiked a bit along the ridge, and got the top of a cool mini chute, that led into the big one we climbed up. I went first, and found some nice powder, as well as some icy snirt. This couloir was quite a bit longer than the first, and was a blast to ski.

Hitting a patch of powder near the bottom of the second couloir. Click to enlarge.

Hitting a patch of powder near the bottom of the second couloir. Click to enlarge.

We made our way back to camp, and got ready to go back to the trailhead. Not wanting to slog back down Snowmass Creek, we decided to head over Buckskin Pass, and then down to Maroon Lake. It would be about the same distance, but less dirt and less slush, hopefully. We traversed down to the bottom of the valley, and then started hiking up to the pass. The route finding was difficult, and the unfrozen snow topped with 6 inches of fresh made for difficult skinning.

We moved quite a bit of snow up Buckskin Pass, just doing our part to cover the dirt layer.

We moved quite a bit of snow up Buckskin Pass, just doing our part to cover the dirt layer.

We made it to treeline at about 6:30, and decided to set up camp. We were tired, and didn’t want to navigate the potential avalanche terrain on the other side of the pass in the dark. We dug a hasty campsite, and pooled our remaining food for dinner. We each got 3 slices of cheese, and 3 slices of sausage, yum! We had brought the sat phone to practice using it for Denali, so we called a few people to let them know we would be late. When I talked to my Dad, he informed me that there was a winter storm warning with 20 inches of snow forecast for that night. With this news, we went to sleep hoping we didn’t have to turn around and go the 11 miles down Snowmass Creek the next day.

The next morning we woke to only about 6 inches of new snow, although it was still snowing heavily. We decided we could still go up to Buckskin Pass, since there looked to be some scoured patches we could piece together on the way up. We slowly made our way to the top.

Jordan and Ari at the top of Buckskin Pass. Click to enlarge.

Jordan and Ari at the top of Buckskin Pass. Click to enlarge.

We stopped at a patch of rocks on top of the pass to put on our skis. Jordan shuffled over to the slope and tapped it with his ski. The new snow sluffed off, and went a little ways down the slope. We all felt relieved, none of us would have wanted to venture out onto that slope if it wouldn’t have slid. We enjoyed a few nice powder turns down to Crater Lake. It started snowing harder as we hiked to Maroon Lake, where my Dad was nice enough to pick us up and do the long shuttle back to Jordan’s truck at the Snowmass Creek trailhead.


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13 Responses to “The Snowmass Lake Slog”

  1. Caleb Wray April 27th, 2010 9:11 am

    Looks like a good one fellas. Glad you guys found some white snow.

  2. Daniel Dunn April 27th, 2010 12:33 pm

    Lou, taking your advice from your contact page.
    I wanted to let you know what a huge influence you’ve been on me and my goals. Your’s was the first guidebook I bought when I move to CO about 11 years ago, and although I didn’t really have a clue who you were back then, I certainly do now. I appreciate you for everything you’ve done in the CO mountaineering and backcountry history, but also for you being a good father and citizen.
    I’m in video production, and I’ve recently started a new, personal, blog that covers all the things I love to do, in my favorite place in the world, Summit County, CO. I’m diabetic and I try to put that spin on everything I write about, so as to hopefully inspire other Type 1’s to do things, and not let the disease get them down. Health care sucks and we all need all the encouragement and inspiration we can get.
    You and your site inspire and encourage me every day. I really think I read it every day. Thank You.
    Don’t change a thing, I love it. I learn from you about so many topics just by being here. Your blog has definitely been an influence on mine, a model even, but I try really hard to make mine, mine.
    Best of luck to you in AK. Be careful, be safe, and have fun. I really can tell you love what you do, and this trip is part of that right. People always say stuff like, “Oh yeah, who wouldn’t want Lou’s life, all he does is ski and write about it.” But I know how HARD it is to do what you do, day after day. But I also know how rewarding it is. Yes, it’s the best job in the world, that’s why you chose it, right.

  3. David April 27th, 2010 2:04 pm

    It’s recaps like this that keep me coming back to Wild Snow. You do a great job story telling and you make me want to leave Florida for the mountains more and more every day!

  4. Lou April 27th, 2010 3:23 pm

    Daniel, thanks for the kind words. David, you should get out of Florida (grin). Lou

  5. doug self April 27th, 2010 4:47 pm

    hey, Lou, what a kick that your son is adventuring and writing about it on your website! you gotta be proud, that’s so incredible, i’m happy for you guys, God bless, Doug

  6. Lou April 27th, 2010 6:21 pm

    Hi Doug, thanks for dropping by, yeah, if it’s not one adventure it would be another, and these are way better than the alternative, though as parents there is always concern. These guys have it pretty together, better than I did at that age though at the time I thought I was a mountaineering genius (grin).

  7. Mark April 27th, 2010 10:22 pm

    People want to think about canoeing, backpacking, etc., but much of where people want to go is still very much covered in a deep blanket of snow. This cool trip report demonstrates that quite amply. Why put away the skis when the good stuff is still to be had?

  8. Nate April 28th, 2010 9:06 am

    On my iPod touch, I can’t pan across the pictures or even read the entire picture captions. Does anyone else have this problem. This is the only website (in for mobile format) that I’ve had this problem with. And so this isn’t a entirely negative comment I’d also like to echo Daniel, Lou your writing has been an inspiration for me since I bough a pair of Mira’s based on your recommendation back in ’01. Great blog. I just wish I could see the entire picture on my iPod.

  9. Lou April 28th, 2010 9:53 am

    Nate, I’ve been trying for more than a year to provide a moble version that works across most handheld devices. But it’s impossible. There are literally thousands of variations in browser, device, screen size, user settings, etc. More, I’d have to own every device to test on, otherwise I have to phone or email back and forth with a person who has the device, and as you can imagine I’d need 16 lifetimes to have the time that would take.

    So, I’ll continue to strive and perhaps I’ll get the mobile version working on your Ipod. Meanwhile, I have to wonder if there are some browser settings or tweaks that you could do on your end?

  10. Nate April 28th, 2010 11:56 am

    Thanks for the quick response Lou. I’ll see what I can do on my end. If any other readers have advice I’d appreciate it.

  11. steveo April 28th, 2010 3:19 pm

    This reminds me of our slog up to Snowmass Lake a few years ago. We got to mix in a cold, dangerous crossing of Snowmass Creek with the dirt and slush. Glad you had fun and made a loop out of it!

  12. David April 29th, 2010 7:41 am

    @ Nate – I have the same issue with my iPhone… The best solution I’ve found is to turn your ipod to landscape mode. The pics are still cut off, but you can see more of them than in regular portrait mode.

  13. Chris Beh April 29th, 2010 1:40 pm

    Still calling your Dad for a ride home? Jeez, some guys never grow up!

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