Snowmass Mountain Route Guide | A Great 14er Snow Climb
The standard Snowmass Mountain route has the distinction of being the only main 14er route that usually is climbed using crampons and snow climbing. The large snowfield on the east slopes holds snow late into the summer, providing an easy to climb avenue to the summit. Beware of the rocky summit ridge, which has plenty of class 3 scrambling waiting for you after your ascent up the snow. Prepare for your climb of this unique peak with this Snowmass Mountain route guide.
Snowmass Mountain Route Fast Facts
Snowmass Mountain Route Guide - Northeast Ridge
Due to the extremely long approach, nearly all parties climb the Snowmass Mountain route over two days, with an overnight at Snowmass Lake. Start out from the trailhead south and pass through several gates (be sure to close them). A mile and a half in, stay left at a junction and keep hiking.
A little over 6 miles in, around 10,000 feet, come to a large logjam along the creek. In spring months you may find it impossible to cross, but when water is low it should be easy enough to do. Take your time crossing to the other side.
Follow the trail south before taking a few switchbacks and re-entering the forest. After a mile, stay straight at the next trail junction you come to. At long last, 8 miles in, you’ll come to Snowmass Lake. If you spend the night here, find a site on either side of the creek.
After crossing the creek, pass through a short section of forest to reach a clearing near the lake’s shore where you can view the way forward above the lake.Take a small trail in the clearing along the lake southwest to reach the west side of the lake. Head west to reach a boulder field, and begin climbing it by following cairns and trail segments.
Near 11,300 the gully turns to scree and dirt. Continue to carefully ascend, taking your time as it is steep and loose. The slope eventually lessens around 11,900 feet, at which point you should cross and head towards Snowmass Mountain ahead of you. The rest of the Snowmass Mountain route is best climbed when there is firm stable snow, usually between April-May and June-July.
Looking out at the summit, you should aim for a large hump to the left of the main peak, which provides the easiest access to the summit rocky ridge. There is a break to the left of some cliffs you should aim for, usually filled in with snow. Climb up to the ridge.
Pass over the ridge to the west side of the crest and begin to scramble up towards the summit. There will be plenty of class 3 scrambling and exposure along the remaining Snowmass Mountain route. It may be easier at times to scramble up on the crest itself. Dip back down eventually and scramble up to a large rock rib blocking view of the summit. Find a break in the rock towards the center and scramble over.
Pass under some larger rocks and aim back up to come to the final pitch. Be careful, as the rock here is loose and has taken lives before. Tests your holds and take your time, scrambling up to the summit.
From the top enjoy your view and accomplishment. Be sure you head down with plenty of time to reach tree line by noon thunderstorms. I hope you enjoyed my Snowmass Mountain Route Guide.
You should bring a good topographical map of the entire Snowmass Mountain route with you on your climb. I recommend downloading this map on your phone or other electronic system, and printing out a backup paper copy in case anything should go wrong.
The weather along the Snowmass Mountain route is unpredictable. You should check the weather forecast multiple times, from multiple sources, before your trip to check for temperature, precipitation and wind info, along with major storm systems that could be a hazard.
Hiking & climbing 14ers is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe. Good Luck!
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Snowmass Mountain is named and known for the large snowfield on its lower slopes. It’s got one of the longest approaches of any fourteeners, clocking in at nearly 22 miles. You’ll need technical gear to climb this peak, including an ice axe and crampons, unless you wait until the snow melts (which is not recommended).
About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.