Thursday, August 10, 2017

4 Pass Loop - Aspen/Snowmass - PART 2

4-Pass Loop   Aspen/Snowmass Wilderness  Area

July 16th, 2017

Day 2- Fravert Basin >; Trailrider Pass >  Buckskin Pass > Crater Lake

Start: 10,720'  High: 12,462'  Low:  10,076'  Gain:  3812'  Loss: 4458' Distance: ~15 miles

We hit the trail at 730 AM, not particularly early, but much earlier than the previous day. We even had the luxury of drinking coffee, and they partook in hot oatmeal as well.

Really cool section of trail that we got started on right away. We dropped down a headwall into the lower basin

Looking out from the same spot. It was very lush down below

Pretty huge waterfall, I think someone called it King Falls

Another look. It spills onto a pile of massive boulders about 2/3 of the way down

Prime moose habitat, but we didn't see any

Flowers were everywhere


2nd and final major stream crossing. It was much smoother and calmer than the last one.

The water was still ICE-cold of course
 One of the "luxury items" I brought was an MSR camp towel. It weighs a good ounce when dry. We all used it to dry our feet off before we put our socks and boots back on. It proved to be worth it's weight in gold.

This meadow was simply unbelievable. So many wildflowers, this picture doesn't do it justice.

The trail followed the gentle valley for a while, heading down. Eventually we crossed over and started climbing steeply out of the valley. This gave us wonderful views of the area that just got better as we climbed higher.

Half stream, half waterfall
Looking West

Looking East

The trail reached this wonderful meadow with BIG views
A selfie, why not?

North Maroon (L) and Maroon Peak (R)

3-shot panorama of the area below Trailrider pass
Avery is heading up the pass

On top of trailrider pass, they were able to have a brief moment together

Looking down at Snowmass Lake from the pass

Panorama, looking East

We had to cross half a dozen snowfields, this was the longest initially

A closer view of Snowmass Lake
The descent into the Snowmass Lake basin was absolutely breathtaking and the weather was beautiful.  It's moments like this that you climb up the passes for!

Looking back up at Trailrider Pass

Looking down at Snowmass Lake. It looks inviting but the water is just above freezing
Snowmass mountain (14,098') is the small point in the back middle. It's a fairly challenging summit.

This snowfield was really long and slushy and not at all fun for Anastasiya
And this was as good a time as any to sit down and eat some lunch. I ate a Met RX Big 100 bar, 2 oz of sour cream and cheddar ruffles, a meat stick, and some leftover trail mix. That was good because we had plenty more hiking to do.

Beaver Dams!
About this time we had to decide if we were going to keep pushing up the last pass or hunker down and do more hiking tomorrow. Despite me running out of water, and the threat of thunderstorms in the distance, we decided to continue onward. I told you I can be stubborn right?

Hagerman Peak and Snowmass Mountain left of center

I thought this looked really cool hiking next to the cliff edge

The slope relented as we neared to final and highest pass!

Looking SW from Buckskin Pass (12,462') notice the goats?

2-shot panorama from Buckskin Pass

We had a really neat encounter with a family of mountain goats on Buckskin pass. We tried really hard to not disturb the goats, but they ended up coming very close to us and running between myself and the other 2 in our group.

Impressive Cornice on Buckskin Pass

After topping out on Buckskin pass, I admit I was feeling a bit deflated. We still had a pretty good amount of ground to cover, and fatigue was starting to set in. I actually took a several-minute break on the way down just to give my quads and shoulders a rest.

The summit trail for North Maroon Peak is partially visible here

As we get closer to crater lake, aspen groves emerge

Indeed Brewing Companies Rum King was a nice treat

Our route for day 2 was quite cicuitous
 Besides the excitement of a wandering porcupine, we were pretty tired and went to sleep pretty early this second night, after another huge dinner.

The next morning I woke up early and went for a little 1-mile hike with my camera trying to get some good pictures. The lake was calm at first but as the sun came up a stiff breeze blew away my hopes of good reflection shots.

Pyramid reflected in Crater Lake

The Maroon Bells from Crater Lake

Maroon Bells w/ alpenglow

North Maroon dominates the view
The final morning had us hiking about 2.5 miles from Crater lake the Maroon Lake trailhead. We met a really fun couple from South Africa who had also completed the 4-pass Loop at the same time as us. We talked about how fortunate we were to have such good weather on the trip.

Back at the trailhead. After roughly 30 miles of hiking, we are ready to take the packs off and eat some real food!
In Aspen we treated ourselves to a huge brunch and then drove home back over independence pass, through Leadville, Copper Mountain, Frisco, to Denver.

This was a great trip despite the at-times really heavy crowds on the trail. This is a wonderful route that is slowly being loved to death. I would recommend it but with an asterisk next to it, don't do the 4-Pass Loop if you are looking for solitude or a pure wilderness experience.