Day 1: Trail Rider Pass

Snowmass Creek Trailhead to Geneva Lake Trailhead
(17 miles, +4,600/-3,400 feet).

Time again for my annual trip with MixMaster and ChiaGlyph.  Woo hoo!

So far we’ve done the Trans-Zion Trek and Paria Canyon.  This time we decided to head for Chia’s home turf, Colorado.  Chia has had his eye on the famous “Four Pass Loop” around the Maroon Bells near Aspen.  I have also been interested in this hike ever since I read about it on a business trip to Aspen.

The traditional version of this hike is only 28 miles, so for us it would only take 2 days tops.  To spice things up a bit, we decided to extend it quite a bit, jumping from 4 to 8 passes, and increasing the distance above 50 miles.  We have budgeted 4 days to do it, but today went really well so I suspect we will do it in three.

Yesterday, MixMaster and I flew to Denver and then drove out to Snowmass, Colorado, where he and Chia had a reunion with an old college buddy late into the evening.

At a (surprisingly) early hour, we got up this morning, got organized, and were on trail by 9am.

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Into the Wild

We were worried the weather would be too hot to hike, but the trail starts above 8,000 feet and meanders through forests for the first few miles, protecting us from the sun.  Wildflowers were absolutely everywhere!

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Ridge above West Snowmass Creek
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Fireweed
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Marmot strikes a pose!
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Sun-drenched aspens

There is water everywhere on this hike, even though it’s a low snow year here.

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Our first water break

We gradually worked our way up to some beautiful meadows along Snowmass Creek.

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Looking up towards Snowmass Peak
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This is lovely!
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Not-so-blue columbine
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A nearly-perfect riparian meadow
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Crossing Snowmass Creek
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Mountain Bluebells
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Subalpine Larkspurs

After getting just slightly lost (I caused us to take a wrong turn towards Buckskin Pass) we quickly got back on track and took a nice long break at the extremely photogenic Snowmass Lake.

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Snowmass Peak above Snowmass Lake
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Panorama

After lunch we continued climbing above the lake.

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Looking back towards Willoughby Mountain
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A beautiful green bench sits across the lake
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Our first snowfield!
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Climbing through the talus
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Globeflowers and Cinquefoils
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Rosy Paintbrush and Cinquefoils

At about 11,600 feet we broke above treeline and started aiming for Trail Rider Pass on a twisty trail that wound through alpine gardens.

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Head for the pass
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Point 12653
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Ch-ch-ch-chia!
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Snowmass Peak

By 2:30pm we were on top of the pass, with views of Snowmass Lake on one side and the distant Treasure Mountains on the other.

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Made it!
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Snowmass Lake from Trail Rider Pass
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Treasure Mountains to the south
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I love me some maps!

While we soaked in the views, a very large group was collecting on top of the pass with us, coordinated by a 20-something on a walkie-talkie.  One feature of today’s hike was a big increase in the number of people on trail where our trip coincided with the traditional Four Pass Loop between Snowmass Lake and the turnoff for Buckskin Pass.  I can certainly see why there are so many people here, and I don’t mean to be selfish, but it was nice to leave the beaten path after a while.

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Yup. this trail is popular
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Heading down the south side of Trail Rider Pass

On the way down from the pass we encountered a solo traveler and his very small black dog heading up.  I waited for them to go by, and the dog took the opportunity to wait in the shade of my umbrella while his master caught up!

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A man and his dog
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I’m just going to rest here if that’s okay

The hike in the basin below Trail Rider was extremely scenic, with beautiful alpine meadows, a gorgeous tarn, and fluorescent green hillsides framing huge piles of vast gray marble.

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Into the green
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Looking up the Fravert Basin
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A perfect tarn at 11,700+
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Chia snaps a photo
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Gray and green
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Stunning!
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MixMaster vs. Hagerman Peak
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Rounding the bend

The traditional loop heads left down to the Crystal River, but we turned right towards Geneva Lake.

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Heading back towards the Treasure Mountains
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Crystal River North Fork

The inlet for Geneva Lake was wide and gentle, but we could not quite figure out how to cross with our feet dry.

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How to cross?

We were originally thinking of camping at Geneva Lake, but it was quite buggy and not nearly as nice as Snowmass, so we decided to press on.

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Fly fishermen in Geneva Lake
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Hagerman Peak looms above
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View towards the Devil’s Rockpile
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Fairy Trumpet
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The Arrowleaf Balsamroots turn their backs on us!

When we got down to the Geneva Lake trailhead, there was really only one good campsite and it was already occupied by a camper van.  It looked like there was some great camping up on a ridge above us, but it was over 1,000 feet of climbing and we were all pretty wiped, so we found a not-too-slopey area next to the river and called it a day.

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This will do
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View from our campsite

Although the flies were really bad, the mosquitoes were not, and it felt good to eat dinner and retire early to read and then to dream.

 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Jawbone says:

    Just marvelous!

    Liked by 2 people

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