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Hagerman Peak (13,841') and attempt on Snowmass Mountain

Author: Gina Pasquale

Participants: Gina Pasquale, Steve Doorn and Tasha, the climbing wolf dog Private trip, written by Gina

This climb didn't quite go as planned and we learned a few lessons. If you are planning to climb Hagerman sometime, this report should be useful.

We left LA around 6am on Friday. Passed the stuffed cop in Twin Lakes (great decoy, worked for me!) and lunched in Aspen, before starting our backpack to Snowmass Lake around 2pm. The 8 mile backpack was pleasant with quite a wildflower display along the way. There is an interesting log jam to cross at Oxbow Lake. We even saw a duck with her 4 ducklings in a small pond near Oxbow. We arrived at Snowmass Lake around 7pm, with the weather starting to clear. Having camped here previously when it was frozen, we were looking forward to camping here in the summer. There are steep, streaked granite cliffs rising out of the north side of the lake. Spectacular!

The next morning, we were on the trail at 4:45am with a bright moon to light our way. Our destination was the saddle between Snowmass Mt. and Hagerman Pk. Judging from the topo map and our views of the ridge from camp, I thought the route would go. That was the first mistake made.

After a steep climb into the upper basin (aka "permanent snowfield"), and another short, steep snow climb to the ridge, we arrived at the saddle around 8am. Steve stated that he would wait at the saddle while I attempted the ridge to Hagerman, because he didn't think Tasha could make it. As it turned out, I couldn't make it either!! About 100' up, I encountered 5th class rock with incredible exposure on both sides of the ridge. I couldn't solo this route. However, it looked like it would be a fun climb, with a rope and protection. So, I carefully downclimbed back to Steve & Tasha. Now, what do we do next? Steve wanted to climb Snowmass Mt., and I still had my sights set on Hagerman. We decided to split up. Steve would try the ridge over to Snowmass. I would glissade down the snowfield, skirt the nose of Snowmass Pk. (this is the awesome looking 13'er, much more technical than the 14'er Snowmass Mt.), head over to Trail Rider Pass, and look for a way up. So, away we went on our separate journeys.

It was a tiring hike over to Trail Rider Pass. By now I had climbed nearly 4000' and 6 hours, it was 11am, clouds were building, and the summit of Hagerman looked about 2 hours away! So, I sat on the pass, missing my husband, bummed out and tired, but the views into Lead King Basin were exhilarating anyway! We've had a lot of success climbing this summer, so it broke my heart to turn back on a summit bid. I met Steve on my way back to the lake and inquired about his climb of Snowmass Mt. Unfortunately, the ridge up to Snowmass from the saddle turned out to be too much for Tasha. So, he was also bummed about not summitting. But, you can't stay bummed when you have a beautiful campsite to return to! Down to the tent by 1:30pm, we spent the afternoon watching people fish for 14" trout, napping, snacking...and plotting another summit bid!

The next morning, we started at 4:15am, with another bright moon. Maybe the weather would hold a few more hours? We were at Trail Rider Pass just at sunrise, with gorgeous alpine-glow on the Maroon Bells for a view. We discussed route choices for Hagerman, and decided to traverse scree slopes and then scout a way up. On the W. face of Hagerman, we encountered a 1200' couloir with steep snow, no rocks and it was fairly wide. Could Tasha make it? We decided to give it a try. The snow was perfect for crampons, all the way up. Got a little steep in places, perhaps a short section of 50 deg (still need to buy that slope meter). The top of the couloir brought us nearly to the summit and an incredible view! The east face of Hagerman is a sheer vertical wall! We were on the summit by 9am. Success! Then I glanced down at the ridge I had originally wanted to ascend. It is full of pinnacles and steep walls. Again, I think it would go with a rope.

On our way down, we decided to glissade our ascent couloir. I thought it would be fast and easy. It was neither. The snow was still pretty firm, and you had to stay in control the whole way down! Very tiring on the arm muscles, but still nicer than picking your way down steep, loose rock. We were back at camp by 1pm. Packed up and headed down to the car. That 8 miles felt twice as long this time, even though it was downhill!

The next mistake came when I assumed that truck stops were open all the time. We planned dinner at the Poncha Truck Stop, in Poncha Springs. When we got there at 9:30pm, they were closed! And I was famished. So, we headed into Salida and found the Windmill Restaurant open! Hurray, a late dinner on Sunday night does exist! Taking turns napping and driving (not at the same time, luckily) brought us home way past midnight, totally wiped out, and perhaps a little burned out on climbing...'til next time!


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