ApproachAuthor: Ryan Schilling
Date: Feb 02, 2004 11:39 AM
Though they're both tough to find, there's two things that are different about the Bear Creek Trail since Kane visited.
First, there's a pretty nice log bridge with makeshift handrail suspended some 10' above Snowmass Creek, approximately 3 miles up the Snowmass Creek Trail from the trailhead.
Second, there is a trail that runs through the thick vegetation to the right (north) of the Bear Creek Falls, avoiding the third-class crux of the trail.
I have not climbed Capitol Peak from the east, not many have; but I think adding an approach to Pierre Lakes to view the east face of Capitol would be useful for some. When one views photos of this magnificent mountain it's rare to view it from the east, in fact, it doesn't surprise me to see only photos of Capitol from the west submitted on this page. Sharing this trip report to those who might be interested is my pleasure.
An ascent up to the Pierre Lake Basin is not easy. Tough route-finding, 4,000 vertical, difficult stream crossings and tedious bush-whacking will deliver you there in about 6-8 hours.
Route DescriptionApproach to Pierre Lakes Basin, last week of July, 1996.
Your looking at a good 4,000 ft. to reach the base of Capitol and about 3,400 ft. to reach the start of the basin. As I recall, it took us about 9 or 10 hours. I’m assuming most of ya’ll are in pretty good shape, probably in better shape than the four of us were in at the time so you might take an hour or two off.
There are a few obstacles that might set you back when time is an issue. First, the crossing of Snowmass Creek; don’t underestimate the difficulty and time it will take to find just the right spot to cross. The run-off in late July was not too bad, but this is a swift and deep creek, and there is no bridge anywhere around. I wouldn’t attempt a creek crossing in May or June. Second, the 400 ft. Bear Creek waterfall that you have to negotiate could chllenge your route finding skills.
Start at the Snowmass Creek Trailhead (8,400 ft.) and stroll leisurely about 3 mile and about 600 vertical. The next part is tricky, you want to leave the trail and cross the creek right before the trail really begins to get steep. You will notice this because the trail has been so easy going then it abruptly starts to steepen. Also, on the topo, locate Copper Creek drainage flowing to Snowmass Creek from the west. You want to cross a little before Copper Creek dumps into Snowmass Creek. Once across, bush-wack up west about ¼ mile then start heading south and cross Copper Creek and continue towards the Bear Creek drainage. This drainage will deliver you to the Pierre Lakes because Bear Creek is the lakes source. Most of the confusion stops once you start heading up this drainage. The waterfall will soon come into view. It’s up to you, finding a route up this waterfall. I’m pretty sure if you spend enough time looking for it, a climbers trail is around. After this 400 ft. climb I remember actually finding a trail of sorts. Follow the trail as the drainage levels out a bit(10,600). This is a really nice area to pitch a tent. The last 1,400 ft. is straight-forward. You get a good 800 ft. steep pitch to get to the start of the basin. Once there, you will not be disappointed. I won’t go into much detail as to the rest of trip because I think its important to not know what to expect from here on out.
A few other notes. It’s a good mile of bouldering to get to Capitol Peak. Any questions, let me know.