Elk Mountains of Colorado

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Nov 30, 0000

Day 1

Starting at the East Fork Snowmass Creek TH the plan was to hike up and over the pass and down to Willow Lake basin. I also wanted to hit Willoughby Mountain en. rt. Riding the ridge from there to the pass, then down to Willow. Didn't work out so well. I am so ridiculously out of my prime, manopause sucks. even w/ just a 30# pack the hike up to Willoughby was too much and I bailed to return back to trail. It absolutely killed my legs to try it. Wound up I left trail too early anyway, I should have got to the meadows just below the pass, dropped pack and backtracked to Willoughby. That would have still been feasible. Instead I barely made it to Willow, Power Bars the only thing that kept the cramps and fatigue at bay for an hour or so per bar to help me hobble on over and down. Once there though it was sooooooo worth it, great views. So I relaxed at camp and watched deer and goats on the slopes above for a bit, then bedded down.

Afterthought on dropping pack - Not such a good idea. I did this to hike up Buckskin BM and had a marmot visitor. A dayhiker who gained the pass shooed it off, but unguarded really is not wise to do. The little critters around here already seem way to comfortable around humans.

Willow LakeWillow Lake from East Fork Snowmass Creek Pass

Willow LakeWillow Lake sunset

Day 2

With still sub par legs, and blisters from the boots, I began the hobble from Willow Lake over to Snowmass Creek. My goal was the head of Snowmass Creek to camp at the unnamed lake under the west face of the Maroon Bells. I saw no trail indicated on any maps but it looked very feasible. Views all along the way were spectacular. Up to and over Willow Pass, then Buckskin Pass and Buckskin BM. Which, by the way, just kept going and going and going ! As I trekked along the ridge overlooking Willow Lake, it was one false summit after another, always just one more little bump to go over. But once there it was a fabulous view. At Buckskin Pass I saw smoke flare up over at Snowmass Lake. It died down a little but continued to sputter. I assumed some dumb ass had started a campfire even though there was a state wide fire ban, and told a day hiker to alert authorities as soon as he returned down to Maroon Lake. Once down to Snowmass Creek it looked quite bushwhacky up to the head and the lake I wanted to camp at so very badly. I did see a trail head up that way at the south end of the marshy area the trail paralleled, but was unsure if it was merely a fishers trail that would peter out, or led to a camp, or what. So still being below par from a way to aggressive 1st day I just continued on to Snowmass Lake where I set up camp, ate, and then crashed until the next morning. And while getting water I saw a little fox run across the outlet with a chipmunk it its jaws. All evening helicopters and planes were a very noticeable presence, and I later found out fire jumpers had been deployed to extinguish the smoldering remnant of a lightening strike a couple days earlier. Turns out nature was the dumb ass who ignored mans fire ban.

SnowmassSnowmass from Buckskin BM

Snowmass and CapitolSnowmass & Capitol from Buckskin BM

Day 3

So today I wanted to head over Trail Rider pass (hitting Trail Rider Peak along the way) and down into Hasley Basin to camp and wander. But my legs were still recovering their strength, and moleskin helped my blisters but they were still pretty touchy. So since bailing was not an option I decided to forego the additional miles and elevation and simply put in at Lake Geneva. Again, views all along the way were spectacular. Once at Geneva clouds began in earnest and rain began to fall intermittently.

Treasure MountainTreasure Mountain from Trail Rider Pass.

Treasure MountainTreasure Mountain from Trail Rider Pass.

day 4

Legs today were back to normal. Yay ! Blisters however were not. So armed with a steady supply of mole skin I set out to head up to Meadow Mountain and over into the East Fork Avalanche Creek. Shortly after breaking camp clouds started to slowly build, but it was a very nice hike on good trail towards Little Gem Lake before cutting up easy slopes towards the rolling bench which contained Snowfield Lake. Beautiful area, nice meadows and streams. Then I headed up towards a little tarn NE of Meadow Mountain and the pass just west of there. Even though my legs felt great, I thought it best to be as mellow as possible for me to be, and not spend the extra energy to summit Meadow Mountain. East Fork Avalanche Creek was BY FAR the highlight of the trip ! It was surpassingly beautiful, and by now the wind had picked up considerably and dark, dark clouds blanketed the sky. So I found a camp site and spent the next hours sitting and enjoying the show.

Maroon BellsMaroon Bells from Meadow Mountain Pass.

CampEast Fork Avalanche Creek camp

CampEast Fork Avalanche Creek camp

CampEast Fork Avalanche Creek camp

SunsetSunset on East Fork Avalanche Creek camp

Day 5

Today I woke up a little slow again, but still up to par. Plan was... move ? Clouds were already beginning to blanket the sky. So I continued down East Fork Avalanche Creek towards Avalanche Lake. Once there it was clear weather was going to continue to worsen, and not being impressed at all with the scenery I decided to continue up and over to Capitol Lake/Creek. I will say however that the forest along Avalanche Creek area was superb. Maybe it was just the diffuse lighting from overcast skies, but I loved this stretch of wooded cover. Once up to the meadows just west of the pass, Capitol Peak was an imposing sight. What a huge mass of rock commanding the skyline ! Truly impressive. And once at the pass the increasing clouds showed no respite and it was clear it was going to rain. After talking to a very nice guy named Larry for a bit, I headed down to Capitol Lake. Again, I was not impressed at all with the scenery, and since the pretty is what it is all about for me, and rain was forcing me into a day inside a tent, I decided I would just keep going and walk out. I headed for the Capitol Creek TH as it seemed an easier goal, and one doable in the rest of the day, rather than up and over Haystack Mountain and back to Snowmass TH. I figured I could beg a ride back down the road from someone, at worst camp at the Capitol Creek TH that night, but at least not have to boot again the next day to hike some more. My stupid sore feet and blisters were really beginning to piss me off by now. So once at Capitol Creek TH Larry the day hiker and a couple rangers both arrived within moments of one another, and I was able to beg a ride from Larry down to the Snowmass TH and my car. Many thanks again Larry ! Then it was off with my boots and a great meal at a fantastic mexican food place in Roaring Fork Center (?) at the south end of Glenwood Springs by Wal Mart. Now I'm stuck in a stupid city again until the next jaunt. *sigh*

East Fork Avalanche CreekEast Fork Avalanche Creek before dropping down into Avalanche Creek

Small fallsFalls along trail above Avalanche Creek


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rdp32 - Dec 1, 2016 11:41 pm - Hasn't voted

How hard is Meadow Mountain Pass?

Awesome trip report! How hard was the part that you call the "Meadow Mountain Pass"? I did a route this summer that went from Geneva Lake to Avalanche Lake, but I took a faint trail going from just south of Geneva Lake to "Silver Creek Pass" and then following that trail to Avalanche Lake/Capitol Pass. I agree that the East Fork Avalanche Creek area was awesome, and I would love to come back and do it the way you described. Was the descent into East Fork Avalanche Creek steep, loose, or otherwise problematic? Was it easy to find a good route? I don't have much off-trail experience or scrambling experience and I like to keep things safe, so I wouldn't want to try this if it is too rugged. Thanks!


goofball - Dec 2, 2016 12:36 am - Hasn't voted

Re: How hard is Meadow Mountain Pass?

Hey rdp32 ! that has been quite a few years, but i do not remember any real difficulty other than one foot in front of the other on, at worst, typical talus slopes. either up or down. Wish i had a clearer memory or more info for ya ! Maybe try posting your question in the colorado forum area, i bet others have been over this pass and could chime in as well to help you with your decision.

rdp32 - Dec 2, 2016 1:26 am - Hasn't voted


Yeah, I'll ask around. Thanks

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