Snow Lion

Page Type: Route
Lat/Lon: 39.99460°N / 105.6836°W
Route Type: Basic Snow Climb
Time Required: Most of a day
Difficulty: Class 3, Moderate Snow


Snow Lion, noun. (snö lï-en)
Middle English, from Old English snAw; akin to Old High German snEo;
Middle English, from Old French, from Latin leon-, leo, from Greek leOn
  1. In Buddhist mythology, one of the Four Dignities, the others being the Dragon, Tiger, and Garuda. The snow lion represents the earth element, fearlessness and victory. It is often seen in pairs, playing with a tri-colored ball.

  2. The national symbol of Tibet, it adorns Tibetan money, stamps, the insignia of the Dalai Lama, and the national flag, which boasts two snow lions symbolizing the twin system of religious and earthly government.

  3. The name of an elusive snow climb on the southeast face of Jasper Peak in Colorado's Indian Peaks Wilderness.
The word "elusive" above, comes from Gerry Roach's book Colorado's Indian Peaks Wilderness Classic Hikes and Climbs, "This is the best mountaineering route on Jasper, but like an elusive wild animal, it is rarely available." I like reading Roach.

Topping out on Snow Lion Couloir. June, 1999.

The time that I climbed it, in June 1999, the elusive part was finding our way to the base of the route after leaving the Arapaho Pass trail and striking out in post-holing fashion into the forest surrounding Middle Boulder Creek. Once we did arrive at the climb, it clearly announced itself in the form of several recent tracks of avalanche debris, a sober warning that the lion could strike. But since the slides had already released, and there was no evidence of a cornice at the top of the route, and the remaining snow was firm, we decided it was safe to continue.


Follow the description on the main page to the Fourth of July trailhead. Take the Arapaho Pass trail for about 3/4 of a mile, passing the drainage from Upper Diamond lake on your left. Before it starts to climb too much, leave the trail and descend left (southwest) into the Middle Boulder Creek drainage. Cross the creek and make your way to Upper Diamond Lake, which is nestled in the cirque on the east side of Jasper Peak. Routefinding to this cirque through the trees and potentially deep snow can be a bit challenging, especially if you are like me and getting lost in the woods comes naturally to you.

Route Description

Snow Lion follows the prominent gully on the right (northeast) side of the cirque. It climbs for some 800 vertical feet and tops out barely 50 feet to the right of the summit, making for an elegant line up the mountain. The angle reaches a maximum of 45 degrees in the middle of the route, then it eases off as you near the summit. This is something out of the ordinary compared to most snow climbs on the east side of the Continental Divide, which tend to continuously steepen as you ascend. Snow Lion is a mellow lion.

For descent you can glissade back down your ascent route, or you can use the Northeast Ridge or Northeast Slopes. In our case we used a combination of those two. One member of our group of four had carried skis, and used those to good advantage, while three of us had some nice glissades down the slopes.

Essential Gear

Ice axe and crampons. There appeared to be very little rockfall on the route so we never donned our helmets. Snowshoes might be useful or even necessary to reach the climb. The site of the avalanche tracks at the base of the climb indicate that you should be also equipped with knowledge of avalanche conditions.

Avalanche Debris Below Snow Lion.