photo - the west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor 2015
Ascent/Descent Route: West Face
Members of Group: Joel Paula, Max the dog, Otina Fox, Zach Taylor and "The Godfather"
*The Godfather is the name we jokingly refered to throughout this trip to describe a few people we have all met in our climbing careers and one person specifically that recently started climbing and became a self-proclaimed expert very quickly. This person offered us all unsolicited climbing advice in the months leading up to the trip and will be referred to throughout this trip report as the Godfather in the spirit of this person and others like them that we all know and love. This trip would not have been possible without asking What Would the Godfather Do......
Snowmass Mountain is a steep, impressive peak in the heart of the Elk Range. It is skied/ridden by two main routes: the east face and the west face. The east face is a relatively mellow line for Elk Range peaks. It is a wide open, beautiful bowl that sits above Snowmass Lake. The west face is a much steeper line that site above Geneva Lake on the other side of the mountain. The west face has pitches in the mid to high 40s, winds through cliffs, and the entire line sits above a multi hundred foot cliff band that you must scramble around to access/get off the face.
It is a really cool line that had been on my list for a while. A long four wheel drive road followed by a long hike in generally make accessing the basin a multi day adventure. I had been talking to to Joel about heading up into this basin for several years and we had not gotten our schedule together until this spring. Finally we had dates that worked. Otina also had been wanting to get on these peaks for quite a while and she joined us for the climb. We were excited but intimidated....Could we climb this mountain? Could we ski it? We were not sure but the Godfather knew we could and his strength, strengthened our resolve and with his encouragement we knew we could do it. What would the Godfather do??? Why, he would climb and ski the damn mountain, damnit!
I was working night shift at the hospital the day before and wanted to sleep a little before driving to the Elks. Otina wanted to get a little work done before we left as well so I got off work at 7 in the morning, crashed for a few hours, and met Otina at the Dino lots about 11am. Joel lived in Eagle and just planned on meeting us at Geneva Lake that evening.
photo- The road leading to Geneva Lake. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015
After several stops for food and beer, a long drive on pavement and then a long four wheel drive road to the Lead Kind Basin/Geneva Basin road junction Otina and I parked my Blazer, shouldered heavy packs and began trudging up the road towards Geneva Basin. We waded across a couple creeks and enjoyed views of our climbing/snowboarding objectives for the next couple days.
photo- The west face of Snowmass glistening in sunlight. photo by Zach Taylor. 2015.
photo- The south face of Hagarman peak. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015
It was a long walk in and the road and trail leading up to Geneva Basin did not turn to snow almost until we hit the lake so we trudged on with overnight packs, and skis, snowboards, and boots on our packs. It got dark as we were hiking up just under the lake and we had to hike/skin around the lake in the dark yelling for Joel. We worried we would not find him and terror of being lost began to take hold. We asked ourselves what would the Godfather do??? He would trudge on looking for Joel damnit! Our resolve strengthened and we trudged on. Suddenly we saw a light across the lake and heard Joel's voice, like that of a sultry goddess whisperingly cooing/yelling in our ears from across the lake "Halloo!!??". A few minutes later we met up with Joel. Exhausted we said our obligatory hellos, set up tents, and crashed out hard.
A three oclock wake up came very early but with the strength of the Godfather in us and warm temps projected for the day, we were stumbling up Geneva Basin above the lake by 3:30am or so. The sunrise was beautiful and Treasure Mountain glistened in sunlight behind us as we skinned up the valley to get below the west face.
photo- Treasure Mountain lit up in sunlight. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
photo-Joel Paula happy to be in the Elks. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
photo- A look at the west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
As we got to the base of the face it sank in just how difficult and dangerous of a day we had ahead of us. The entire 45+ degree face sat above hundred foot cliffs. We would be skiing on death defying pitches above cliffs for the whole run. We hesitated but the Godfather whispered in our ears encouraging us. We knew what the Godfather would do and our strength resolved. We noticed a vertical chimney directly below the line we wanted to ski. It was probably 5.9 and we did not have any ropes. We also noticed a ledge system to looker's left of our line that would allow us easier passage onto the face.
We considered our options. We knew what the Godfather would do. He would free solo that 5.9 chimney in ski boots by golley!!! Since we were not the Godfather though we scrambled up the ledges to the base of the west face and traversed across to the most direct line off the summit. Happy to be back on snow we enjoyed the climbing up the west face.
photo- Otina Fox climbing the west face of Snowmass. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
photo - A view of Geneva Basin from the west face of Snowmass. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
About halfway up I began to feel the 7 hours of sleep I had gotten over the last 48 hours. Joel and Otina pulled ahead of me and I kicked steps in the track trailing behind. I briefly considered turning around but when I thought about what the Godfather would do my resolve was again strengthened and I kicked steps with renewed vigor.
photo- Joel Paula on the west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
photo- Zach Taylor climbing the west face of Snowmass. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
I joined Joel, Otina, and Max on the summit about ten minutes after them and we had some awesome views of the Elks all around.
photo-Otina on the summit of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
Looking down at our line we were very intimidated and wondered if we could ski it. I briefly considered hitting the "Free Helicopter Ride" button on my SPOT but then I thought about what the Godfather would do and I steeled my resolve to ski the face. We phoned the Godfather from the summit to make sure that he agreed we were making the right decision and he told us to drop that shit!
So we dropped that shit without question and off we went. The snow had softened and corned up nicely and we leap frogged ourselves down the face enjoying steep turns.
photo- Joel Paula skiing the west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015
photo- Otina Fox skiing the west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015
photo- Otina Fox skiing the west face of Snowmass. photo by Zach Taylor 2015.
photo- Joel Paula skiing the west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
photo- Joel skiing the west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
photo - Joel Paula skiing the west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
photo- Max charging the west face of Snowmass Mountain, photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
photo- Zach Taylor climbing the west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Otina Fox, 2015,
photo- Zach Taylor snowboarding the west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Otina Fox, 2015.
photo- Joel Paula and Otina Fox down climbing the cliffs below the west face of Snowmass. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
We skied/rode down to the cliffs and then realized that we were above multi-hundred foot high cliffs. We briefly considered hucking said cliffs because that is what the Godfather would have done but.....well we were only human and must consider what the Godfather would want US to do, not what he, in his inhumane strength and skill, would have done himself. Consequently, we traversed around the very huckable 200' chimney to once again down climb the ledges. Even though it is not what the Godfather would have done, it is what the Godfather would have counseled us to do, so we felt ok about it.
We skied down the lower slopes into the basin and back to camp. There we exhaustedly dropped down on the ground outside out tents, ate some food, drank a beer, and passed out at 1900 to prepare for an assault on the south face of Hagerman that very next day.....It was an ambitious plan but with the Godfather we knew success was assured....
photo- Looking out over Geneva lake. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015
photo- Zach Taylor hanging out below the west face of Snowmass. photo by Joel Paula, 2015.
photo- The west face of Snowmass Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2015.
-Disclaimer #1 - Neither a Godfather nor other human being was harmed in the making of this trip report
-Disclaimer # 2 - If you are stupid enough to attempt to ski this mountain based on what is written here and your own personal skill and then injure or kill yourself, it is not our liability. This is a damn dangerous sport that kills people on a regular basis regardless of skill level. While you may find inspiration here, please do not sue us because you climb or ski what we do and get in trouble...and know if you do sue us we do not have any money... so please, go to hell and find someone else better to sue! Haha ;) Thanks!