Maroon Bells Trip

July 23 - 27th, 2007

On July 22 I left Martin around 9AM to pick up Deniece at the Denver airport about 4PM.  For those of you who don't know who Deniece is, she's a friend I met in Seattle through the fellow I shared a house with.  Deniece grew up backpacking and her husband, a wonderful human being, simply doesn't like the outdoors.  So he "loans" Deniece to me now for a week every summer.  

For those of you who don't know who I am, I am a friend Deniece met through a mutual friend with whom she enjoys backpacking.  

I stopped to pick up some last minute items, a novel, a stocking hat, and a map of the Maroon Bells.  I drove to the holding area near the old toll booths and waited for her phone call.  The waiting area is a parking lot, and the signs say stay in your car - some sort of homeland security thing.  Lots of people got out and stretched, and switched sides of the parking lot as they realized they were sitting in the sun.  This was about the most anxious, transitory feeling place I'd been in a while.  Everyone was meeting someone and waiting for the cell phone call that said they were ready to be picked up.  

After 20 minutes I picked her up and we drove west on I-70.  We stopped at Silverthorne for a pizza dinner and fuel canisters.  If you haven't visited the small towns on I-70 in a while you'll be surprised.  Many of them have 50,000 people, all living in condos and trophy homes built in the last 25 years.  It's kinda gross, coming from Martin, and owning a house in Laramie built in 1880.  

We got back on the freeway heading west and were jabbering so much we missed the turn-off to Leadville and drove east another 60 miles to Hwy 82 and the road to Aspen.  This is the kind of thing that makes or breaks a friendship.  How does a person respond to blowing it, to deviating from a plan.  I think one of the reasons Deniece and I continue to hike together is that neither of us got upset.  Ok - option #2 is tor drive to Hwy 82 and head southwest.  Mapquest said it took the same amount of time even though it was 40 miles longer.  We drove the other way back, over one 12,000 and two 10,000' passes, twisting and turning in the rain after the trip, and it actually was a longer drive with the winnebagos lumbering along.  

It turns out we were lucky to miss the turnoff as there was a mudslide 100 yards before the campground we'd reserved a space that night.  The highway from I-70 to Aspen has a couple information signs, and the ones we saw said there was a mudslide at milepost 46, and the road was closed.  That was 100 yards past our campground.  

The campground was easy to find, as was our space.  We put up our tents, me my car tent for three, Deniece her backpacking tent for one.  The rain had stopped but the people next to us partied into the wee hours.  It didn't stop me from sleeping, or Deniece, as she reported the next morning.  

We got up the next morning and drove around Aspen looking for a place to eat breakfast, finding a bakery that served a good, hearty lox and crème cheese omelet.  This was a much different world frome Martin, or even Santa Rosa.  Aspen is very urban, and yet, surrounded with peaks rising three and four thousand feet straight up from the valley.  

The following two images are google earth views of the loop.

Maroon Bells Loop.jpg (147503 bytes)  Maroon Bells Loop 2.jpg (116775 bytes)  

We drove the five miles out of town up the West Maroon Creek Road to the entrance station where we spent $10 and got a parking pass good for five days.  We drove up the beautiful river valley another five miles to the parking area where we had to ask a church group to move their 30 or so packs from the last parking space in the lot.  

 

Day 1-2, start of hike.JPG (914833 bytes)  Day 1-1, start of hike.JPG (926937 bytes)  Starting Out.JPG (141987 bytes)  It took us a half hour to get our stuff organized, pressured just a bit, not wanting to get behind the church group.  It looked like many of the kids had never hiked before - bungee cords hold sleeping bags onto metal framed packs.  

We hiked along the parking lot to the foot of Maroon Lake and the "classic" photo op.  

Day 1, Maroon Lake.JPG (943089 bytes) Day 1-2, Maroon Lake.JPG (924924 bytes)  Day 1-3, FlyFisherman, MaroonLake.JPG (871395 bytes)  

At the inlet side of the lake I got a nice shot of a fly fisherman casting.  By this time the trail had begun to climb gently up towards Crater Lake.   Views back to Maroon Lake were rather awesome. 

Day 1-4, LookingBackOnMaroonLake.JPG (918345 bytes)  Day 1-5, LookingBackOnMaroonLake2.JPG (948216 bytes)   Day 1-7, LookingBackOnMaroonLake4.JPG (907053 bytes)

After an hour or so of hiking we got to Crater Lake and were ready for a break. 

Day 1-8, Deniece at Crater Lake.JPG (846037 bytes) The Maroon Bells loomed over Crater Lake Day 1-9, Maroon Bells over Crater Lake.JPG (900741 bytes) and the view over Crater Lake up the West Maroon Creek valley was calling.   Day 1-10, Crater Lake up towards West Maroon Pass.JPG (901379 bytes).  After a 20 minute hike we stopped and snapped some photos looking back over Crater Lake.    Day 1-12, Looking Back at Crater Lake.JPG (903647 bytes)  We continued to hike up and up and up, gently thank you!  We met a lot of people heading the same direction we were and began to worry just a bit about finding a decent place to pitch our tents for the night.  We started leap frogging a couple of groups and as we got within a quarter mile of timberline, saw a trail leading off the into the woods.  We'd dropped our packs at a potential camp spot, but in the fine Dave Shavel tradition, Deniece convinced me we should check out further up for a better spot.  We found one and Deniece ran back and picked up her pack.  When she got back I did the same and we had fun putting up our tents. 

There were probably four or five decent campsites within 20 minutes of timberline.  Perhaps the most view filled was in the last stand of trees about 100' up from the trail before the wide open basin and the climb up to West Maroon Pass.  

Day 1-13, Deniece and her tent.JPG (885672 bytes)  Day 1-15, Jeff's tent.JPG (901285 bytes)  camp 1- my tent 2.JPG (223885 bytes)  1.  Maroon Lake & Crater Lake.jpg (618663 bytes)

The view just 10' from our tents was beautiful, and it changed as we fetched water and got used to being in the woods.

  Day 1-16, Creek at edge of campsite.JPG (890035 bytes)  Day 1-17, Creek at edge of campsite.JPG (944930 bytes)  Day 1-18, Mountains over Crater Lake.JPG (901851 bytes)  Day 1-19, Sunsent on Mountains.JPG (808842 bytes)  

We cooked dinner, rice and veges and a can of real chicken after breaking out the bourbon.  We each had a finger or so before dinner. 

  Day 1-20, Deniece and a little bourbon.JPG (908426 bytes)  Day 1-21, Deniece and a little bourbon.JPG (916579 bytes)  camp 1 - Jeff by river.JPG (140763 bytes)  camp 1 - me by river.JPG (156151 bytes)We made our way into our tents just before dark.  Our tents were too far apart to talk so we had to content ourselves with listening to the rain drops fall on our tents. 

We got up the next morning  and packed.

  Day 2-2, Deniece packs for hiking.JPG (909938 bytes)Day 2-1 - Deniece gets ready for day.JPG (919112 bytes) 

The sun on the mountains was sublime. 

Day 2-5, Morning sun on mountains over Crater Lake.JPG (923439 bytes)

The morning was cool only for a while.  It only took 15 minutes or so to get to timberline and whole West Maroon Creek Basin to open up, and the pass to get closer and closer.  Of course I am overweight and out of shape so Deniece, 15 years younger, more vigorous, and of course, far more attractive, would bound up these passes and kindly wait for me, greeting me with a smile as I huffed and puffed my way to the top.  .  

Day 2-10, flowers and mountain.JPG (890624 bytes)  Day 2 - Maroon Pass 1700 ft climb.JPG (165039 bytes)  Day 2 - Maroon Pass climbing.JPG (175020 bytes)  Day 2 - Maroon Pass following trail up.JPG (196511 bytes)  Day 2 - Maroon Pass Jeff resting on way up.JPG (168966 bytes)  Day 2-12, day hikers going up West Maroon Pass.JPG (868278 bytes)  Day 2-14, West Maroon Pass from East.JPG (876825 bytes)  

We got to the top of the pass and took a couple pictures of the vistas below us both to east and west.  

Day 2-13, Looking down canyon from below West Maroon Pass.JPG (918287 bytes)  Day 2-15, Looking east and down from West Maroon Pass.JPG (892930 bytes) 

The Maroon Bells had a different look from this angle, still 14,000' of majesty. It turns out that the 4 Pass Loop we were hiking is really a circumambulation of the Bells.  We saw them from all 360 degrees.  

Day 2-16 - Maroon Bells from West Mawroon Pass.JPG (935482 bytes)  Day 2-17, West side of West Maroon Pass - trail to Frigid Air Pass.JPG (908638 bytes) 2. West Maroon Creek Basin.jpg (608678 bytes)

This was the west side view from the pass.  We dropped about 700', traversed to the north, and then climbed 700' up to Frigid Air Pass.  

Day 2-18, Trail down from west side of West Maroon Pass.JPG (942148 bytes)  Day 2-19, trail traversing to Frigid Air Pass.JPG (932742 bytes)  Day 2-20, Deniece on traverse to Frigid Air Pass.JPG (888031 bytes)  Day 2-21, Flowers on way to Frigid Air Pass.JPG (902505 bytes)  We took a break when the trail flattened out and dried our condensation damp sleeping bags and tents.  The air was low in humidity despite it having rained all night.  The valley below us was pretty spectacular.  There were people who had spent the night in Aspen and were day hiking to Crested Butte where they had reservations in a nice hotel/condominium.  They would then hike back the next day.  Not a bad way to see beautiful country.  

Day 2-22, Deniece packing up after breakon way to frigid air pass.JPG (904026 bytes)  Day 2-26, Valley below trail on way to Frigid Air Pass.JPG (925265 bytes)  Day 2-28, Valley below trail on way to Frigid Air Pass.JPG (937135 bytes)  

The trail to Frigid Air Pass looked really steep

Day 2-30, Trail going up to Frigid Air Pass.JPG (918825 bytes)    Day 2 - trail & flowers.JPG (164638 bytes)  Day 2-23 - Frigid Air Pass is around to the right.JPG (915832 bytes)  Day 2 - Frigid Air sign.JPG (138971 bytes)  Deniece's Maroon Bell Phots 027.jpg (3143946 bytes)

The top of Frigid Air Pass offered indescribable views down into Fravert Basin. 

Day 2-31, Top of Frigid Air Pass Looking down Fravert Basin.JPG (938549 bytes)  Day 2-32, Deniece heading down from Frigid Air Pass into Fravert Basin.JPG (948004 bytes)  Day 2-33, Deniece heading down from Frigid Air Pass into Fravert Basin.JPG (860835 bytes)  3. West Maroon Pass & Frigid Air Pass.jpg (597211 bytes)  

The clouds were building and it was pretty obvious it was going to rain.  About 5 minutes before entering the first stand of trees at 11,500' it began to rain lightly.  Other hikers stopped to put on rain gear and pack covers.  Deniece and hiked until we got to the trees.  It was not much of a decision to stop for the day, even though it was only 2PM.  The site was not perfectly level, which we figured was fine because then water wouldn't pool up under our tents if rained for any length of time.  

The rain stopped and we tightened and taughtened our tent lines, made dinner, ate, and just as we finished, the rain came down earnestly.  It was polite and we were ready.  We crawled into our tents and lay there, talking back and forth, listening to the rain, reading, and nodding off into a warm, dreamy, safe kinda sleep.  

About 5PM it began to rain a little harder.  Its earnestness transformed into "Damn it's raining hard!!!"  We both checked the ground around our tents and we seemed to be ok - no serious runoff.  

In a matter of 30 seconds the really hard rain turned into the most intense hail storm either of us have ever been in.  From being battered by rain we lay in our tents while hail and rain bombarded us.  We were under attack, protected by only the thinnest of single-wall silnylon in my case.  My tent has a mesh stripe that runs just above the bathtub floor.  I could see out and and what I saw was white.  I realized in just a couple minutes that I had to kick the ceiling of my tent every 30 seconds or so to rid it of a couple pounds of hail.  

What became of serious concern, as we lay there, was the rivulets of water that coursed down the hillside underneath our tents.  I had a half in deep, 12" wide stream coursing under the tent where my body wasn't lying on my blue foam pad.  There was nothing we could do.  It was raining/hailing so hard that water was FLYING UPWARDS it was hitting the ground so hard, and coming into our tents through the mesh surrounding our bath tub floors.  

At one point I neglected to kick the hail off and one of the supports at the foot of my tent collapsed.  I ended up holding up that side of tent with my foot for about 10 minutes until the hail and rain relented a bit.  What a feeling.  The hail was so loud Deniece and I could barely hear each other yelling and we were six feet apart. I lay there helpless to do anything but hold up the foot of the tent and kick off the hail.  I was swabbing the water that came in from the bouncing rain with a couple handkerchiefs I'd wring out through the door of the tent, would lie back and relax for a moment, and then perform maintenance.  

Finally, the hail relented and I left the tent to put back up the tent's support and see if I couldn't divert the rain away from the tents.  When I got out the ground was covered with 3 INCHES OF HAIL.  Three inches - no exaggeration.  The foot of Deniece's tent had about a foot of hail surrounding it where it had slid off.  I tried to hand shovel hail down the slope away from the tents, and dig little trenches to divert the water from the tents.  My work didn't bear much fruit other than to have me get totally soaked and feel the first hint of hypothermia. 

I crawled back into my tent and changed into my warm sleeping clothes and lay there while it continued to rain, albeit earnestly again, rather than assaultingly.  I had yet to take my sleeping bag out of its black plastic garbage sack so it was totally dry.  I decided I didn't need it to develop warmth, and didn't take it out until it actually stopped raining earnestly and retreated to intermittant showers. 

The next morning I took a couple of photos that don't tell the story.  Needless to say I didn't think of taking pictures while it was happening...

Day 3-1, jeff's tent after 3 inches of hail.JPG (887580 bytes)  Day 3-2, Deniece and camp after hail.JPG (872802 bytes)    Day 3-4, hail next to night two camp.JPG (899220 bytes)  Day 3-6, Hail on trail.JPG (881479 bytes)  Day 3-7, night two camp and hail.JPG (888591 bytes) Deniece's Maroon Bell Phots 035.jpg (1863660 bytes)

Needless to say coffee that morning was welcome, as was some sun.  We dried our gear for a half or or so before leaving camp.

 Day 3-8, Deniece and morning coffee!!!.JPG (937746 bytes)  Day 3-9, Deniece packing up from camp.JPG (898634 bytes) 

The hike down Fravert Basin was incredible.  This trip was turning into one visual spectacular after another, beating anything Disney could put together hands down...

Day 3-10, Deniece hiking down Fravert Basin towards Cascades.JPG (858265 bytes)  Day 3-11, Deniece hking down Fravert Basin.JPG (794735 bytes)   Deniece's Maroon Bell Phots 019.jpg (3114931 bytes)  

The trail pretty much went through waist high brush that was wet, and through stands of trees.  There weren't many campsites, only two or three after the one we took.  The views continued.  We got to the top of a 150' cascade and took numerous pictures from its shoulder and then from below looking back up at it. 

  Day 3-14, top of falls, fravert basin.JPG (882968 bytes)    Day 3-15, falls, fravert basin.JPG (877311 bytes)  Day 3-17, fravert basin falls.JPG (891688 bytes)  

We took a break in the meadow a half mile below the falls.

 Day 3-18, Deniece packing up after break, fravert basin.JPG (809859 bytes)  Day 3-19, Deniece packing up.JPG (814526 bytes)  4.  Fravert Basin.jpg (606369 bytes)

After the break we continued on down the trail, crossing a creek and arriving at a packers camp in 100 yards or so.  We lost the trail in the camp and wandered around for 10 minutes or so looking for it.  We were getting a bit frustrated when one of the parties we had been leap frogging for the previous couple days arrived, two guys and a gal in their early 20s.  Deniece noticed the woman was wearing makeup. 

They had a guidebook and one of them read out loud.  For some reason, the trail, which had every junction marked up until then, had an important junction unmarked.  It turns out we missed two opportunities to strike to our right across the meadow and wade Fravert Creek.  WE back tracked and found a smaller trail and a sign 100 yards from what we thought was the main trail.  We were now on the North Cutoff Trail, which would take us up to Trail Rider Pass. 

After crossing the creek we started heading almost straight up the ridge.  We were going to climb from about 10,800' up to 12, 400'.  The cutoff trail was really, really steep, and this 55 year old guy really, really worked hard.  Deniece of course just breezed up the trail.  The pictures back up Fravert Basin to the falls and above were awesome. 

Day 3-22, meadow and falls below fravert basin.JPG (878985 bytes)  Day 3-21, Falls and Fravert Basin above.JPG (926215 bytes)  Day 3-23, On north fork cutoff looking down creek that flows out of Fravert Basin.JPG (915033 bytes)  Day 3-24, from North fork cutoff back up Fravert Basin.JPG (918205 bytes)  Day 3-25, back up Fravert Basin.JPG (935476 bytes)  Day 3-27, hikers on north fork cutoff trail.JPG (881677 bytes)

And then down, to the west toward the Geneva Lake trailhead

Day 3-26, Down towards Geneva Lake Trailhead.JPG (903134 bytes)   Day 3-28, View towards Geneva Lake trailhead from north fork cutoff trail.JPG (906418 bytes)  5.  Geneva Lake and Trail Rider Pass.jpg (629133 bytes)

We climbed up to about 11,400' to a junction.  One way went up to Trail Rider Pass, and the other to Geneva Lake.  We decided to spend the night at Geneva Lake, leery of the weather. The trail left the tundra country and entered north facing forest as we gently traversed down and around the nose of a ridge.  We came to a pristine little vale about 100 yards long and 100' wide - just grass surrounded with 50' conifers.  I was ready to spend the night there, protected from big views, tired and wanting the little world of the forest.  But no, it was not to be. 

We hiked another couple hundred yards and came to a sign saying we could only camp in designated sites.  The closest to us was a ways off the trail.  We switchbacked down a steeper north facing ridge and just as we came to the open meadow, we cut cross-country towards where we thought the campsite was.  We arrived at it - nothing special, and a good 100 yards up from the lake.  It was protected fairly well. 

Day 3-31, Camp at Geneva Lake.JPG (873729 bytes)  Day 3-32, Feet in camp shoes.JPG (927126 bytes) Day 3-34, Deniece preparing to pour bourbon, no rain that night.JPG (898483 bytes)  Day 3-37, Mountain House Ad.JPG (908942 bytes)  

Once we got the tents up and Deniece put on her camp and river crossing shoes, we retired to a slab of granite to sip some Makers Mark and eat some dinner.  Note the Mountain House ad.  The granite slab had big views of the basin above and behind the lake, and the lake itself. 

Day 3-38, Basin above Lake Geneva.JPG (939600 bytes)  Day 3-40, Basin above Geneva Lake.JPG (932907 bytes) Day 3-41, Lake Geneva.JPG (890513 bytes)  Day 3-42, Lake Geneva.JPG (722272 bytes)  Day 3-43, Geneva Lake.JPG (907184 bytes)  Day 3-47, Cloud over Geneva Lake.JPG (698327 bytes) Day 3-49, Jeff & Deniece playing around.JPG (857597 bytes)  Day 3-50, Jeff & Deniece posing.JPG (945136 bytes)  Day 3-51, Jeff & Deniece posing.JPG (947560 bytes) Day 3-54, hat headed Deniece.JPG (899469 bytes)  Day 3-56, Deniece at Geneva Lake.JPG (944318 bytes)  Deniece's Maroon Bell Phots 054.jpg (2966998 bytes)

We were almost giddy with joy that we were able to sit out and enjoy the slow move towards darkness.  This was the only night on the trip where it didn't rain once we were in camp.  We enjoyed it.  We're not limiting our thinking for next summer's trip to the dry Sierra Nevada. Sadly though, the rain did start to move in.  We laughed our way to our tents and settled in for another long night.  With rain beating on the single wall tent I wasn't long for the world and fell asleep fairly soon. 

 Day 3-53, rain is finally coming, over Lake Geneva.JPG (730434 bytes)  Day 3-57, Clouds over Geneva Lake.JPG (705370 bytes)  Day 3-58, Geneva Lake.JPG (897734 bytes)    Day 3-64, Finally the rain....JPG (894718 bytes) 

The next morning the rain had played itself out and the sky was at least half blue as we headed back to the trail junction.  Trail Rider Pass called. 

Day 4-1, Hike from Geneva Lake to trail to Trail Rider Pass.JPG (927770 bytes)  Day 4-2, Trail Rider Pass.JPG (915651 bytes)  Day 4-3, Deniece and Massachusetts people on way to Trail Rider Pass.JPG (893957 bytes) 

We got to the top of the pass and enjoyed the beyond amazing vistas back the way we'd come. 

Day 4-4, Looking down into Fravert Basin from Trail Rider Pass.JPG (929548 bytes)    Day 4-6, Deniece and Jeff on top of Trail Rider Pass.JPG (942657 bytes) 

The east side of the pass called.   

Day 4-7, Trail down into Snowmass Creek Basin.JPG (877929 bytes)  Day 4-8, Deniece going down from Trail Rider Pass.JPG (895069 bytes)  Day 4-9, Deniece going down from Trail Rider Pass.JPG (898705 bytes)

Looking back up to Trail Rider Pass

Day 4-10, Trail Rider Pass from East side.JPG (911064 bytes) 

We stopped for a food break, and so did a lot of other people that aren't in the picture. 

Day 4-11, Deniece on break heading down to Snowmass Lake.JPG (926188 bytes)

Snowmass Lake got closer and closer. 

Day 4-12, Snowmass Lake.JPG (832767 bytes)  Day 4-13, Snowmass Lake.JPG (900256 bytes) 6.  Snowmass Lake and Buckskin Pass.jpg (612403 bytes)

We hiked down and down and down, finally passing the lake 200 vertical feet and a quarter mile away.  By this time we were in thick forest and the white/gray clouds had turned increasingly gray.  The traverse across the bottom of Snowmass Basin was very uninteresting, perhaps the least interesting part of the hike, or perhaps just different.  The clouds were mounting and I was ready to set up camp, and it wasn't even noon.  We had a couple testy moments where I tested the waters about stopping and Deniece made it clear she wasn't ready.  We hiked on and finally came to Snowmass Creek.  There was a use trail heading off to our right as soon as we entered the creek's meadows.  We headed over to the campsite, kind of dirty and not very flat, but there was space for two tents. 

Deniece wasn't ready to set up camp and get into the tent - it was just noon.  We worked through that and set up camp just in time for the rain to start. 

  Day 4-24, Day 4 camp.JPG (884748 bytes)    Day 4-26, Day 4 camp.JPG (798872 bytes) 

I was lying in my tent reading and Deniece was outside wandering around, staying out of her tent, when one of the Massachusetts people came up.  He shared that the creek was swollen and looked really dangerous to cross.  He thought we should look at it.  He and his party were going to cross it and find a camp up on top of the ridge leading out of Snowmass Creek's meadow. 

Deniece and I finally followed and found a very swollen creek. The log over the creek in the first picture was wet and looked really slippery.  Just downstream of it was a cascade. 

  Day 4-16, Crossing of Snowmass Creek.JPG (887780 bytes)  Day 4-18, cascade below snowmass creek crossing.JPG (894209 bytes) 

Upstream from the log 100' or so was a beaverdam and a pool below it.  The water was just pouring over the dam. 

Day 4-14, Beaver Dam on Snowmass Creek filled with rain.JPG (879403 bytes)  Day 4-15, Beaver Dam and flooded meadow.JPG (925506 bytes) 

The Massachuesetts people decided to cross in the pool below the beaver dam. 

Day 4-19, Massachusetts people cross snowmass creek upstream from log.JPG (886466 bytes)  Day 4-21, Mass people crossing snowmass creek.JPG (899110 bytes)  Day 4-22, Mass people crossing snowmass creek below beaver dam.JPG (886293 bytes) 

This is a picture from camp of the flooded meadow of Snowmass Creek.

 Day 4-27, flooded meadow, snowmass creek.JPG (801364 bytes)  It wasn't too much longer and the rain began in earnest.  We decided not to cook dinner, but eat our snack food.  Deniece practiced lines from her play while I stared at the tent and slowly drifted off to sleep. 

We woke up the next morning, and it was cloudy, but only partly so. 

Day 5-1, getting ready to pack up.JPG (887867 bytes)  Day 5- 2,  On her way to take a dump.JPG (858289 bytes)  Day 5 -  3, Looking for the perfect spot to defecate.JPG (875808 bytes)

Deniece was up and for the first time, needed to relieve herself first thing in the morning.  She won't appreciate me saying so, or the shots of her heading off for the perfect spot to defecate. 

We began to pack and had a visitor. 

Day 5-5, pretty cool huh.JPG (941658 bytes)  Day 5-6, Deer Butt.JPG (907152 bytes)  Day 5-4, Coffee and wildlife viewing.JPG (869308 bytes)  Day 5-11, return of the friendly visitor.JPG (937205 bytes)

We broke camp and headed the three minutes over to the creek.  I took my shoes off and strode across where the Massachusetts people had crossed.  No problem.  It was thigh high and moving gently.  Deniece wore her flashy river crossing, camp shoes and we were good to go, heading up the ridge out of the basin towards Buckskin Pass.  n the first picture it's at the very left edge. 

Day 5-7, Mountain just to right of Buckskin Pass.JPG (720644 bytes)  Day 5-9, Snowmass Creek Meadow and Buckskin Pass.JPG (873176 bytes)  Day 5-10, Snowmass Creek Meadow.JPG (877098 bytes)   

Looking back down towards the meadow and camp. 

Day 5-12, our camp from across creek.JPG (909580 bytes)  Day 5-13, Snowmass Creek spilling into meadow.JPG (892243 bytes)  Day 5-14, Looking down to night 4 camp.JPG (937054 bytes) 

This was our fifth day and our fourth pass.  We hadn't climbed any passes our first and third days.  On the second we'd climbed over West Maroon and Frigid Air Passes.  Now we were climbing up towards Buckskin Pass. 

Day 5-16, Trail up to Buckskin Pass.JPG (923053 bytes)   

Now we're at the top of the pass. 

Day 5-18, Crater Lake is at the bottom of this picture in the canyon.JPG (946668 bytes)  Day 5-19, Buckskin Pass toward Maroon Bells.JPG (921780 bytes)  Day 5-20, Trail down from Buckskin Pass.JPG (876998 bytes)  Day 5-17, Trail down from Buckskin Pass.JPG (887783 bytes)  Day 5-21, Packs on Buckskin Pass looking towards Trail Rider Pass.JPG (888445 bytes)  Day 5-23, WonderWoman.JPG (701715 bytes)  Day 5-24, Packing up on Buckskin Pass.JPG (816299 bytes)  7.  Buckskin Pass to Maroon Lake.jpg (617369 bytes)

There's Trail Rider Pass off in the distance, just the left of Snowmass Mountain. 

 Day 5-26, Trail Rider Pass from Buckskin Pass.JPG (837813 bytes)

Now we look down to the east and the end of our trip on the Four Pass Loop. 

Day 5-29, Looking down from Buckskin Pass.JPG (900340 bytes)     Day 5-31, Speedy Deniece strides down from Buckskin Pass.JPG (891460 bytes)

We start down and in a matter of minutes gaze back up to the pass.

Day 5-35, Looking back up at Buckskin Pass.JPG (945223 bytes)  Day 5-40, Last shot back up towards Buckskin Pass.JPG (900341 bytes)  Down and down and down, about 3500' in all.  Here's some pictures of Minnehaha Gulch and the brooding Maroon Bells just to our right and thousands of feet. 

Day 5-34, Maroon Bells brooding in the clouds.JPG (933581 bytes)  Day 5-37, Maroon Bells from trail down from Buckskin Pass.JPG (940912 bytes)  Day 5-36, dropping down to Crater Lake through Minnehaha Gulch.JPG (933122 bytes)    Day 5-38, West Maroon CReek Valley.JPG (941714 bytes)  Day 5-39, Maroon Bells.JPG (941614 bytes) 

WE wound our way down and down, passing way above Crater Lake to a junction.  We'd been passing day hikers for a couple hours, from the top of the pass actually, and now there were families in flip flops and sweating unnaturally.  We traversed east and none of the trail looked familiar.  We went up and down and were a bit confused, but were headed in the right direction.  Finally we dropped down to Maroon Lake and the awed hoards.  We got back to the car and gladfully divested our sore bodies of our backpacks. 

A good trip.  Wet, crowded, but oh so beautiful...

Jeff8-31-07.jpg (649470 bytes)  Mountain man back home...

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