Hot Routes

Our current featured routes. Provides a close look at three alpine mountaineering routes (easy, moderate, and technical) on Colorado mountains, including photos, information, directions, guide description, and more.
Mount Sopris (Thomas Lakes)
Length: 12 miles
elevation gain: 4,500 feet
difficulty: class 2

Mount Sopris from the north
Mount Sopris seen from the north
Mount Sopris is probably one of the most picturesque and most frequently climbed 12,000-foot peaks in the state, certainly in the west slope. Despite clocking in at only 12,953 feet, Sopris is a powerful mountain. When viewed from the north it has astonishing prominence, towering more than 6,000 feet above the valley floor below. Another unique feature of Mount Sopris is that each of its twin summits measure in at exactly the same elevation, creating a sort of conundrum for peak baggers. Many choose to just stand on the east summit, which is logical when climbing the standard Thomas Lakes route, as it is the first summit you come to. I would strongly suggest, however, making the out-and-back to the west summit, which provides a better view of Glenwood and allows you the confidence knowing that you truly toured this magnificent peak's amazing top.

From the intersection of Highway 133 and Main Street in Carbondale, follow Hwy 133 south for about 1.6 miles and turn left (east) on Prince Creek Rd. After cruising through some small open ranch properties, continue along the road as it veers east. Veer right at a confusing, triangle-shaped intersection about 7.8 miles after the 133/Main Street intersection. Continue along the narrowing dirt road for a little less than two more miles to a large parking lot with a bathroom on the left. It should be passable in the summer for most passenger cars though some clearance might be recommended. Can be tough in the winter.

Thomas Lakes
Mount Sopris in the Elk Range of Colorado
Storm over Sopris from the meadow at 9,500 feet
This is the standard route and though there are several more rugged possibilities on the peak's south and west aspects, 99.9% of summer ascents on Mount Sopris are done this way. It can be done in one day though a night at the beautiful Thomas Lakes makes hauling a light backpack well worth it. Start up the wide trail up a mild incline for .6 miles to the first major switchback. At mile 1 the trail turns south and emerges from the trees shortly after. At mile 1.4 you reach a common "shortcut" that climbs directly south up a steeper slopes. This shortcut cuts off a large switchback. Taking the shortcut will save you almost half a mile and both have a well-beaten trail. Taking the old road, however, you will wind around a hill, and climb up a short steep section to reach a meadow at mile 2. There is a beautiful view of the mountain from here at 9,500 feet. Ahead you re-enter the trees and wind though a beautiful aspen-pine area with a trickling stream. At mile 3.4 you reach the first pond, and at mile 3.7 you reach the first lake. There are several number campsites in this area.

Mount Sopris from Thomas Lakes
Mount Sopris from Thomas Lakes
Hike between and around Thomas Lakes and follow the well-defined trail as it switchbacks up a hill and reaches the northeast ridge proper at 10,600 feet. The trees are noticeably thinning here and you will get the feeling you are nearing treeline. The trail levels out briefly before starting up the meat of the climb. Pick your way through the talus along the beaten path as the route steepens. Some amazing views of capitol open to the southeast. Pass the hardest steepest section (class 2) at mile 5.7 (~12,000 feet), veer westerly, still following the beaten climber's trail and the ridge. Bypass a false summit on the left (south) to reach a spot we always called "the Grassy Knoll," a peaceful patch of flat grass at 12,400 feet. There isn't much left so we always took advantage of a good rest here.

Follow the ramp up mostly stable talus as it makes the final climb to a bump at 12,900 feet. You are very close. Hike another .15  of a mile (6.6 miles total) gradually up to the east summit. Enjoy the view.

The final ramp to the East summit
For those that want to get the full twin-summit Sopris experience, be prepared to add 1.5 miles and 560 feet of total elevation gain onto your already lengthy day. From the east summit, hike .3 miles to the 12,660-foot saddle between the two summits (making it just shy of qualifying as two separate "ranked" peaks), and back up 280 feet and .35 miles to the west summit. Pat yourself on the back. Though you may feel tired, take heart knowing you got the full Sopris experience.

Part of the route lies in the Snowmass-Maroon Bells Wilderness Area and special wilderness regulations apply. Please only camp in the designated and numbered spots around the lakes. There are some very good sites here and if you are climbing the peak on a weekend or any day when there is a chance that all of these sites might be full, get there early or consider doing just the single day method.

Snowmass Mountain's East Slopes (class 3)
Length: 22 miles
Total Elevation gain: 5,700'
Difficulty: class 3

Snowmass Peak and Snowmass Lake
The East Slopes (standard) route on Snowmass Mountain is one of Colorado's most spectacular 14er adventures. At 22 miles, it is a very long hike, and I recommend 2 days. Though the hike in and out will be more difficult with the extra gear, the extra time will allow you to take your time and enjoy this beautiful place. Although Snowmass Lake is very likely one of the busiest lakes in the Colorado's backcountry, it is quite beautiful and offers numerous opportunities for places to camp.

Like most climbs in the Elk Range, the East Slopes of Snowmass Mountain is steep, loose and dangerous. It has proven fatal for several mountaineers over the years. Almost the entire route once you have passed the Snowmass Lake is one slippery scree and once you have pass around 13,500' the route becomes particularly dangerous. Wear a helmet, use caution, and be careful not to climb directly underneath another party.

Snowmass Lake at sunrise
The long approach to the East Slopes of Snowmass Mountain is one of the longest for any standard route on a 14er in Colorado. The approach alone is over 8 miles and gains over 2,500' in elevation. The hike is long an provides some beautiful views. After 6.5 miles you must cross the creek. This can be a challenge at high spring runoff levels. Depending on the flow level/wood conditions people usually tiptoe across a log jam. If the water is low you can sometimes cross the creek directly below the jam. Not far after negotiating this obstacle, you reach the lake itself. There are many good campsites here. Beware, however, of rules against camping too close to the lake and against fire in general.

the East Slopes of Snowmass Mountain
Hike along the east and south sides of the lake and find a climber's trail that starts up the loose rock on the lake's west end. The approach is over. Climb up the steepening slope along a vague climber's trail into the huge basin on Snowmass Peak's east slopes. Depending on the time of year and conditions there may be some snow to climb at the top of this basin. The usual route veers a bit south as you approach the ridge and finds a notch through the cliffs to reach the summit ridge. In dry, late-summer conditions, or if the snow covering is complete, you can hike more directly towards the summit, finding a breach in the cliffs and reaching the summit ridge near 13,900'. From here you traverse slightly onto the west side of the mountain and pick your way through some class 3 boulders to the summit.

From the summit of Snowmass Mountain looking towards Capitol Peak
 Looking across to Capitol Peak from Snowmass's summit
From Highway 82 28 miles south of Glenwood Springs (or 13 miles north of the roundabout in Aspen) turn west at the town of Old Snowmass (not to be confused with Snowmass Village, the ski area) onto Snowmass Creek Road. Turn left at a T-junction after a mile and a half (right will take you to Capitol). You hit the dirt road seven miles after turning off Hwy 82 and cross the creek at mile 10.5. Take a right at another intersection a half mile later and the trailhead is only about a quarter-mile beyond that.

Geneva Lake, Snowmass Mountain, and the Four Pass Loop- A seven day backpack trip following the Four Pass Loop but also with extensions to Geneva Lake and an ascent of the East Slopes (standard) route of Snowmass Mountain.

The main page for Snowmass Mountain- Includes directions, descriptions, other routes, photos and more.
Zanzibar Dihedral (Independence Pass)
Trailhead: Weller Lake Campground
Distance: 1 mile
Elevation gain: 800 feet
Difficulty: 2 pitches, 5.8+

While not a summit-reaching climb, Independence Pass's Two Ears- Zanzibar Dihedral is one route that any intermediate, technical alpine climber might be interested in. This 300' climb highlights two long pitches on superb granite with good protection in a spectacular alpine setting. While a steep and rough talus approach may deter some climbers, those who brave the rocky beginning are rewarded with an excellent climb that finishes in the classic 150' dihedral pitch the "Zanzibar Dihedral."

Approach- From the Weller Campground find a climber's trail behind campsite number 6 and wind (briefly) through the pine and Aspen trails. Follow a series of cairns for the path of least resistance or pick your own way up to the base of the obvious 300' wall.

Zanzibar Dihedral, used courtesy of
Pitch One- "Two Ears" (5.7)- This long pitch is often regarded as a climb unto itself. Start just right of a pine tree on some obvious jugs. Work up and right to a series of broken cracks. The protection is good and solid throughout. There are many possibilities for cams and nuts. Small cams finger size and less are most useful. Work past two old pitons to a good splitter that ends in a pod. Work up and right to a two-bolt anchor just off a large ledge at the base of the dihedral.

Pitch 2- "Zanibar Dihedral" (5.8+)- This long, excellent pitch scales an overhanging dihedral with great protection and plentiful face holds to make it through. Several layers of cracks allow a variety of gear to protect. At the final bulge, step right on face holds and back left to easier ground at the top. A classic, granite dihedral!

Two double-rope raps from chain anchors will lead you to the ground. It will require two 60 meter ropes to make the descent.

From the "S-Turn" in downtown Aspen, Colorado, follow Highway 82 south towards Independence Pass for 7.8 miles. Park either on the right side of road (heading from Aspen to Indy Pass) at the Weller Lake TH or set-up a basecamp in the excellent campground across the road.

Zanzibar Dihedral on

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Copyright notice: This website and all its contents are the intellectual property of and its authors. None of the content can be used or reproduced without the approval of

Climbing and mountaineering are dangerous!! Please see the DISCLAIMER page
For information about how to contact us, visit this link

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