Holiday weekend.  Add Monday as a vacation day & suddenly you’re 4 days from the office.  Mentally scheduled this weekend’s trek a year ago, when PS’ CEO (my employer) made the journey.  Hotels in two towns – both sides of this epic mountain crossing adventure.

Aspen to Crested Butte.

By car it’s a 3 ½ hour drive.  On foot, one can be there in under 8.  Waist-high fields of wildflower.  Hike start at Maroon Bells, Colorado’s most photographed peak.  Sign me up!

Lazy morning start, couldn’t drop Pup at the kennel ‘til 9am.  Lunch in Georgetown, Hwy 24 south to Leadville, west over Independence Pass (open ‘til October or first snow).  Late afternoon arrival in Snowmass Village, 20 minutes from downtown Aspen (& much better on the pocket book).  Carb- loaded for dinner.  Hiking all day tomorrow, why not?  🙂

Sunday morning.  What I didn’t know?  Only access to Maroon Bells trailhead [in summer] is by bus.  No cars allowed.  No drama, surprises happen…but later trail start than expected.

Maroon Bells.  Never been in summer.  Trees all leafed out, lush meadow undergrowth – whole lotta green.  Maroon-Snowmass Trail #1975 to Crater Lake, 1.4 miles.  Busy hike path.  Trek canopied in Colorado Aspen.  BEAUTIFUL!

Snapped photos & snacked at Crater Lake.  Couple of hikers shared their topo map (thanks!) – soon after, switched trails.  Next landmark: West Maroon Pass.  Path broke from rock to mud. Long patches of pack snow.  Continued to lose trail, backtrack, regain trail.  Snow-melt waterfalls, beautiful landscape though sometimes frustrating process to maintain forward momentum.

Biggest trail miss?  Came across a large swath of glacier remnant & fresh snow.  Fast-moving water rushed underneath weakening the base, making it precarious to cross.  Trail couldn’t be on the other side, right?  Bush-whacked 45 minutes (half-mile) UP UP thru dense willow & snow-covered pine.  Zero path, nada.  Continued to push thru thicket, trek UP/over, listening for human sound.  SUCCESS!  Group of 6 hikers stopped for lunch high ‘bove a scenic glacier – unfortunately not trekking to Crested Butte, not on trail.  ARGH!  Obliged to snap a group photo, then far far in the distance saw 2 hikers snow-crossing.  TRAIL!  Backtrack, restart.

Most harrowing water crossing?  Used a fallen pine to ford West Maroon Creek.  Fast-moving waist-deep water.  How cold would a complete submersion be?  Yep, that thought entered the brain.  Slow & steady.  Luckily, no drama 🙂

Elevation increased, temps dropped.  Deep shoe-sucking mud, emptied into seasonal streams, trail ultimately lost under pack snow.  Snaked thru a large boulder field, cairn-marked between competing 13- & 14er peaks.  Less than a mile UP to West Maroon Pass, then another 4 [miles] down to the trailhead.  Transport on the other side leaves at 4pm – mighty tight timing.  Yikes!

Dark clouds from the West.  Weather change.

Passed a guided group of climbers; they had turned back.  20 feet of snow at West Maroon Pass.  IMPASSABLE.

15 minute discussion with my hiking mate.  [good/bad trait] I’m a determined, focused individual – not easy to redirect once I’ve got a game plan cemented in the head.  Lost the battle today; turned around we did.  In hindsight OF COURSE we had no choice…but at the time, disappointment overwhelmed any happy endorphins.  Hiked a good 2 miles in silence.

This too shall pass.  AND it did ‘bout the time we reached Crater Lake.

Caught the return bus back from Maroon Bells, headed back to my Snowmass digs – hoping to find a spot in the Inn.  3-day holiday weekend, not a chance.  Nor another hotel in Aspen…or Snowmass Village…or Carbondale…or Glenwood Springs (an hour out).

Of course I DID have a hotel reservation tonite – in Crested Butte, 3 ½ hours away by car.  Fueled up, purchased a bag of gas station snacks.  All part of the journey.  9:30pm rolled into my HIKE destination.

New town, new adventure awaits in the morning 🙂



Aspen to Crested Butte



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