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Topic: Questions on the Four Pass Loop and nearby stuff, I want to leave from Crested Butte< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 18 2014, 7:01 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm thinking about doing the Four Pass Loop around the Maroon Bells this summer and would like to go in from the Crested Butte side so I can spend a little time there---I lived there one summer many years ago and want to check the place out again.

So I have a few questions for you CO experts.

1) What is the earliest safe date to expect the high passes to be clear?

2) What are my best transportation options?  I could fly in to Gunnison and take a shuttle to CB, but would I then be dependent on hitchhiking to get to the trailhead?  I hate to rent a jeep just to let it sit at the trailhead all week.

3) Are there any good off-trail/side trail options that would extend the trip another day or three?  Looks like I could side trip to Geneva Lake?  Or maybe Willow Lake?  Anyone familiar with those?  Is there any reasonable way to shortcut from West Maroon Creek near West Maroon Pass to East Maroon Creek (e.g. over/around Len Shoemaker Ridge)?  That would let me go over East Maroon Pass and (re)visit Copper Lake.

I'm in the very early planning stages, so am open to just about anything that combines about a week of good hiking with a couple or three days in Crested Butte.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 19 2014, 11:47 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I would not plan anything before July 15. Keep an eye on Snotel and see what Spring snowpack brings.

You might fly into Colorado Springs and rent a vehicle there to save money. I'm guessing Gunnison is not going to be a cheap flight. Shuttles add up too. Springs can sometimes have some awesome flight deals, etc.

If you have no vehicle then I'd try and start your hike on a Saturday so you have good chances of hitching to Gothic.

Pyramid Peak? Maybe from West Maroon Pass area? Unless you are VERY experienced I'd stay off the Bells. On Pyramid Peak about 30 years ago I saw house sized boulders rolling by during a monsoonal dump. Was very cool but frightening too. GO. It's awesome.

As an alternative I'll suggest my bias, the Teton Crest. If you fly into Jackson Hole Airport as pricey as that might be you can then hitchhike the 10 miles or so to the Grand Teton Climbers Ranch. Getting a ride from there to String Lake or the Tram or whatever is almost always no problem, especially if you call ahead and have them put a card up on the board offering gas, beer, food, etc.

Crested Butte is awesome but unless you're going to MT. Bike and dayhike IMO the town is not going to entertain you that long unless you bring along the Bigamy Bikini Team or something.

Wherever you go have an awesome time.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 19 2014, 2:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks for the input, double cabin.  I hadn't thought about spending time bagging a peak or two, but maybe I should.  Although I'm comfortable with class-3 stuff, I'm usually more into go-go-go see mo-mo-mo than stopping to play.  But I'll think about the Pyramid option.

I'll look into the Colo Springs option.  That might be a more affordable way to have TH transportation.  Would also make it easier to move around to other spots in case I decide to dayhike any of my old haunts.  I could also drive the whole way, but it would basically wipe out 2 days on each end of the trip.

BTW, my interest in Crested Butte is nostalgic, but the Tetons are also on my bucket list.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 19 2014, 9:26 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You may have more options than you think.  Personally, I think the Crested Butte approach is better, more scenic, and with less people than coming up from Maroon Lake on the Aspen side.  I'm living in Gunnison, and have been up the CB side several times.  And, I did the 4-Pass Loop from the Aspen side before I lived here.  Now, for your questions.

1. Wait until mid-May or so to see what the snowpack looks like.  Right now, we are around average for snowfall.  That would mean between July 1 and July 15 for passes to be snow-free, depending on snow between now and the start of May.  If we get dumped on in March and April, July 15th is about right.  If we have light snowfall the rest of the winter, or if it is very warm in May and June, and the melt is early, you could be good as early as the last week of June.

2. Are you from Texas, as your forum name implies?  If so, you may have options to fly to Gunnison.  Right now, there are flights direct to Gunnison from Dallas and from Houston.  During summer (not ski season), there are often still direct flights from some location in Texas.  So check out flights to Gunnison, and also Colorado Springs or Denver to see about the best deals.  Flying on Tuesday or Wednesday will be cheaper into Denver or Colorado Springs than the other days.  And, there is daily bus service from Denver to Gunnison, which should save you having to rent a vehicle.  

Regarding shuttles from here, no problem.  There are daily busses up to Crested Butte from Gunnison.  And, Crested Butte has free shuttles during the summer all the way up to your trailhead at Schofield Park beyond Gothic.  Or if you get to Gunnison and I am around, I could drive you up there.

3. Side trip options.  You named the ones I was going to recommend.  I loved the side trip over Willow Pass to Willow Lake, and that are almost to myself over a Labor Day weekend.  Geneva Lake is beautiful, but get to a campsite early, as they cam fill up.  I've never connected West and East Maroon Pass areas, so am not sure how steep or difficult that crossing would be.  Copper Lake gets some traffic, but not bad most of the time.  Pyramid Peak, and the Bells can be hairy climbs.  I had a friend who hired someone to take him up Pyramid, and talked about a set of crumbly ledges that all looked similar.  Getting down and finding the correct exit-ledge was the main problem.  That peak, and North Maroon, are both class 4.  Maroon Peak is Class 3, but still has crumbly rock and similar issues.  If you want to climb a peak, I recommend a layover day at Snowmass Lake.  Do Snowmass Peak.  Class 3, and with a good glissade if there is still snow between the ridge near the top and the lake.  Make sure you know how to glissade safely, though.

Finally, I recommend counter-clockwise for the direction.  Especially starting from this side.  Only one of the passes is harder going that way.  One is similar, and 2 are easier going counter-clockwise.  One short day's walk would put you up and over West Maroon Pass to the benches on the other side near treeline where there are great campsites.  Day 2 could be over to Willow Basin area.  Possible layover day after that to explore the basin.  The next day over Buckskin Pass to Snowmass Lake.  The next day a layover to climb Snowmass Peak.  The next day over Trail Rider Pass and down to Geneva Lake.  Next day up towards Frigid Air Pass, camping near treeline before the final push to the pass.  Last day up and over to the trailhead.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 19 2014, 11:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Wow, thanks for the fantastic info, burntfoot!  I had no idea there were shuttles to Schofield.  Where do I find info on schedules and such?  I couldn't find anything through google.

I'm glad to get the info on snow dates.  The summer I lived there ('81) was reputed to have followed one of the driest winters on record, so I know my experience was very skewed--it was hard to find snow almost anywhere as of June 1.  I bagged just about all the low peaks around CB I could hitch to/from and climb in a single day:  Crested Butte, Gothic, Avery, Whetstone, {Purple, Owen, Ruby}, Axtell, maybe one I'm forgetting.

Your suggested itinerary looks promising.  I was thinking clockwise, so I'm glad you set me straight.  Depending on how much vacation I decide to pull, I could possibly even do the loop then side trip from Gothic up to Copper Lake before heading back to town (another nostalgia detour).

And yes, I'm "from" Texas, but I've been in eastern Washington for 30 years.   :)  So I'll be flying from Pasco, via either Seattle or Salt Lake City.

Can't thank you enough.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 20 2014, 1:20 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Not sure on info on those shuttles, but I know they exist, because one pulled up when I was doing a wildflower hike at that trailhead 2 summers ago.  I talked with the driver, and that trailhead was his turn-around point.  But, I know they go up there 3 or 4 times a day for free.  Not sure if you have to reserve a spot.  But, I can do some checking for you this spring.

Last summer would have been like you remembered.  The melt was a full month early.  Hence the forest fires in parts of Colorado.  Too much dry time before the monsoon rains kicked in in early July.

There are several other peaks than the ones you mentioned that you could climb from either CB or Gunnison in that area: Carbon peak, Mt. Baldy, Treasure Mountain, Treasury Mountain, Cinnamon Mountain, Mt. Bellview (one of 2 favorites of mine in that area), Teocali Peak (my other favorite).  All of these are day-hikes, although a few would have possible campsites enroute.

Yeah, check out the airlines from Washington.  Check it to all 3 locations - Gunnison, Denver, Colorado Springs.  My guess is that Denver may work out the best, as there is a daily bus to Gunnison saving car rental costs.  I believe it is something like Black Hill Stage Line or something like that if you are searching.

Most hikers go clockwise on that 4-Pass Loop.  But, that makes a little mores sense when starting from Aspen.  The schedule I gave you makes it easier to go over West Maroon Pass and Trail Rider Pass.  Buckskin would be about the same either side.  And Frigid Air would be easier clockwise, due to the traverse between that one and West Maroon.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 21 2014, 11:02 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'll second going up and over Willow Pass to Willow Lake.  It's full of 12-14" brookies that are tasty as well.

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