Snowmass via S-Ridge

20-21 Aug 2005 - by Joshua Deuto

I arrived at the trailhead at 7p, a full hour later than I had planned due to heading up an incorrect 4wd road (watch for the obscured-by-bushes sign!) on my approach to the Lead King Basin trailhead. My intention was to head up to Little Gem Lake' and assess conditions for a full moon ascent of the S-Ridge'. I was able to make it from the trailhead to this lake (beyond and above Geneva Lake) in 65 minutes. Upon arrival, it was getting dark and beginning to drizzle so I decided to make my way across the creek and to the east towards the base of the ridge and find a spot to bivy. I found a nice little bench about 300-400 feet above the creek amidst some large talus blocks. As the rain continued, I decided to stop and get in my shelter.

At approx 145a I awoke to drastically clearing skies and a brilliant full moon. My psych' was flowing so I decided to pack up my gear and go for it. At 2a, I began ascending steep talus to the bottom of the S-ridge and rooted around for a logical way route to gain the ridge. Unfortunately, due to intermittent cloud-induced darkness and the limitations of my headlamp, I couldn't find an obvious Class 3' route instead opting for the most solid bit of stone I could find and heading up (rather directly). Doing this meant much exposure, but it also allowed me to quickly gain access to the ridge, which was perfectly lit by a now totally clear sky and full moon. The ascent of the ridge was spectacular and particularly unique due to being lit completely by the moon (no headlamp required!). I ascended in perfect tranquility and often stopped to simply gaze out across the landscape, a step I usually forget when climbing these busy peaks. The ridge itself is high quality refrigerator block climbing' whereas staying directly on the ridge meant relatively well-wedged blocks mostly bereft of smaller scree. The route is spectacular and well-worth it, even with the choss-factor. I summitted at 5a, still no sign of dawn, and bailed down the west face route which, unlike the S-Ridge, is total crap scree the whole way.

All-in-all a very fun route, enhanced by a spectacular moon-lit ascent, in a wonderful and beautiful wilderness setting.

Getting to the base of the ridge is non-descript just pick the best talus slope to ascend. It seems that there is a solution' class 3 route slightly north of the actual base of the ridge (easily seen in daylight) in a gulley. One can also ascend this initial section via various other more difficult lines, more difficult but also much more solid. Ascending the ridge can be kept at class 3 if one is willing to leave the ridge from time-to-time and ascend in the chossy gullies on the north side. The ridge proper has a few fifth class sections, with some big exposure but also with fairly solid rock. Following this ridge takes you directly to the summit


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