Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Four Pass Loop

This post may make you quit your job and move to Colorado
(if you have not already)!!

For my birthday last week, Melissa and I headed out towards Aspen to hike the Four Pass Loop around the Maroon Bells. Here is a recap of our four day adventure along with photos and a compilation video. Enjoy!

Trip Statistics:
Days on trail: 4
Nights camped: 3
Miles hiked: 27
Passes crossed: 4
Valleys hiked through: 8
Start Elevation: 9,580 ft.
Highest elevation: 12,500 ft. (West Maroon Pass and Buckskin Pass)
largest elevation gain: approx. 2,420 ft. (Camp Two to Trial Rider Pass)
Largest elevation loss: approx. 2,920 ft. (Buckskin Pass to Trail Head)
Blisters: zero!
Approximate Route: Google Maps Pedometer

On Wednesday after work we started the three and a half hour drive to Carbondale, CO where my stepsister, Karen, and her husband Eric live. On the way we stopped in Edwards at the Gore Range Brewery for some dinner and a pint. We're always trying to add to our Colorado Brewery list! We got to Carbondale late in the evening and enjoyed a short chat with Karen and Eric before heading to bed. We woke early in the morning and headed up to Maroon Lake to hit the trail head.

Our backpacking trip around the Maroon Bells was amazing! From the awesome panorama views through the valleys filled with wildflowers, to the steep climbs up and over four passes. We only hiked about four hours each day and were able to relax at camp for a few hours each afternoon exploring the area and preparing dinner. We woke to the sunrise each morning and packed up camp to conquer the next pass. There were many other people doing the loop at about the same time we were, some the opposite direction. We would meet up with some of them at the passes and see them in the same areas for camps in the evenings. Camp One and Two were very peaceful, Camp Three, at Snowmass Lake had quite a few more people around us, but the views made us forget about that.

The weather for our trip was the best we could have hoped for. Blue sky days for day one through three. As we headed into the tent on night three at Snowmass Lake, it began to rain and poured off and on during the night. Fortunately it had stopped when we woke up and we were able to pack up camp without precipitation. The sun was in and out as we headed up to Buckskin Pass and as we rolled over the top, the clouds moved in quick and it began to rain and hail. The rest of the hike back down to the trail head was off and on rain, but it didn't bother us too much since we were headed for the car and not another camp.

After throwing our gear back into the car, we drove into Aspen to enjoy a juicy burger with fries. Boy did that taste good! We hit the road again, Denver bound. Little did we know that the anticipated four hour drive would soon turn into an eight hour trip. Unfortunately for us, ready for a shower and a comfortable bed after four days on the trail, a semi tanker truck had rolled over on I-70, shutting it down Eastbound for hours. We ended up taking an 80+ mile detour North through State Bridge and Kremmling and back down to Silverthorne to get back onto I-70. We ended up back at home around 1 a.m., dirty, tired and not wanting to head into work on Monday morning.

Surprisingly neither of us were too tired or sore on Monday. No blisters, no cuts, a few bug bites and a little sunburn were about all we had to show for our trek around the Maroon Bells. Oh yeah, and also about 400+ photos and some video!

I've cut down the photos to 241 for you viewing pleasure HERE. I think the photos tell a better story than I do, so have a look when you have a few minutes.

I also took 360 degree video at the top of each pass along with a few other clips here and there. You can view the compilation video HERE. It's about 6.5 minutes.

Start Elevation: 9,580 ft.
Left trail head: 9:15 a.m.
Miles to Camp One: approx. 5.75
Moving time to Camp One: 4 hrs. 7 min.
Camp One Elevation: approx. 11,367 ft.
Passes crossed: None

Start Elevation: approx. 11,367 ft.
Left trail head:
9:04 a.m.
Miles to Camp Two:
approx. 6.5
Moving time to Camp Two:
4 hrs. 26 min.
Camp Two Elevation:
approx. 10,000 ft.
Passes crossed:
Two - West Maroon Pass 12,500 ft. & Frigid Air Pass 12,415 ft.

Start Elevation: approx. 10,250 ft.
Left trail head: 9:17 a.m.
Miles to Camp Three: approx. 6.25
Moving time to Camp Three: 4 hrs. 40 min.
Camp Three Elevation: 10,990 ft.
Passes crossed: One - Trail Rider Pass 12,420 ft.

Start Elevation: 10,990 ft.
Left trail head: 9:50 a.m.
Miles to trail head: approx. 8.5
Moving time to trail head: 4 hrs. 21 min.
Trail head Elevation: 9,580 ft.
Passes crossed: One - Buckskin Pass 12,500 ft.

Approximate overall elevation map: