No more snow on Schofield Pass, just a few big water bar type things. This is a picture looking at the narrow section of road on Schofield Pass.
Two weekends ago, my family came to visit including my sister-in-law Melissa from Phoenix. I put her to work (aka take advantage of free labor) by running one of our shuttles from Crested Butte to Aspen. Here’s Melissa’s story on her first day on the job.
Melissa’s Maroon Bells Shuttle Story:
The weekends are a busy time for Maroon Bells Shuttles. It was a Sunday morning in late July and we had 3 vehicles to shuttle over to Aspen. The people we were shuttling vehicles for ranged from women on a pre-baby ladies trip, a backpacker, and more hikers. The day started early, dropping off Evan’s trusty 1999 bright yellow Ford truck near the trailhead in Crested Butte, then meeting clients and having them sign waivers before we took their vehicles on the long but scenic 3-hour drive over the pass to Aspen.
Upon arriving in Aspen, we parked the vehicles at Aspen Highlands and stashed the keys. Some keys were handed off to the customers on the hike over West Maroon Pass as we cross paths along the trail. From the parking area, there is a 20 minute bus shuttle to the Maroon Bells trailhead. We were lucky as our driver had the entire bus laughing at his humorous historical commentary on the area.
Once at the trailhead, the views were breathtaking. There was a lot of congestion on the trail for the first mile, after that, we saw only a few hikers here and there.
During our hike, there were a few wet and muddy sections from the snow melt and even a few water crossings. We chose to keep our shoes on since they would just dry out as we continued to walk, plus the traction on the shoes made for an easier water crossing.
Coming from Phoenix where the altitude is around 1,200ft, I was feeling the thinning air as we were within sight of the West Maroon Pass, at 12,465ft!
Just after cresting, there was a snow bowl that the crew felt enticed to shoe ski down. This probably added 30 minutes or so to our hike, but it broke up the commute. Afterwards we found a spring to refill our hydration packs.
On the way over the pass into Crested Butte, the flowers were simply amazing!
Towards the end of the hike, my legs (especially my hip flexors) were feeling fatigued. I found a little run helped to lighten the load on my legs as we made our way to the lake, not too far from the vehicles.
Due to the snow pack covering the road, the vehicle was parked a little further away, adding a little extra distance to the normal hike. We were fortunate that it only just started to drizzle rain as the parking lot came into view. A family of hikers was stranded in the parking lot since they missed their shuttle to town, so Evan was kind to let them pile into the truck for the ride back.
It was a long day, but boy, what an adventure! I can see why having your vehicle shuttled over to Aspen would be worth it. You really can’t beat a hike like this!
I can’t wait to help on another Maroon Bells Shuttle the next time I come visit! You should consider using Maroon Bells Shuttles for your next hike or bike across the Maroon Pass!
I got back out on West Maroon Pass yesterday with a sweet variation, via the Bellview ridge traverse.
West Maroon Update:
In short, more snow has melted, the trail is still muddy up high, the creeks are at a normal lower summer level (not high) and you won’t be able to drive a car over Schofield Pass for another month so add 2.5 miles onto the normal West Maroon hike. Well that about sums it up eh? All sorts of folks are moving over West Maroon Pass from backpackers to 4 pass loopers to point to point hikers. The snow has melted off the steep slopes on West Maroon so you don’t have to worry about falling on the snow up there and sliding into rocks. The trail is dry over the pass leaving no added dangers. The muddy sections of the trail are just part of the deal and I don’t see those drying out any time soon, just like past years. I can’t think of any other points to add, so see the pictures below.
Bellview Ridge Variation:
We had our fist clients hike over West Maroon Pass today. Cheers to them for getting out there while its not very busy and working for through the mixed conditions. They hiked in the Aspen to Crested Butte direction. They added on about 2.5miles to the normal West Maroon hike in order to get to a vehicle, due to the snow on Schofield Pass.
I got out for a run today starting on the Crested Butte side going up Rustlers Cultch and joining West Maroon trail just below the pass on the Aspen side. I found conditions to be all time fun and love the variety of snow, mud, dry, snow, mud, flower, snow, green things and some really good gummy bears. Rustlers Gulch option was a cool variation since you can’t drive all the way to Schofield Park for the normal West Maroon start.
The Crested Butte side of West Maroon Pass has a little snow, but reports are not talking about any added troubles. The current more difficult sections are on the Aspen side of West Maroon Pass where I’ll focus for most of this post. On this side, the steepest slopes just below the pass are getting close to melting out. Folks used to traveling in the mountains, with stiff hiking boots, should mostly not have a problem. There are a decent number of folks moving over the pass right now or even doing the Four Pass Loop. For folks with little experience in the mountains, they will benefit form waiting another 10 days or more for conditions to improve.
Continuing towards Aspen from West Maroon Pass the snow patches can be found quite low. As you get lower the snow patches are mostly left over from old avalanche debris. One of which is still covering the largest creek crossing around 10,500ft and making that section easy. The snow we’re talking about in this post has transitioned into firmer summer snow, so your not post holing.
Outside of the snow, there is a good bit of mud and water running down the trail. Mainly on the aspen side down to ooooo 10,400ft say. Your going to get your feet wet and muddy so don’t worry about it or have some good hiking boots.
Lets get into some pictures.
I didn’t take much for pictures at lower elevations on the Aspen side of West Maroon. There is a good bit of mud and and running water on the trail. Its all part of the fun, stay on the trail and smile. These conditions are not so abnormal for this time of year.
The creek crossings are doing just fine too. Water levels are not down to their summer low, but they are certainly not high. We’re talking standard conditions here. Some sandals and trekking poles will mike it easier. I think of the aspen side of the pass having to main crossings that you can see in the pictures below.
Thats about all I have for you. Schofield Pass is not going to melt out for a while so just count on adding those extra 2.5miles. Otherwise the snow on the trail will keep melting, mud will start to dry and more flowers will come out. If your adventurous go get it as it supper fun right now! If not, just wait another week or two as conditions will continue to improve. I probably won’t post another update for a week or so.
Some good friends got out for a run up to West Maroon Pass from Schofield Pass Today. Fellow shuttle runner Chris Miller shared some pictures for current conditions on West Maroon Pass. We’ll be running our first shuttle on July 3rd and will have more detailed conditions updates after that.
We are getting tons of inquiries for conditions on Schofield Pass and West Maroon Pass. We haven’t been out that way for a couple of weeks and really don’t have any detailed updates since our previous June 10th update below. I’m hopping to get up in that area later this week to get a more definitive answer. There are still obviously some large snow fields in the alpine and there hasn’t been much need to go see them in person.
schofield Pass isn’t going to open any time soon. The snow plug near the top of the pass is still large and will be several weeks until it melts out. The county also needs to clear a large number of trees from avalanche events last winter and do some other general road maintenance. Even with these issues, you can still hike between Crested Butte and Aspen via West Maroon Pass. You’ll just have to add a couple of road miles to your hike to get through the above sections on the road.
Its been awhile since I’ve seen West Maroon Pass. Though I’m sure there is still some large snow fields around there. For some people these snow fields will be a fun navigational and technical challenge while others don’t have the skills to deal with them. If you have know idea then your probably the latter which is ok. Just hire a guide or wait for some time to pass in July for trail conditions to return to normal summer conditions. We’ll have more definitive updates on this snow as we get up there in the first few days of July.
Hot and dry is the theme in Colorado’s recent weather trend.
Rivers levels are currently peaking and snow is melting fast. This is exiting for river recreation or everyone that is ready for summer! But we’re far from making a dent in the alpine snowpack around 12,000ft.
Adventures type hikers may be able to hike West Maroon Pass or East Maroon Pass in early July. For those less adventurous types, I’d still be planning to wait for a week to pass in July before trying to hike those passes if you don’t want to deal with snow. For hikers wanting to do the West Maroon hike between Crested Butte and Aspen, the access to the Crested Butte trailhead in Schofield Park may be blocked longer into July, due to old avalanche debris on Schofield Pass. If we can’t drive over this pass, then you can expect to add about 2 miles onto the West Maroon Pass hike.
I was recently up in the Schofield Park area and took a few grainy pictures on my phone that you can see below. We’ll keep this page updated in June as the snow continues to melt.
2017 summer reservations are rolling in! What will the trail conditions be like between Crested Butte and Aspen this summer and how long do we have to wait for trails like West Maroon Pass to melt out? Thats the big question eh?
The 2016/2017 winter snowpack was one for the record books. We had well above average and historical snow accumulations in the Elk Mountains. You can see this in the graph below as the bold line highlighting the 2017 snowpack in the Gunnison River Basin. The bulk of our winter precipitation came from a historical storm in early January. During the winter I work for the Crested Butte Avalanche Center and you can read a blog post by my fellow forecaster, Zach Guy, during the middle of the storm by clicking here. Following that epic storm in early January, we continued to see good snow accumulations into February. Then the weather pattern started to change and we saw the total snowpack peak in March. Now as we look at the melting trend going into the spring we are sitting right at the seasonal average as of May 13th.
So we had a huge snowpack to start with and now we’re sitting right around average in mid-May. What does that mean for planning hikes such as West Maroon Pass in 2017? Lets start diving into that. the the upper elevations such as those around West Maroon Pass, East Maroon Pass or Pearl Pass between Aspen and Crested Butte are probably holding well above average snow coverage. While lower elevation snowpacks have melted out after our early peak snowpack in March, that is allowing the bigger overview to now show sitting right near average.
Looking at the 2015/2016 peak snowpack, it was far lower then the current the 2016/2017 snowpack. Last summer some of the first hikers going over West Maroon were during the last few days of June. Our first clients at Maroon Bells Shuttles hiked over on July 5th and were still dealing with small snow fields to cross on West Maroon Pass. So going into this 2017 season, I would hope that we will see similar conditions in early July with our current “average” snowpack. Though, knowing it could be later due to the historic peak snowpack. In the end we’ll just have to see how the rest of the spring shakes out with weather and how fast the snow melts. The June weather is really a big player and we’ll have to wait to see what June brings.
Stay tuned to the trail conditions updates on our website for more information. I would guess our next post will come out in early June.
A little bit of mud, a little bit of snow and still enough water in the creeks to bring a pair of sandals. The mud was fairly easy to avoid in the few places that it remains from water running across the trail. The remaining snow fields are fairly small and insignificant. The top of the pass still has a little bit of snow on the Aspen side but it can be fairly easily avoided. Thats about the main points, the flowers are popping out and our current weather forecast looks great.
We’re hearing of hikers going over West Maroon Pass while hiking between Crested Butte and Aspen. They are reporting a few small snowfields on the trail and creek crossing around Knee deep as is average for this time of year. Otherwise it sounds like the trail is good to go! Also, Schofield Pass is clear of snow and the trailhead in Schofield Park is accessible.
We’ll be hiking over on July 3rd and will post pictures and another update then.