Current Conditions – Buckskin and the Bells
Hitting the trail for a quick jaunt up towards Buckskin Pass on Saturday was our first visit to the area since ski season. Some useful route beta for the Maroon Bells area was learned. Here’s the report:
Buckskin Pass and the Four Pass Loop
The only news from down low is that as you pass the wilderness boundary sign there are four new trail washouts from the recent rain. Higher up, it’s dry in the open, sunny areas but in the shaded spots the snow still remains, even as low as where the trail crosses Minnehaha Creek. Stretches of patchy snow above the creek crossing are easily passable, to near 12,000 feet, and above that the remaining 500 vertical feet to the top of the pass is still pretty well covered.
Because we were only equipped for trail running we opted to turn back at that point and didn’t get to the pass or get any views of the other side. From what we could see, it didn’t look as though there had been any traffic through the snow as of yet. We came up on a group of three backpackers planning to complete the loop this weekend, and they had ice axes with them.
Based on the amount of snow at the top of the pass, and considering it’s a sunny south/east aspect, it can be assumed that all of the passes will be in similar condition and that you should be ready for snow travel, potentially steep at times. And after coming up on snow in the trees down by Minnehaha Creek, it’s also pretty safe to say the shady stretches of trail will also be sloppy as well, if not completely snow covered– Upper Snowmass Creek and parts of the Fravert Basin come to mind.
A quick look across the valley to Pyramid Peak revealed similar conditions. From the amphitheatre, the route up to the the saddle of the Northeast Ridge was pretty snowy. Views from afar, of the upper east facing section have some snow as well.
As for the Northwest Ridge (Keyhole), all of the gullies on the upper parts of the route are still snow filled and actually look to be quite fun. Axe and crampons will likely be required for at least another couple of weeks.
For snow climbs, the Bellcord, Y and NW couloirs look to be in good, not great condition. The Gunsight appears to be shot (pun). The North Face of North Maroon looks OK for climbing but probably not so good for skiing. You never know though for it was this late in the season, on June 24th back in 1971, when Fritz Stammberger first boldly skied that line. The Grassy Gully on North Maroon looks to be drying out fast but still needs time and you should expect to be on snow through the top stretch of the route, from where you climb up and out of the gullies to the summit.
Have fun out there.