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Four Pass Loop -- Maroon Bells - Snowmass
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mini location map2018-08-28
30 by photographer avatarfricknaley
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Four Pass Loop -- Maroon Bells - SnowmassNorthwest, CO
Northwest, CO
Hiking avatar Aug 28 2018
Hiking27.64 Miles 8,275 AEG
Hiking27.64 Miles   11 Hrs   11 Mns   2.59 mph
8,275 ft AEG      30 Mns Break15 LBS Pack
1st trip
this hike has been at the top of my list for a few years now. it lived up to, and exceeded all my expectations. when i originally planned this, my intent was to run as much as i could. aggravating a hamstring injury the week before changed those plans, and hindered my confidence altogether.

i started at 6am to a perfect forecast for the day, and the immediate scene of the moon over the Maroon Bells and moonlight reflecting off Maroon Lake told me it was going to be a good day regardless. i made good time climbing through the trees as the sun slowly rose and i met timberline as the sun crested the high peaks, warming things up and highlighting my first pass, Buckskin. the views of North Maroon Peak on the way up were stunning and i even spotted some brave dudes making their way slowly up that beast. from the pass, the look back at Pyramid Peak was kind of awe inspiring with the sun blasting behind it. it was windy and very cold at this first pass. in other words, perfect.

i made good time down from here and back into the trees, then along the creek. passed numerous backpackers coming in the other direction. at the geneva lake intersection the second climb began in earnest and the incredible snowmass lake popped into view, guarded by snowmass mountain and peak. stopped me dead in my tracks on numerous occasions. the climb up to Trail Rider Pass was perhaps my favorite scenery and trail grade of the day and i was feeling wonderful the whole time. marveled at the views in both directions for a while. windy and not quite as cold at this one, so i took advantage and spent the rest of the day in short sleeves and zip off shorts.

descent from Trail Rider was very steep and super wide open, affording excellent scenery. saw the most backpackers on this stretch. the north fork cutoff came sooner than expected. lot of wildflowers along this too. soon enough i joined up with the North Fork trail and made my way into Fravert Basin. Lot of water along this stretch and big open views, including a sweet waterfall. a sharp climb through the trees popped me out into anther higher elevation open basin and it became clear finally where Frigid Air Pass was. Maroon Peak dominated the landscape in this stretch and some of the mountains around it were stunningly red colored. the final climb up to the pass was somewhat brutal for me, but once on Frigid Air Pass, I felt great and the view looking out over it was probably my very favorite of the day. just amazing!

the shortest stretch between passes was next, heading out to West Maroon Pass. big massive open landscape had me feeling like i was in another country, if not planet. loved this. i will say the final relatively short climb to West Maroon Pass nearly killed me. Rewarding views from the pass, however, brought me semi back to life.

all that remained was the long descent back to maroon/snowmass trail to complete my loop. it was an uneventful big descent. at times pleasant, at times zombie-like, and always gorgeous. i was racing my gps and phone/route scout batteries at this point. i lost and they both died about a mile from the end. ha

i had nothing short of a wonderful day start to finish. carried five quarts of water, figuring i would just filter at any of the numerous spots along the way, but never needed to. ate a ton all day. never aggravated my hamstring too much and had a big stupid grin on my mug for nearly 28 miles.

this gem should be on everybody's wish list. as good as it gets if you ask me.
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