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Four Pass Loop

Date: September 1-3, 2018

Distance: 29.5 miles

Elevation gain: 9,643 ft

I couldn't resist putting this image first. This entire hike included 4 passes within 3 days with killer views every single time. This trek may have slightly kicked our butts (especially my brother's who came all the way from Nebraska for this weekend of torturous glory), but it provided us with so many unique sweet views.


Day 1

Date: September 1, 2018

Distance: 13.6 miles

Elevation gain: 4,796 ft

Departing time: 6:50 am

Finishing time: 5:30 pm

After arriving late at night and sleeping in the cold next to our car, day one began. This was our biggest day of the weekend and included making it over 2 passes. I love starting the day out hiking in the dark because it means that we'll get to see the sunrise from a much better location than next to our car.

The first pass was a piece of cake. We reached the top of Frigid Air Pass (12,405 ft) at about 9:50 am. Brandon and I were feeling good, but we could already tell that Ryan struggled a bit more than us despite his good physical shape. We celebrated our first victory and quickly headed down into the valley. Within this valley there were numerous campsites that called our names to stop and enjoy the beautiful around us, but we continued, only stopping for lunch.

We then began to climb again. We knew taking down 2 passes in one day would be a challenge, but we didn't quite account for how much the altitude would effect Ryan. On our way up the second pass, Brandon carried Ryan's bear bin of food, and I eventually took on a little extra weight from his pack also. 3/4 the way up we came across the perfect resting spot to stop before we took on the final 650 ft to the top of Trail Rider Pass (12,415 sf). Again we celebrated, so happy that all we had to do now was get down the mountain. We camped about a mile from Snowmass Lake, setting up our tents just in time for a small rain shower.


Day 2

Date: September 2, 2018

Distance: 9 miles

Elevation gain: 2,651 ft

Departing time: 7:10 am

Finishing time: 4:00 pm

Day two started out COLD. We made our way to Snowmass Lake where we filled up our bladders with freezing lake water. I was able to capture a couple sweet photos with the perfect reflection and then we were off for our 3rd pass. We reached Buckskin Pass (12,462 ft) at about 11:50 am. Ryan was clearly not feeling well and the stormy sky kept us from staying at the top long. We rushed down the pass as quick as possible to try and get Ryan to lower ground and beat the coming rain. We did not make it. As we're crushing through the trees it started pouring. Normal people would have stopped and hid out for a bit, but we insisted it wouldn't last long. We threw on rain gear and continued. I've got no photos for most of the way down because it rained the entire way, but luckily it let up just as we reached Crater Lake at the bottom. I snapped a few photos and we continued on, still worried about the weather. We still had about 2-3 miles until we wanted to stop. Again, luck was not on our side as it began to rain and we hauled up earlier than expected as we were cold, wet and tired.


Day 3

Date: September 3, 2018

Distance: 6.9 miles

Elevation gain: 2,196 ft

Departing time: 7:00 am

Finishing time: 12:00 pm

Day three was reminiscent of one of Brandon and I's first backpacking trips in Colorado while still living in Kansas City (Lost Creek Wilderness). It was rainy, foggy, dark and gloomy. Ryan's altitude sickness was in full swing now, and we knew that even though this was suppose to be our easiest day, that it would still be a challenge. We were not wrong, reaching the top of West Maroon Pass (12,490 ft) was slow going, but we did get to hear a pack of coyotes cackling like hyenas and see some crazy fog. We reached the top at 10:00 am and froze our butts off as I captured a couple photos.

On our way down, we celebrated. As we lost elevation, Ryan began to feel better and the sun broke through the clouds to make for a nice finish just in time for lunch. We quickly changed out of our wet, smelly clothes, hoped in the car, and headed to lunch about an hour away in the nearest town.


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