Mt. Sopris (12,953′)

During the winter of 2008 I lived in Carbondale, Colorado (~30 miles from Aspen) and I was greeted each morning by the sight of Mount Sopris. At 12,953′, Mount Sopris may lack the fame or glamorous elevation of other peaks in the Elk Range; however, its prominence over Carbondale and steep slopes make a strong impression in the Roaring Fork Valley.

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Mount Sopris from Carbondale

When I lived in Carbondale, I was still on my quest to climb all of the 14ers in Colorado; so, the idea of climbing it was firmly on the back burner. Also, I was too busy enjoying an incredible ski season at Snowmass and Aspen Highlands! (The winter of 2008 still stands out as a pretty epic ski year). Then, my job was transferred to the barren wasteland of Arizona just as mud season was clearing up; so, the mountain slipped further off my radar.

Seven years later (August 2015), my enthusiasm for Mt. Sopris boiled over and I realized how important the mountain was to me. There are some mountains that just plead with you to climb when you gaze upon them. On a side note, I was somewhat concerned that I’d feel a bit let down after completing my final Colorado 14er in 2011; however, it has been quite the opposite experience. In recent years, I’ve explored many other amazing peaks that have captured my imagination and the great thing about Colorado is you never seem to run out of adventures.

Enough preamble, let’s climb! The hike up Mount Sopris is a long one with 15 miles and over 5,000′ of elevation gain. However, it starts as a relative gentle hike across low meadows. The weather was sort of strange the morning we hiked up Mt. Sopris, so the summit wasn’t visible. However, as we hiked along side grazing cows, it was clear this was going to be a long day.early

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About four miles into the hike you will come upon Thomas Lakes before the hike begins in earnest up steep switchbacks to treeline. Navigation is pretty simple on the route as you reach treeline (you pretty much head straight up!). Then you’ll summit a knob called Nopris before heading across the long ridge. The ridge sort of horseshoes around a huge bowl of talus which you’ll work across on the way to Mt. Sopris’ east and west summits (yes, two summits. More on that in a minute). Let’s continue the climb up with some photos for a bit.

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Thomas Lakes
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As you work your way up the ridge you gain great views of Capitol Peak
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Further up the ridge
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The clouds cleared and a beautiful day broke out on the way up to Nopris
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Looking back down valley at Carbondale

About six miles into your climb you reach the east summit of Mt. Sopris at an elevation of 12,953′. It is about another mile over to the west summit of Mt. Sopris from the east summit. The elevation of the west summit? Also, 12,953′. The actual elevation of the two peaks varies depending on your source of information, but I strongly recommend going to both summits just to be safe (especially if you have beautiful weather like we did).

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The west summit of Mt. Sopris from the east summit. RIP Tupac
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Connecting ridge between the summit
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Nopris is to the left; east summit to the right
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Wonderful views of Capitol Peak and the Elk Range
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With my Dad on the summit…Capitol Peak to our right
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Here is an overview of the “horseshoe bowl” I mentioned
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One more of Capitol Peak
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A look across at route up Nopris…can’t find Waldo? Look just below the left ridge and work your way up diagonally.
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One more picture for the road…Sopris is a far more intimidating climb when it is out of the clouds and you can see it from below

Well, this hike was one that I wanted to do for a long time and it did not disappoint! Sopris is a challenging class 2 hike and makes for a pretty full day, but the views are incredible. Also, you get a chance to admire Capitol Peak quite extensively on this route. Capitol Peak is one of the more visually striking 14ers and is possibly my favorite one as well. I’ve been on very few hikes that I regret or don’t leave some sort of positive impression, but Mount Sopris was a truly special climb that I highly recommend.

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