By Rod Martinez
Mt. Sopris is not quite 13.000 feet high and it is not one of those coveted 14’ers that a number of hikers quest to conquer. Because this mountain stands alone between Carbondale and Aspen Colorado its dual 12,953 foot summits dominate the landscape. It’s also featured in the Colorado Mountain Club Press’s Best Hikes of Aspen, authored by yours truly. The 20 hikes in the Guide are rated from easy to difficult, based on numerous factors, with distance and elevation gain being the two most dominant. The elevation gain is 4,800 feet and the distance is 6.0 miles from the trailhead to the first summit. These two factors give Mt. Sopris a difficult-to-strenuous rating. If done in a day, it certainly qualifies as strenuous. I decided to pack up my backpacking gear, including my new Therm-a–Rest NeoAir sleeping pad and Antares sleeping bag. Between the two of them, they only weigh three pounds two ounces; a vast difference from my old sleeping bag and pad, and hopefully that would help keep things to the “difficult” realm.
I hiked about 4.0 miles with 1700 feet in elevation gain to Thomas Lakes. This hike alone is worth the 2.5 hour effort. I found a great designated camp spot, set up camp and settled in for the night. The next morning I was excited to head up the very steep and rocky trail to the first summit of Mt. Sopris. The views along the way and at the top were worth the 5.0 hours it took to reach and descend back to camp. I wanted to do both summits, but the additional drop and gainb of 300 feet and .7 mile was curtailed by the ever increasing and ominous storm clouds that were approaching, so I headed back down. I stopped and finished packing my equipment and left for the trailhead. I arrived just before the rain and lightning. I am grateful I decided to do this hike as an overnighter with the lightweight gear that made this hike much easier and more comfortable, and the slower pace allowed for some superb photographic opportunities.
Rod Martinez is from Grand Junction Colorado and is a professional photographer capturing the stunning beauty of the west. He has been the Board President of the Grand Valley Audubon Society and a program director for the local chapter of the Colorado Mountain club.