Hey guys, Me and my buddies are interested in getting into backpacking, and were looking to do the Four Pass Loop in Aspen, Colorado. However, we were planning on leaving the weekend after our graduation, May 10th. Colorado has always been a dream for us and we're really excited but have some concerns. 1. The weather: We're worried that when we get there the mountains are going to be snowed over and having being noobies, we don't want to commit ourselves that hard 2. Time Restraint: We want to be in and out of the park in 3 days, 2 nights. The trail is a 27.7 mile loop that involves a lot of change in elevation, crossing 4 peaks. Most guides online recommend a 4 day backpacking trip, would be insane or unheard of to do it in 3? We're all fit and have a lot of hiking experience but will not be acclimated to the mountains (we're from Ohio).
ANY tips would be appreciated. Cheers guys, Andrew
May is way too early to do this loop. The loop crosses 4 passes above treeline. In a normal year, the passes may be doable with minimal snow gear (ice axe, microspikes, etc) in late June. This year we've had tons of snow, the passes may not be doable with no snow gear until well into July. Also, the maroon bells trailhead was covered by an avalanche, it may not even be cleared in May.
As far as distance, local trailrunners routinely run the 4 passes in a day. I did the loop as an overnighter going counterclockwise, but I'm also well acclimatized to the altitude. If you go straight to the 4 passes as soon as you fly in from Ohio, doing it in three days would be ambitious unless you're just naturally good at altitude. I met a group from Maryland that barely covered 5 miles in a single day.
I'd suggest move your trip to Sep. If you are lucky the Aspen will be peaking then. And maybe spend a day or two acclimatize to the elevation before starting the loop.