14ers.com Shirts!
Your purchase of a synthetic or cotton shirt helps support 14ers.com. Thank you!

Other ways to help...
Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Post Date:  08/01/2011
Date Climbed:   07/29/2011
Posted By:  Mooney Pilot

 Scree, Snow, and Scrambling on Sneffels   

A climb of Mt. Sneffels involves a variety of experiences. The climb can be divided into five parts: a jeep trail, a hiking trail, a scree gully, a snow gully, and a scramble. And, of course, the climb is optional but the descent is mandatory.

Part 1: The Jeep Trail

Sneffels has two trailheads: A lower trailhead at 11,350 feet which can be reached by most two wheel drive vehicles, and an upper trailhead at 12,460 which requires a four wheel drive vehicle to reach. My 2WD Toyota Tundra had very little difficulty reaching the lower trailhead. On the drive up I stopped several times and picked up hikers who had parked or camped lower. By the time I reached the lower trailhead, there were five hikers sitting in the bed of my truck. At the trailhead we all got out and geared up. They all started hiking, and I decided to re-position my truck. When I turned on the ignition key I found that my truck's battery was dead. I decided that since I had come a long way to climb Mt. Sneffels, I would worry about my dead battery after my climb.

I started hiking up the jeep trail, and about half way to the upper trailhead I hitched a ride with a guy named John and his dog named Bo in a Toyota FJ Cruiser. They dropped me off at the upper trailhead. Thanks guys!

Part 2: The Hiking Trail.

The hiking trail starts at the upper trailhead and goes up to around 12,800 feet. By this time the sun was up and I could see the beautiful scenery of Yankee Boy Basin:

Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

Part 3: Scree and Talus

At around 12,800 feet you start ascending a broad, steep gully with no trail. There are stretches of talus (unstable football-sized rock) and scree (unstable pea-sized rock). Pick your poison. It's a tough hike, as each step must be carefully considered.

Part 4: The Snow Gully

At around 13,500 feet you turn left up a narrower, steeper gully which even in late July is filled with snow. Here's a view of the snow gully looking up:

Snow Gully

Fortunately, previous hikers had kicked steps into the snow field. It was like climbing a steep but slippery staircase. I did my part by further kicking in the steps.

I saw people carrying ice axes, people using trekking poles, and people doing the snow climb hands free. I was comfortable using trekking poles to help me keep my balance.

Near the top of the summer snow field at around 14,000, turn left and climb through this V-Notch. It's not as difficult as it looks:


Some scrambling is required for the final summit pitch:

Final Summit Pitch

The views from the summit were magnificent:

View From Summit

View From Summit

Image #8 (not yet uploaded)

View From Summit

View From Summit

View From Summit

Epilogue: The Descent

On my descent I slipped once in the snow gully but was able to use my trekking poles to keep from sliding, with the only damaqge being a snow wedgie. I also slipped once in the scree of the large gully. The dirt from the scree combined with the moisture from the snow wedgie made it look like I descended the mountain on my butt.

At the upper trailhead I hitched a ride with a couple of guys from Dallas in a brand new Jeep Sahara. The Dallas Duo helped me jump start my truck at the lower trailhead. Thanks guys!

Despite the relatively short elevation gain, I thought that Sneffels due to its unstable terrain was probably the most difficult of the eleven 14ers that I have climbed so far. For my next 14er I'm going to take a break from scree, snow and scrambling. Quandary Peak maybe?

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

V-notch     08/02/2011 00:29
Hey thanks for a great report,the pics are some of the best I've seen of this route.I hear there is some exposure at the v- notch.What did you feel about it?I'm the kind of person that locks up if I get close to a vertical drop that would kill me if I went off of it.I'm OK if it is just very steep.Thanks

Mooney Pilot

V-Notch     08/02/2011 01:18
The V-Notch was not scary at all to me.


Almost     08/02/2011 02:35
Nice report - and sounds like a fine experience. I was part of a team of 5 who had planned this for 7/30 but cancelled for various reasons; it was good to hike with you vicariously. Good job!


Holy Snow, Batman!     08/02/2011 02:52
Snow wedgie...LOL. We climbed Sneffels almost two years ago to the date and there was no snow to be found on the route. It's amazing to me how much snow has stayed on the 14ers this late into the summer! Seems like it was a good trip. Glad you got your battery situation figured out!

@cajunclicker, If I remember correctly, there wasn't much exposure at the v-notch. You feel relatively protected.


V-notch     08/11/2011 02:31
Thanks for the info.My wife and I will be visiting family there in late Sept. and we may try Sneffels.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2015 14ers.com®, 14ers Inc.