Climbers- Me/Andrew (tornadoman); Jessica (trailrunner)
After climbing El Diente on Tuesday we took a well earned day off on Wednesday. We had initially been intending to climb Sneffels from the Dallas Creek trailhead; but due to fatigue and somewhat uncertain weather conditions we decided to save time and energy and go after it from Yankee Boy Basin. It is a rough road for a passenger vehicle, but we made it safely up 6.9 miles to where the road forms a "Y". If you have high clearance you can continue to the right up route 853 1B; if the road gets tough there are fairly frequent turnouts. This Ruby Mine sign is in the middle of the road at the "Y", (shown on the descent).
Ruby Mine Sign
The sign for Route "853 1B" is on the right side of the road and difficult to see in the dark, but is clear in the day as seen on our descent.
Road 853 1B
After this the walk up the road begins.
There is an option to take a spur to Wright's Lake. We stuck with the road and it was very pleasant as it wound through beautiful Yankee Boy Basin.
As we reached the high trailhead (do not attempt to get there without a good 4WD vehicle) we heard a clicking sound above. There was a herd of bighorn sheep moving over the loose rocks above.
At this point the Southwest Ridge will loom ahead and looks nearly impossible.... fortunately, it isn't that difficult!
The wildlife was plentiful as we headed toward Blue Lakes Pass.
A cute little pika
The trail uneventfully winds to Blue Lakes Pass, where we stopped to put on the helmets.
From here head toward the prominent notch in the picture below. This climbing is pretty easy, usually class 2+ with a few class 3 moves thrown in.
After sneaking through another gully or two you will reach a notch.
I approach the notch
You will have to pass through the notch and drop down into this gully.
Jessica dropping into the gully
After descending a little bit this gully reaches a much larger gully which you will need to ascend. There was snow in this area but it could be avoided on the left side.
Looking up at the snow
Jessica ascending rocks around the snow
After getting past the snow we faced the hardest upclimb of the day.
The steepest section
We head through the notch
And there are many options to head toward the summit.
I know that most people head to the ridge top, but we found a nice and occasionally cairned traverse on a lower line and followed it.
Eventually we made our way to the summit.
Nearing the Summit
We decided to descend the standard route. However, we didn't like the look of the upper notch/gully. Instead we followed occasional cairns down great class 2 and 3 rocks paralleling the notch.
Great rock on the descent
The notch/high gully that we avoided
Finally cairns lead us down to the gully. We were glad to miss all the terrain above us, as there were a few people and a dog up there and rockfall potential seemed high.
Finally into the gully.
The route will then reach a saddle between Sneffels and Kismet, and you will descend another wider but still loose gully. At one point a yell of "rock" went out from above us, and we saw a microwave sized rock tumbling. Fortunately it stopped well before us, but it was a good reminder to wear a helmet in this area. Out of 20 or so climbers we were the only two who had helmets.
Into the second gully.
Storm clouds were also gathering at this time and we were glad to be headed down. Several other people were climbing and seemed oblivious. I don't know how bad the weather was on the mountain but we did get a little rain as we drove back down the road to Ouray.
Yankee Boy Basin is beautiful and the easy finish walking down the road was very pleasant.
Overall this was a great climb. The Southwest Ridge was mostly solid with a few different options depending on your liking. The standard route is loose and junky. Sticking to the side of the upper gully where possible is definitely the way to go!