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 Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
 Post Date:  09/19/2011
 Date Climbed:   09/18/2011
 Posted By:  Wentzl

 Snow in the San Juans   

Snow in the San Juans - Sunday, September 18, 2011

It has been an unusually wet end of summer season this year and the mountains have been obscured from view for more than a week with only an occasional glimpse through the clouds to see the transformation from green to white so it was no surprise when Sunday morning dawned clear to reveal a stunning winter landscape everywhere above 11, 000’. The last weekend of the calendar summer in the Colorado high country? Time to go play in the snow!

The drive up to Yankee Boy Basin never gets old. Living only 40 miles away allows me to come here several times each year. Always something unique with each visit. On Sunday there was fresh snow.

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Contrast this photo with the last photo in this report for an idea about just how fast this snow is melting out. The first was taken around 1:00 in the afternoon and the last around 5:00. The snow level had crept up more than 500’ in that time. With the sunny warm weather forecast this week it should be summer like again by this next weekend.

Hiking up from Wright’s Lake to Blue Lake Pass gives one a nice vantage from which to survey the standard route up Lavender Col with the summit of Sneffels just left of center in this pic.

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The snow was not really an issue on the trail up to the pass.

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Surrounding peaks include Gilpin

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And Potosi

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A small drift of snow formed at the top of the pass

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A look to the south and west from the pass

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The snow on the SW Ridge was a little more substantial that I had expected. It was a wet heavy snow that stuck to everything. Typically the wind and sun scour the ridge crest clear of snow most of the winter, but this wet heavy snow would not be blown away. Here is a look at the ridge from the pass.

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The next few photos look at various aspects of the route, looking down and then up from the same spot on the ridge. I hope these give an idea of the snow conditions and also give a feel for what the route is like for those wanting to give it a try. I have to say, these make the climb look a little more exposed than it felt. The snow was just deep enough to give good traction in many places. It was actually pretty straightforward. I did not have, and did not need, crampons or ice axe. There was not enough snow for an axe to give purchase anywhere and the snow so soft crampons would have only been metal on rock.

I will let these next few photos tell the story of the ascent:

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And a rather ethereal view from the summit

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On the descent I intended to take the standard route and was surprised to find only one set of tracks that bypassed the “notch” and stayed on the rocks just to the south of the standard. When I peered over the notch I could see that many folks had come that far only to be turned back by the snow and exposure. It was a bit intimidating, but with some careful footwork and some quality butt friction it was manageable.

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Looking at it from the bottom up I noticed an alternative rock section free of snow that looked inviting. This is just to the climbers right as you face the notch.

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I had to give it a try just to see if it would go. It did. Hard to say if this would be considered class IV or V, but it was not too exposed and very secure. If anyone gets this far and does not like the look of the wet slippery standard move, consider this instead. Here is a look at the problem from a few steps back.

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So, that is Sneffels the day after the first significant snow of the season. And here is a look back from near the pit toilet at around 11,000’. Compare the hillside center left of this to the first picture in this report to see how rapidly the snow is receding.

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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
Jon Frohlich



Snow     2011-09-19 13:49:37
I was in the area from Friday to Sunday and we were intending to do Teakettle. We bailed out Friday morning due to snow and rain and the same on Saturday. It looks like from your pictures we made the right call. Sneffels is one thing in those conditions but Teakettle would have been sketchy.

Good job getting Sneffels.


kushrocks


Thanks     2011-09-19 15:06:24
Great info on the snow conditions. Doing Sneffels next Sunday so all that info you sent was very helpful.


jmanner



I was there Saturday     2011-09-20 09:53:57
That was probably my handwork you saw. I/we tried to make that notch work, but the snow was too deep and any handholds were too snowed in to be able to get up into it. We failed to summit.


UTmike

Great weather     2011-09-20 16:05:50
Thanks for the great report. I've always wanted to try to SW ridge. I saw you guys heading up as I was coming down the standard route. I wiped off the first half of that V notch and just didn't have the nerve to go for it. I also climbed halfway up the class IV section to the right but didn't feel good about the top half. Glad you guys rocked it! What a treat that weather was out there.



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