| South West Ridge
Blue Lakes Trail
It seemed like a decade had passed since I was last seen upon a steep mountain, because it had. My climbing gear had gone into hibernation and my backpacks assumed I had retired.
Now that our kids are a little older my wife and I decided that we should see if they would enjoy a fourteener or two. The result was a 50/50 split, Our daughter Chloe not so much but Zach our 9 Year old son is hooked.
Sneffels was his choice, I said that we would do a route together mid week and it was up to him where we went. He read a guide book that had the first line " A truly imposing Mountain" that was enough.
We Left Eagle CO aroung 4.30 and headed out to Ouray, we stopped in Montrose to fuel our bodies on Steaks and finally pulled in to the lower trailhead at 10pm. We overnighted in my crew cab truck which was fine for Zach and not so good for me, through some intermitten sleep I awoke at 5.45am roused Zach and mopped up the condensation so I could see out. It had rained a little but for the most part was dry. I piloted my Nissan Titan to the upper trailhead with no real issues but would advise against anyone attempting this in the dark.
We were soon joined at the trailhead by a pair of gents from Dallas who were heading up the standard route.
Zach and I scoffed down bannanas and yoghurt readied our packs and set out toward Blue Lakes pass. It was 6.45am, a tad chilly and we were off enjoying the solitude in Yankee Boy Basin. 1
We then reached the Blue Lakes Pass and got to look at our route up the gulley, we donned our helmets, soaked up the views and headed up.2
The rocks were stable and for the most part made good footing, as we neared the top I kept going until we came to a short steep headwall which is what I read in the trip reports. I had also printed all the photo's and descriptions from Bills good work here. In hindsight the wall we were at was more than class 3 but I have climbed up to 5.10 and have taken my son climbing often too and therefore didnt initially realize that we had strayed off route. 3
Zach even gave me the thumbs up, he was enjoying it so much.4
Sometimes when you follow a well beaten trail, you are just following the mistakes of others, as was the case here. I pulled out my paperwork and scanned around, I looked over the ridge back to Yankee Boy and realized we were to far right as you look up. We backtracked and downclimbed the short headwall, we had missed a point, where the route makes a slight left turn into the adjoining gulley. We had lost about 15 to 20 minutes but got to climb some extras.
The remaining gulleys were fun, interesting and nothing to worry about. We reached the notch, dropped in and turned the gulley up and out over a small steeper wall. We then came to another small gulley that houses the kissing Camels, worth the hike on its own.5
As you pass this you exit to the upper ridge by a cool little side gulley6
We were now on the main ridge and could see back down into Yankee Boy Basin, the rock on this upper ridge is bomber and the views are fantastic. This was the first time that I was a little nervous as Zach has never really experienced this type of exposure before. As a parent you always worry, I found myself climbing right next to him, getting closer and closer as it steepened.
I need not have worried, the smile on his face said it all, he was confident, alert and as educated in the mountains as you can make a 9 year old.78
In no time we were on the summit and eating fresh watermelon that somebody had brought up.9 We snacked, rested and hydrated and set off to take the standard route down. After 100yds we came to the V groove and dropped into the gulley and the rest of the route down was quite a slog. I would advise all that feel they are capable to go on The South West ridge instead of up this bowling alley.10
All in all we had a great day, I cannot say that this route is suitable for all junoirs, all I can say is that it was great for mine. Zach had a blast and is already planning a Keyhole attempt and a Tour D Abyss. Happy Climbing. CampoVail.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):