Trailhead...10,600' on the Camp Bird Road
Route...Standard, South Face to SE Couloir
Elevation Gain...3600 feet
Dani and I have always had good luck with mixing days in the mountains and special occassions...
-my brother's birthday on Vermillion
-New Year's Eve in Ecuador
-4th of July in Ice Lake Basin
-Superbowl Sunday on Little Horn
-the day Michael Jackson died on Holy Cross
Those were some of the most memorable days of our lives.
I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day. It always feels so forced to me. But every year I give in to the pressure...I make a restaurant reservation, buy the flowers, make breakfast, be even nicer to my wife than usual. Well not this year. This year we are going to the mountains and I'm going to be mean to my wife. After lining up a couple places for us to stay in Ridgway, I threw together a list of activities for our 4 days down there...climb Mt. Sneffels, climb Wilson Peak, ski Telluride, ice climb in Ouray. I didn't commit us to a certain order because I wanted to see what the weather was going to do. I figured doing any of those 4 things on Valentine's Day would be a nice break from tradition and would create a memorable day. After consulting various weather websites from our room at the Chipeta Solar Resort, we decided on Sneffels.
After an amazing dinner at the Colorado Boy Brewery (http://www.coloradoboy.com/) we went to bed early...dreaming of a day with safe snow conditions, sunny skies, and no wind...and if we could only get one out of three, we would take the first one, and that's all we got.
The day started off on a promising note. We got to the winter closure on the Camp Bird Road around 6:30am and found that the gate was open and the road was plowed. We were able to get all the way to the Revenue Mine at 10,600'...about 3 miles past the gate. I had a bad feeling about that gate. It just didn't seem right that it was unlocked. We found out later that we just got lucky. That gate was unlocked for the mine workers. After everyone gets past it, they lock it back up. So when we got back to the gate later that afternoon, the gate was locked and we were on the wrong side. I called the Ouray Chamber and the Sherriff with no luck. We sat there for 30 minutes before someone from the mine came up the road and let us loose.
We started up the un-plowed road at 7am under a beautiful sunrise and mostly clear skies. There were no signs of recent skier or snowshoer activity, so we had a blank canvas to draw our line.
I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.
Looking back at the sunrise over Ouray from our parking spot
Early morning light on Sneffels and Kismet
Dani getting higher into Yankee Boy Basin...weather still holding
Heading towards Kismet...Sneffels is still out of sight
Looking back at Potosi Peak
The weather started to deteriorate as we got to the upper trailhead
It didn't take long for the clouds to take over...visibility dropped to 50' and it started to snow lightly
We were still comfortable with the snow conditions so we headed up towards the Kismet, Sneffels saddle
We got all the way to the top of the saddle and headed into the deep couloir directly to the left...here's Dani near the bottom of the couloir
And looking up at what looked like the couloir that would never end
The hardest part of the route is the exit out of the couloir & onto the ridge...we made this harder than it needed to by by choosing this option
Had to take my mittens off and got cold fast
4 days later and the tips of 3 of my right hand fingers are still numb
Lowered a rope for Dani so she wouldn't have to take her mittens off
Dani on the final ridge to the summit
It wouldn't be Valentine's Day with out flowers and candy...so I brought a rose and some russell stover chocolates
She said yes!!
If you're wondering why there is a rose on the summit of Mt. Sneffels, now you know
Ok...enough with the romance...time to get down and out of the wind
Here is the better option for getting into or out of the couloir...to get to it you need to go all the way to the top
Dani at our snowshoe stash
You know it's cold when every thread on your hat freezes
As we got back to the trees, the clouds finally started to break up...in Ouray the sun was out...in Ridgway the clouds were pretty much gone
Despite the weather, I don't think I could have asked for a better Valentine's Day. It was a difficult and rewarding day on one of the most incredible mountains in Colorado. And I was with the woman I love. It doesn't get much better than that.
At least that's how I felt till Saturday when we climbed Wilson Peak on a day without a single cloud.
Dani on Wilson Peak's SE Face
Me climbing up the to the SW Ridge
Dani on the traverse