5 Days in Yankee Boy Basin - Where the hell did Spring Go?
Date: Sunday, April 21 - Friday, April 26
Routes: Mt. Sneffels via Lavender Cole (snowboard descent from 14,000 beneath rock step)
'Kismet' Peak via South Face (snowboard descent from 13,200 due to heavy weather, no summit)
Potosi Peak SW Couloir (snowboard descent from 13,100 to 11,100, no summit)
'Coffee Pot' via south face (turned back at summit block due to warming snow)
Stony Mountain via west face (summit snowboard descent)
Cirque Mountain via south face (summit snowboard descent via SE bowl)
Team: Peaks for Peace Crew
Brennan Metzler (KansasBoarder)
Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to formally introduce you to the professional team members of Peaks for Peace....
Matt 'SUNSHINE' Lovas
Andrew 'MILKSHAKE' Eaton
Paul 'P-STANK" Cassedy
Andrea 'ANDREA' Wilson
Brennan 'B' Metzler
Jonathan 'BIG MONEY TEX' Burk
Elizabeth "IZZIE" Coffin
We stayed Saturday night on some BLM lands outside of Salida, CO. After an epic gear sort and pack, six of us set off in 2 cars for Ouray, CO. The drive up Sneffels Creek Canyon was spectacular and gave us a small glimpse of the grandeur that awaited us in Yankee Boy Basin. Beside the fact that our bags were heavy laden, the trip into our base camp was relatively mellow. We set our home in a nice clearing at the base of Stony Mountain and below the ridge between Potosi and 'Coffee Pot' Peaks. We made dinner, melted snow for water, and promptly went to sleep, nervous about the effects of living on snow.
Snow fortresses were built out of paranoia of wind and three season tents...as well as to stay warm...as well as to stave off boredom on storm days...
Heavy Packs couldn't keep the excitement of the approach down.
High times in Yankee Boy Basin.
As it turns ou,t most of us were not super stoked to get out of the warmth of a down sleeping bag when it is cold and windy out. We slowly came to life, made some breakfast and moved into doing beacon work to prepare for and mitigate the risk of traveling through avalanche terrain. After a few drills and successful beacon searches we geared up to tackle Mt. Sneffels in what was supposed to be a 'medium-effort' day. As it turns out, we had ourselves a little bit of a suffer-fest.
Our approach was not too bad and we started to gain elevation pretty quickly from camp. About an hour into our attempt on Mt. Sneffels, we started to get heavy winds out of the west and north, crushing us with spindrifts and lowering a few spirits (namely, mine). Once we cleared the gradual approach and made our way into Lavender Col, we fell in line to kick steps. The suffer-fest continued as we rose in elevation. The wind was non-stop whipping into our faces. Paul was unflappable and Brennan...well, Brennan is a different beast and as such, was on a totally different level. The final 1200 vertical feet to reach the base of the summit ridge was pretty gritty. We were fighting through deep snow, unconsolidated steps, and for some of us, nausea. To gain the summit ridge required navigating a sequence of mixed moves made difficult by the wintry conditions. Once we achieved our goal of summiting Mt. Sneffels, we pretty quickly worked to reverse our moves and start our descent. The icy and exposed down climb definitely got the heart pumping and then our overall descent back to camp was pretty mellow. We ate some sort of dinner, I honestly cannot remember what it was, and then crashed out.
Sneffels and Kismet stand tall over upper Yankee Boy Basin.
The crew breaks through treeline en route to the summit of Sneffels
Wind ripping across the ramparts of Sneffel's East Couloir.
Paul destroying the climb up to 14k in Sneffel's East Couloi.
Dallas peak rises prominently and powerfully during the ascent of Sneffels' Lavender Col.
We woke up to pretty constant precipitation. It ended up snowing all day. Brennan and Paul made it up to the saddle between Kismet and Cirque Mts and after waiting 30 minutes for the weather to clear decided to head back to camp. The day was spent eating, sleeping, playing cribbage, and, oddly enough, corn-rowing... Around dinner time Sunshine emerged from his tent with his blonde mane transformed into neat corn-rows. Izzy had been pretty bored. Trapped in a tent. Later in the evening, Andrea skinned in and met up with us after taking a couple of days off to run some errands in Breckenridge. After we got out to make some food, the temperature plummeted pretty quickly and everyone found themselves immediately ok with eating granola bars in their tents for dinner.
Braving the conditions into no man's land.
Paul blasts a storm after turning back from a summit bid on Kismet.
Everyone woke up pretty rested and ready to get after it. Brennan, Izzie, Jonathan, and Andrea went for a light tour in the Gilpin Basin while Paul, Sunshine and I decided to go after the giant fortress above camp, Potosi Peak. After Brennan and crew got a few turns in, Jonathan and Izzie packed up and headed back to the car to get some things done back in Breckenridge before meeting the rest of us in Moab. Following the morning tour, Brennan began pushing up the SW Couloir of Potosi to try and ride his dream line. Our attempt on Potosi was sidetracked when our route took us onto the ridge west of the saddle and closer to "Coffee Pot" Peak, a high point on the ridge with a summit block of about 60-70 feet. We had climbed through a few committing sequences to gain the ridge, and as the sun continued to heat the snowpack, we turned back at the base of the summit block to get off the snow before conditions warmed too much. On our descent, we noticed Brennan working his way up the top of the couloir. Sunshine was able to set up a camera and catch his epic line down Potosi. It was an amazing ride to witness, and Brennan was clearly stoked beyond belief.
After our descent, Paul and I chilled out and played some cribbage in the sun while drying some things out in the rare warmth. Brennan and Sunshine went up a mellow route to Stony Mtn and found sunset riding conditions to be pristine. They slid back into camp grinning ear to ear after getting some great turns in the twilight. We made some loose plans for the next day and then cooked a hodge podge meal of polenta, black beans, tomatoes, and copious amounts of cheese that sent everyone to bed feeling fat and happy.
The powerful and complex southwest face of Potosi Peak.
Andrea sinks her skis into some smooth San Juan silk.
Izzie rips a toeside turn in Gilpin Basin.
The incredible SW couloir of Potosi. Goes and goes and goes...
Entering the upper portion of the SW couloir on Potosi.
Sunshine makes his way through the pristine rolling terrain of Gilpin Basin.
Brennan stands stoked on the summit of Stony.
Sunshine rippin' AK turns down the West Face of Stony Mountain.
Moonrise over the south ridge of Potosi.
Brennan, Paul, Andrea, and Sunshine made some plans to get back up to Cirque and catch some turns before we hiked out. I stole Paul in the morning with a plan to put a second attempt on Potosi via the couloir that Brennan had ridden the day before. Brennan, Sunshine, and Andrea climbed some steep snow and exposed rock to gain the Summit of Cirque before taking some nice lines down and getting back to camp. Paul and I had a great climb up some steep snow to gain the ridge of Potosi. We had gone into the attempt with no rock or ice protection hoping to find a weakness with relatively mellow scrambling access to the summit. After getting close to the base of the giant rock fortress that is Petosi's summit block, we realized that in the winter conditions we were facing we would need much more time than we had allotted for the attempt and we descended back to camp. Discontent yet pretty stoked on the couloir route and with seeds of plans planted in our brains of getting back to Yankee Boy Basin to conquer Potosi in better conditions.
As we tore down our camp, we continued to revel in the beauty around us. Feeling incredibly lucky to be in this position we made our way back to the land of hamburgers and beer and vegetables.
The south lines and se bowl of Cirque Mountain, as seen from Stony.
Sunshine makes some mellow turns down Cirque's hanging bowl in low light conditions.
Gear explosion in Ouray.
A perfect warm sendoff after a week in the snow.
-written in a coffee shop in Moab, Utah while wearing sandals and shorts and wishing it was just a little bit cooler. Temperature, you are a fickle beast.
written | Andrew Eaton photos | Brennan Metzler video | Matt Lovas
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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.