Rpt 1 of 6: Mt. Sneffels (now with Super Bonus Photos from Blue Lakes side)
A bit of background: Will and I grew up in Denver and although I no longer get to call Colorado home in fact, it certainly remains "home" in the figurative sense. Young Master William still lives in Denver. Over the years we had day hiked several 14ers together and separately. My first was in 1988. In the summer of 2011, I brought my Cannuck wife and Yankee-born daughters on a trip from the East Coast to Breck. Will and I slipped off for a day and took down Democrat, Cameron(...meh.), Lincoln and Bross. A seed was planted that we should really think about hiking more of these majestic peaks (no, not you, Cameron, you're nothing more than a swollen accident on the way to Lincoln). We hadn't yet committed to the idea of hiking ALL the 14ers and to that point, McHenry's Pk, a "mere" 13er, remained my favorite. We were 37 years old at the time, so getting sucked in by the 14er hysteria is a bit too early in our lives to be labelled a mid-life crisis, but perhaps a bit late to be viewed as a particularly sensible decision.
Over the winter, we discussed where to go. A tacit understanding developed that if we did this, there was a good chance that we would end up wanting to summit them all. So in the summer of 2012, we began our first concerted multi-day tour of the San Juans, a section of Colorado we had each visited several times but never previously with mountaineering in mind.
Aug 8, 2012 - Mt. Sneffels...or as the Germans say, "Mt. Sneffels"
I flew in to Montrose. I had never before (or since) seen a cheap fare from the East Coast to this most advantageously positioned Colorado town. After overnighting in some random motel, we drove by the Russel Stover factory where some years before my then-girlfiend and I had rescued a dog some clueless dowager had locked in her car in 90 degree heat while she perused the shelves of the candy shop. The dog survived that experience, but if I had to guess, she probably killed it on another day as a consequence of some subsequent idiocy.
Sneffels: The King in the North! (er...North edge of the San Juans, viewable well North of Montrose)
Ballons are not just for New Mexico!
Sneffels-bound. Good roadbed, but not very wide.
can't really see the summit from here
fantastic signage -- if this helps just one visitor tread more lightly and pack out his trash, it's money well spent
Up, up, up...the slope to the col below the Sneffels culouir is quite damaged by boot traffic - more on this later (film of descent).
Yankee Boy Basin from Sneffels' South Slopes
The col between Sneffels (behind me) and Kismet (13,694).
Short video partial pano from the col
The climb ahead
Sneffels culoir awaits
a little leery about all the people uphill from me
Long video of the ascent up the culoir ending in a climber traffic jam. This happens on Sneffels -- you have climbers of widely varying ability and sometimes people get spooked. The crowds and loose gravel make Sneffels more dangerous that you would suppose based purely on exposure, which is quite manageable.
When the traffic jam didn't clear, I thought, "On second thought, let's not follow the standard route...'tis a silly place." So we dropped packs at the top of the culoir and scampered up and over the rock spire to swing around back of whichever hiker was freaking out and causing the backup. Notice all the sand and dirt on the final slopes -- I don't think I would want to climb Sneffels in a dusting of snow or heavy rain -- I would likely lose purchase on the rock over and over again. Go dry or go full snow, nothing in between (it was dry for us)
We reached the top (and there was much rejoicing...yay.)
The views from the of Sneffels are some of the finest in Colorado.
On the descent, I wanted to follow the "standard" route to discover what had that hiker so spooked on the ascent. In his/her defense, there is a step where I had to let go and slide because the step is just to big to do under control (I'm 6' 1") -- I'm guessing that was the issue. It's at about 3:13 on this video. Side note - don't camp out with your children right on the main route DIRECTLY BELOW the crux of a climb -- I could have fallen on any of them. This video covers the summit block through the crux back to the top of the culoir where I reacquired my backpack.
Here's the descent of the culoir to the col. It is very slippery. I moved quickly only because I grew up playing on surfaces like this and feel comfortable with the shifting. A lot of folks were having trouble. Similarly, a more skilled climber than I would have bounded up that pillar at the top of the culoir in five or six steps whereas I had to approach it slowly because my vertical scrambling skills are not as practiced as some. I'll repeat again that Sneffels is a nasty, loose mess -- mostly because we've made it so -- be aware of what you're comfortable doing, be aware of where the people above you are and whether they seem to be conscientious about rockfall or not.
Once you descend off the col, the grit on top of hardpack is even more loose and slippery. All of the vegetation and even a lot of the lichen has been destroyed. We need to repurpose the abundant talus here to build a proper switch backed trail at least up to the col, because the current situation is neither sustainable nor very enjoyable. That critique applies to the top 200 feet of the summit pyramid as well. This peak is too popular -- we're killing it. On the descent (unfilmed), Will and I took to the rocking, clanking talus far to the right (looking downhill). I would advise anyone wanting to hike Sneffels consider this route as well -- a little trickier than just brute-forcing your way up/down the sand slope, but it's more responsible and you're a lot less likely to get showered with gravel and stones from uphill.
Back to Ouray and the hot springs!
Driving back to Ouray (actually, this photo may be from a different road on the N. side, but if it's not right, it is certainly similar)
Ouray for us!
Mountaineering is fun. Beer, on the other hand, is serious business.
Sorry, no photos of us at the Ouray the hot springs, (pervs!)
Bonus Photos - Blue Lakes Side
The following day, Will and I met Stephanie who had been camping in the Blue Lakes area for several days, including our summit day on Sneffels. She joined us for a couple of days of hiking and graciously shared some of her excellent photos:
Subsequent Report: Rpt 2 of 6: Hellah Handies
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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