| T-0, via East Ridge from lower Blue Lk
Quads: Mount Sneffels, Telluride
T-0 is 1.4 mi WNW of Dallas Pk at the head of the basin opposite Mt. Sneffels which extends generally to the WSW from the Blue Lakes. I approached T-0 from a camp at the lower of the Blue Lakes with the intent of investigating whether a route on Dallas' west ridge might go from T-0, but weather prevented me from even getting from T-0 over to unranked "West Dallas Pk" (13,741).
The Blue Lakes Trail is very popular, especially with day hikers. The popularity is very well-deserved because of the stunning scenery and prodigious wildflowers in the area. To reach the trailhead, head W on Colorado 62 for 5 mi from the stoplight on US 550 in Ridgeway and turn S onto the signed East Dallas Creek road, which is passable by cars with decent clearance; one could also reach the turn-off by coming over Dallas Divide about 18 miles from Colorado 145 W of Telluride.
Stay right at 2 miles, and reach the obvious parking area left (S) of the road near its end some 10 miles in from the highway. Enjoy some great views of Mt. Sneffels' N side along the way in. Both formal and informal camping is available along the last mile or so of the road.
From a start at 9340 ft, it's then 3.3 mi and 1,640 vertical feet up to the lower of the Blue Lakes at 10,980 ft, with a little less than 200 feet of elevation loss along the way. You'll enter the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness about 2 miles in, and cross a creek draining off Wolcott Mtn's E side a bit farther along. There are several decent campsites on the lower lake's W side near and not far from the lake's outlet stream.
The rocky basin WSW of lower Blue Lake was first visited by the Hayden Survey team during the first accent of Mt. Sneffels, who accurately described it as a virtually lifeless moonscape. The basin is split into two halves by a large shark's fin formation in its middle which tops out at an elevation of 12,500-12,600 ft, above which there's only a single basin. The S part of the basin lies directly below Dallas Pk's N face, as well as the high ridge which inclues West Dallas Pk and T-0, while the N half of the basin contains a stream which flows into the lake. I did a roundtrip around the shark's fin, cutting below and E of it at about 11,900 ft to enter the S basin and ascending it to T-0's summit (yellow), then descending the N basin (red).
After doing so, I don't particularly recommend visiting the S basin because the jumbled up nature of the rocks and boulders there made for rather slow going. See the following two pictures, one looking up the basin (with UN 13,410 @ right) and one looking down/out at Sneffels, if you need proof that it's unpleasant terrain:
So, my preferred route to T-0 starts at the lower lake's inlet stream on the lake's W side and climbs up the stream's S side a little more than 300 ft vertical to where the stream branches; the going is slow in here because of large boulders, downed timber, and the generally rugged terrain, but it opens up and gets easier not far above the stream conjunction. The initial objective is then to reach a point at about 12,300 ft on the minor ridge which separates the two stream branches and is almost due W of the starting point at the lake. One can do this by either staying S of the S branch and veering a little N above about 12,000 ft or by getting on the minor ridge itself not far above where the two branches join; the latter involves slightly less route finding, whereas the former involves slightly easier terrain.
Above 12,300-12,500 ft, one will want to start angling slightly left (SW) to get into the upper basin above the shark's fin. Once one is fully in the upper basin, T-0 will be clearly visible in its extreme SW corner. March roughly SW across the upper basin to about 12,800 ft, where the climbing begins. There is no way to avoid having to climb about 800 ft of awful scree, almost all of it ready to move downward in order to join all the rest of the rock down in the basin.
On the peak's E ridge less than 200 ft down from the summit there's an inviting saddle at the top of a shallowly concave scree slope; immediately to the right (W) of this saddle is a dark red and/or rust-colored outcropping of rock which comes down off the ridge. You want to gain the ridge just to the summit side (W) of this outcrop. If you go for the inviting saddle instead, you will have to make a very short exposed Third Class climb up and over the outcropping on the ridge; the little ledges you'll need for holds there are all downsloping, rubble-covered, and rotten. The rest of the short ridge up to the summit is easy.
Remembering that I'm on the high side of 45, It took me 6 hours to make it to the top, but only 2 1/4 hrs to get back down. All in all, this was an interesting climb to make in conjunction with a backpack into the lake for a few days. I think it would make for a fairly long day hike.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):