| "T 0" (Mt. Sneffels Wildnerss Area)
"T 0" – 13,735
Mount Sneffels Wilderness
From: East Dallas Creek TH
Approx. 12 mi, 4470 ft
Late Friday afternoon it was obvious from the drive down 285 that a holiday weekend was beginning. The traffic was horrible, there were tons of campers and trailers, and we passed at least a dozen patrol cars along the way. The drive to Ridgeway took almost an hour longer than usual. From there the East Dallas Creek TH was easy to find per Roach's directions and we ended up car camping there for three nights.
On Saturday, after a less than respectable period of sleep, we got up and started hiking at 4:30 by headlamp. There was no clear plan. We would follow the Blue Lakes Trail to the lower lake, climb west, and decide from there which mountain(s) looked inviting. The possibilities were "S 4", "S 6", and "T 0", a bicentennial.
Despite its rather low elevation (9300 ft), the Blue Lakes Trail had patches of snow pretty much right from the start. The first 1.5 miles weren't bad. It was at about that point that I had a funny feeling and checked for my sunglasses – they weren't in my pack. They were sitting on my dashboard. I was not happy to say the least. I knowingly sacrificed some skin once in exchange for continuing on after I'd forgotten sunscreen, but imminent snow blindness is really NOT an option (I know from firsthand experience). After discussion of the problem, Dominic valiantly volunteered to go back for them since he could definitely get the job done a little faster than I could. In the meantime I fidgeted around the trail for an hour trying to stay warm and to pass the time away. The hour went by quickly and we were soon back on the trail.
A few tenths of a mile later (just past the creek crossing, around 10,500 ft) we put snowshoes on to avoid frustrating postholing. I was really surprised at the amount of snow still in the area. In general, snowline was much lower than it had been in the Lake City area the previous weekend. The trail soon became obscured by the snow, but there were a few sets of footprints to follow and they were going in the right general direction. The steep side hilling along the northeast bulge of "S 4" was tedious and slow. The snow had little regard for the flat trail cut into the steep slope. As we finally neared the lower lake it was a relief to see the flattening terrain ahead. Getting here had taken a lot more work than we'd expected. There was a tent by the lake and its occupants were climbing northwest up fairly steep slopes. I wondered whether they were attempting to climb Dallas (I later found out they weren't – they were just going for a ski).
We walked along the west side of the frozen lake and on the far side started climbing west into the basin below Dallas Peak. Somewhat arbitrarily we decided to go for "T 0". We continued on past "West Dallas" and began scoping out a route to the summit. We spied a subtle N/NW running rib that would provide reasonable access to the easy summit ridge just east of the summit. We took our time since Dominic was feeling pretty tired, probably from lack of sleep and his trip back to the car. The last bit was a little steep and we used our axes.
We topped out around noon. It was a special occasion – my 200th 13er. I thought about my 100th 13er, Jones Peak, which I had climbed this past August. It seemed so long ago. The views of the Wilson group, Dallas, and Sneffels were spectacular, but the skies were really starting to look nasty. The other two 13ers in the area were completely out of the question. It had already been a long day.
We glissaded a nice path just west of the rib we'd climbed. To get back to Blue Lake we headed northeast and then east down the drainage south of "S 4". The side hilling section of the Blue Lakes Trail seemed horrendous and never ending. The snow had softened up a lot and had a very slippery top layer. We slipped and slided our way along. At one point I was seriously considering getting my axe out. We got back to the TH around 4 and both crashed for a couple of hours. This hike was lot more demanding than we'd planned, mostly because of the unexpected amount of snow.
The day was also a recon mission. We wanted to get a good feel for the snow conditions in the area before attempting Mt. Sneffels' Snake Couloir and we wanted to scout out possible routes up "S 6" and "S 4". We spotted a nice looking couloir on the southeast side of "S 4" that we hoped to check out on Monday before we headed home.
pictures & map