| SW Ridge
Mt Sneffels - Southwest Ridge
(Mileage and distance vary depending on where you park)
Numbers from the Wrights Lake Spur Trailhead at 11,800‘ are approximately 4 1/2 Miles and 2450‘ vertical
Partners: Kane and Vanny37
At Saturday‘s celebratory dinner for the SP Summer Gathering a few of us started talking about what to do on Sunday. It seemed that most of us had never climbed Sneffels, so we decided to head that way. We met up low on the road and combined vehicles, Kane, Chris and I drove in mine as we were all heading up the SW Ridge, while Jeff and BJ drove separately to take on the Lavender Col Route.
We made it up to a pull out above the bathrooms and walked about a quarter mile or so up to the trailhead for the Wright Lakes Spur trail. It was about 6.30am and we started hiking up a good trail towards Blue Lakes Pass. As we neared the pass the whole of Mt Sneffels‘ South Face came into view:
The views of Gilpin from this area are quite stunning as well, have to come back for this one someday!
We made good time to the pass, probably about an hour. Here we took a snack/sunscreen break and put on our helmets to start up the ridge. The lower towers are fierce looking, but there is class 2 talus on the backside to bypass them all. The route is pretty easy to follow through this initial section
The ridge started to steepen and we climbed up a gully to a cairned notch between several rugged towers. This is where the route descends to avoid a large tower, and we took turns downclimbing the steep loose slopes. This 80 foot downclimb was tedious, but careful climbing keeps it as class 2 and keeps the rocks in place
Looking back at the downclimb:
From the base of this slope the difficulty increased as we climbed more loose talus only to be presented with a mandatory section of snow. Kane used my axe to cut out some steps on the right side and exited around the snow on loose 4th class. I took my axe back and traversed across the snow to another loose 3rd and 4th class slope opposite him. Chris followed and we re-grouped at the top of this gully at a notch. Above us was more of the same, but at least it was free of snow.
Kane led this section over 3rd class mud, wet rocks and a few 4th class moves to slightly drier and easier terrain. The going was slow and methodical as we tried to keep the rocks from tumbling on each other. The wet and mud didn‘t make things any easier, but at least we were making upward progress! I led the next section which was mostly 3rd class on more reasonable rock. There was one 4th class move or two to avoid some looser blocks. Kane and Chris exiting this section from above:
Above us was more talus, but the steepness eased and the climbing went smoothly to the ridge crest. This final section was probably more like 2+. It was a welcome relief to be out of the gullies where the fun stuff really began!
"Kissing Camels" Like Rock formation on the side:
The ridge crest is delightful. The climbing is solid, the exposure is fun but not scary, and the views are spectacular. Dallas, Gilpin and the Wilsons dominate behind you.
Looking at the wonderful climbing ahead:
This is Chris climbing on the ridge:
Kane contempates the final 100‘ to the summit:
The summit was rewarding as the views stretch on for what seems like forever. It was 9.30 am and the skies were in good shape. I counted every 14er in the San Juans (save San Luis, but I think I could see it too), and noticed the La Sals in Utah.
We descended the standard route where we met Jeff and BJ finishing up. There was still a lot of snow in the upper couloir above Lavender Col, we carefully descended and made our way to the Col. Looking down this slope:
Looking back from the Col:
We hiked down the tedious scree and talus slopes back to the trail where we took the cut off to rejoin the Wrights Lake Spur. Soon we were back on the road where I counted about 15 vehicles out 4-wheeling. Not to mention all the ATVs and dirt bikes. The drive out was like a cattle drive! At least we had the pride of having let our feet do some of the work this day
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):