| 21st for my 21st- Mt. Sneffels
Ever since beginning my love affair with hiking a couple of years ago, I had been craving the opportunity to hike a 14er on my birthday (since I have a August birthday, conveniently taking place right in the middle of the summer hiking season). Because really, for us 14er lovers, what could be a better birthday present than a great hike up a beautiful mountain? Not much, I tell you...Anyways, for various reasons, I had been unable to venture up in the mountains on my past birthdays, but not this particular year. Call it fate, call it chance, call it destiny perhaps (or something along those lines, I guess)...but after spending two months in Nepal, I was slated to return to Colorado just in time to do my 21st 14er on my 21st birthday! It seems as though the mountain gods had destined me to go out and climb on this special day, so I submitted to the powers that be and decided to head down with my dad and climb Mt. Sneffels, located in one of my absolute favorite parts of Colorado.
After spending the night in Ouray, my dad and I headed up the jeep road to Yankee Boy Baisin in our rented jeep and passed this oft-photographed overhang:
Gotta love roads in the San Juans
After bottoming out on a more difficult portion of the road just past the privy, we decided to pull over and start our hike for fear of inflicting more damage upon our poor rental.
We started the hike up the road around 7:00AM and were treated to spectacular views of Yankee Boy Baisin.
After winding our way up the jeep road, we soon found ourselves at the base of Lavender Col. At this point, the trail disappears, and there are a number of ways up to the ridge at 13,500, all of which involve a painful slog up loose rock and scree. I didn't particularly enjoy the hike up Lavender Col, but it's easy to forgive Sneffels given the outstanding scenery surrounding you throughout the slog. Whenever I grew frustrated at the annoying, slippery scree, I just reminded myself to turn around and bask in the beauty of the environs.
Even Lavender Col can't ruin the beauty of this area.
After gaining the ridge, we turned left and started the scramble up an even steeper gully. While still containing some loose rock, it didn't seem quite as unstable as the scree in the col. About one or two hundred feet up the gully, we encountered snow which continued on to the top of the gully. At this point, we whipped out our ice axes and followed the well-made kick steps from another group of climbers to the top of the gully. Just for the record, crampons were not necessary to climb the gully at this point; the snow was very soft, and nice kick steps were made without too much effort. Personally, I was glad to have my ice axe with me because the gully is quite steep; but I saw a number of other climbers using poles for support up and down the gully, and they seemed just fine.
Me above a stream of climbers headed down the gully
Once at the top of the gully, we headed to the left and toward the notch. As we climbed up to the notch, we were greeted with a bit of exposure on the left side, but it's over very quickly. I felt that downclimbing the notch was a little hairier than climbing up it, but as long as care is taken, the move shouldn't present anyone with problems.
Crossing the notch
Finally, after a bit of scrambling beyond the notch, we reached the summit around 10:00 where I reveled in the outstanding views and consumed a celebrtory PBJ!
Summiting a 14er=the best birthday present I've had in a while
Me and my dad on Sneffels' summit with Telluride in the distance
It must be said, Sneffels has a great summit...relatively small and with great vistas in all directions.
After celebrating for 30-45 minutes, we headed back down the upper gully and Lavender Col. For future Sneffels climbers, make sure to bring a helmet...there are tons of opportunities for disturbing loose rock while ascending/descending the col.
After dodging a brief thunderstorm (it quickly passed), we made our way down the jeep road and enjoyed the amazing assortment of wildflowers in Yankee Boy Baisin.
Yankee Boy Baisin is certainly in its prime for wildflower spotting.
We returned to the car around 1:00 and then drove back to Ouray where I enjoyed my first legal beer, chips and salsa, and a big plate of hot wings! Mmm, mmm, tasty!
My 21st 14er completed, miles of beautiful scenery witnessed, and a beer consumed after a hard day's work?
A good 21st birthday in the mountains indeed...
Saying goodbye to Sneffels on the drive back home
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):