| West Sneffels Range: Exploring Solitude.
"S 10" 13,020
"S 9" 13,134
"S 8" 13,252
"S 7" 13,220
Mears Peak 13,496
July 6, 2010
~12.6 Miles, ~6,000 Gain
Starting Trailhead: Alder Creek Trail from Last Dollar Road.
Ending Trailhead: Intersection of Last Dollar Road and Deep Creek Road close to Deep Creek Trailhead.
"Behind every great Peak Bagger is a car shuttle." - My sister in law.
For something different on these peaks, I planned a car shuttle. The mileage is approximately the same on the car shuttle route compared to the route without a car shuttle but the shuttle saves me 1000-1500 gain. I'll take it. Nevertheless, this would also give my wife the opportunity to spend the day in Telluride while I cranked out some peaks.
My wife and I found an excellent camping spot near the Alder Creek Trailhead off of Last Dollar Road and I set the alarm for 5:15 AM. It wasn't too brutal and I slept in a bit since the weather forecast was supposed to be perfect. After some breakfast, I was hiking down the Alder Creek Trail at 5:40 AM. Unfortunately, I lost about 100-200 feet elevation on the trail but the trail was easy to follow as it contoured around the western side of the Sneffels Range at ~10,400.
The level approach was nice for a change but it only made for a really steep climb. Unfortunately, the trees were thick and it was hard to determine the best place to climb up to the ridge. I did my best guess and started climbing upward. As soon as I was out of the trees, I found some problematic cliffs and I was beginning to wonder if this western approach was a bad idea.
Problematic cliffs on the west side.
After some scouting around, I found a weakness in the cliffs and was able to find a mellow section that took me to the ridge. Surprisingly, it wasn't a pile of junky San Juan talus and the climbing was rather enjoyable. I reached the ridge and headed north towards the unranked 12ver Hayden Peak. I was planning on climbing directly up the west face of Hayden Peak, but from the ridge I could tell that it was a talus mess and was thankful that my route worked out well.
My non-talus slope to the ridge.
Looking up to the ridge.
Morning light on the ridge.
Ridge toward Hayden Peak.
I skirted around the south face of Hayden Peak to the Hayden - "S 10" saddle and proceeded up the class 2 northwest ridge of "S 10" where I arrived on the summit at 9:00 AM. The views to the west expanded for miles. I quickly descended down the east ridge and avoided some small towers to the south.
The northwest ridge of "S 10"
Sneffels and Mears peak in the distance.
Wilson group from "S 10"
Once I reached the "S 10" - "S 9" saddle, I had to follow some game trails skirting the southwest face of "S 9" to an area north of the "S 9" - "S 8" saddle. The west ridge of "S 9" was way too steep to climb directly. I ditched my pack and made the quick summit hike. Some class 3 moves were required to climb up and over a small tower in the ridge but it was nothing sustained. The ridge was mostly class 2 and I arrived on the summit of "S 9" at 9:40 AM.
The south ridge of "S 9"
Expansive view to the north.
After a quick break, I returned to my pack and made the quick hike up the class 1 north ridge of "S 8" where I arrived on the summit at 10:20 AM. Not a cloud in the sky. I continued down the southeast ridge "S 8" and up the west ridge of "S 7," all class 2, arriving on the summit of "S 7" at 11:10 AM. The ridge traverse to Mears Peak from "S 7" looked a little bit more interesting.
Easy slopes to "S 8"
"S 9" from "S 8"
Mears from "S 8"
Summit ridge to "S 7"
Summit of "S 7"
I descended down the east ridge of "S 7" and had to drop on the west side of the ridge to avoid some obstacles on the ridge. The rock wasn't very stable so I moved fairly slowly. I continued toward Mears Peak about 100 feet below the ridge on the south side until I got cliffed out and my only option was to climb back to the ridge proper. Some class 3 terrain was encountered but nothing overly exciting. Once I got on the ridge proper, it was easy travel until I got cliffed out, again. There was probably an easier way down the cliff band, but I just down-climbed it directly which was about 15-20 feet of class 4.
Traverse to Mears Peak.
Cliffs on the traverse to Mears Peak. I climbed the gully to gain the ridge directly.
Looking back at "S 7" on the traverse to Mears Peak.
From the bottom of this down-climb it was an obnoxious, loose talus, class 2 climb to the summit of Mears where I arrived at 12:30 PM. I was feeling a bit tired so the talus was particularly annoying. Some small clouds were beginning to build so I didn't waste much time on the summit. Moreover, on the summit, I scouted for a good place to return to the valley. It appeared that from the bottom of the west ridge of Mears, I could most likely return to the valley via a steep talus gully. I retraced my steps back down the west ridge of Mears and little did I know of the fun that was about to begin.
Sneffels and "S 6" from Mears Peak.
I followed this talus slope that I thought would return me to the valley and about 600 feet below the ridge I started to get the "O F" feeling. There was a very large cliff and my wonderful talus gully ended in tragedy. "F" I don't really want to climb back up this talus garbage heap to the ridge and either up and over Mears or back on the crappy traverse back to "S 7" and down. I contoured west in hopes of something easy but I was greeted by steep cliffs.
Perhaps there might be a weakness in this cliff band? I continued downward cursing at the idea of heading back up to the ridge. There was a "small" cliff that might be doable. I climbed down a class 4 chimney for about 40 feet and was greeted with another cliff. It was some of the scariest class 4 climbing I have done. Not that the climbing was hard, but that the rock quality was complete shit. Once at the bottom of this first cliff, I found another weakness and the "O F" feeling began to pass. I started down the cliff, class 4, for about 30-40 feet and the difficulty eased to class 3 and the rock became more stable.
Class 4 on the descent on Mears Peak.
Looking back on the cliffs on the descent on Mears Peak.
I continued downward on class 3 terrain for another 200-300 feet and finally, I got a break. Once in the valley, I followed a stream and looked for an old mine shown on the topo. Shortly thereafter, I found the mine and followed an old mining road all the way back to Last Dollar Road. I radioed my wife, and after reaching the Last Dollar - Deep Creek intersection, 5 minutes later, my wife picked me up. Excellent day with some rarely visited fine peaks.
Valley on the descent.
Neat waterfalls hiking back to the car.
Wilson on the descent.
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