| Spectacular Sneffles Range 13eeners
"S 6" 13,441
"S 4" 13,242
Unranked "S 5" 13,380
July 7, 2010
~12.4 Miles, ~6,400 Gain
Trailhead: Blue Lakes Trailhead
Originally, I was planning on camping at Blue Lakes to cut the approach down on these peaks but logistically that didn't quite work out. I started up the Blue Lakes trail at 3:40 AM. The two prior days were thunderstorm free and warm and I knew my luck was running out so an early start was essential. Two days of heating isn't good for the air stability.
When the sky started to light up, I reached Blue Lakes and hiked around the west side of the lake. The easy approach was over and I headed west up a steep hill into the higher basin and I could feel some stiffness from the day prior. As I climbed higher into the basin, the sunrise over Mt. Sneffels was spectacular.
Sunrise on over Sneffels.
For some reason, I thought the west ridge of "S 4" was an easy stroll. I hiked up to the western edge of the ridge and started up a steep class 3 gully. Near the top of the ridge, I was climbing on class 4 terrain and I didn't remember reading that this peak was that difficult. After I reached the top of the ridge, I knew it wasn't going to be an easy stroll and I was off course. I just bailed and returned to the "S 4" - "S 5" saddle. From the saddle, I worked my way up the east ridge of "S 5."
Morning light on "S 5"
Morning light on Dallas. Doesn't that look like an easy stroll to the summit?
My first class 3 gully on "S 4." Fail.
The east ridge of "S 5" was rather aggravating with all of the loose talus and when I reached the summit of "S 5," I found a freshly placed Mike Garret register on the 5th. Only missed him by 2 days. On the topo, the ridge traverse from "S 5" to "S 6" looks easy. I started down the west ridge of "S 5" only to find an extremely steep cliff that was surrounded by loose intimidating rock. Well, so much for that idea.
"S 6" from the summit of unranked "S 5"
The nasty ridge between "S 5" and "S 6"
At this point, I was getting rather frustrated; a lot of work for a stupid unranked 13eener. I re- ascended the west ridge "S 5" and then descended "S 5's" south ridge to the "S 5"- "S 3" saddle. I wasn't planning on leaving "S 6" alone so I descended a talus gully west into the adjacent basin.
I tried to avoid as much elevation loss as possible and skirted around the south face "S 5" and the south face of a false summit on "S 6." Once around the steep south facing cliffs of "S 6's" false summit, I found a steep talus gully and started climbing upward. The gully was mostly class 2 with a few moves of class 3 to gain the ridge. After I gained the ridge, it was an easy class 2 stroll to the summit. Finally, I reached the summit of something ranked.
Crazy wild flower high on "S 6"
"S 5" from "S 6." Doesn't that look like fun.
The talus gully up "S 6"
Looking up the talus gully of "S 6"
After a short break I retraced my path back to the "S 5" - "S 3" saddle. Now what to do about "S 4"? I headed back towards Blue Lakes contouring the south face of "S 4" at ~12,600. The route up "S 4" didn't look too obvious from my standpoint. I found a steep talus gully just west of the summit and started heading up. Luckily, the gully took me back to the ridge and I avoided the rugged western part of the ridge. Once I was on the ridge, it was some great scrambling with fun route finding. Again, the route wasn't very obvious and I was beginning to doubt if the ridge went.
The complications of "S 4." I took that gully to the ridge.
The summit ridge of "S 4." Will it go?
I arrived on the summit and was greeted by great views and one helluva surprise. If you want to find out the surprise, go climb the peak yourself. "S 4" was one of my new favorite 13eeners. The surprise, my poor route finding early in the day, and the fun scrambling at the end made it a great peak!
Some exposure with class 3 scrambling near the summit.
The summit of "S 4" with Sneffels.
South face of "S 4." I took the red talus gully on the left to gain the ridge.
Unfortunately, the poofy clouds were starting to build fast and I was doubting if "T 0" was going to be a possibility. I returned to the valley and at that point, the sky was grey and there was thunder in the distance. It was only 10:30 AM. Oh well, it looks like I will be combing "T 0" with Dallas.
Sneffels and lower Blue Lakes on my descent.
To avoid getting wet, I moved quicky and returned to Blue Lakes at 11:20 AM. I hustled down the Blue Lakes trail and encountered many people hiking up the trail. I returned to the car at 12:30 AM and shortly thereafter it started to rain hard. Good timing and what a great day.
"S 4" was definitely worth the effort and I would, without a doubt, repeat it.
Route Map. It's jacked.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):