After Amanda's (My Wife) failed attempt on San Luis Peak she was determined to bag her first 14er of the season. I was racking my brain trying to pick a beautiful peak that we could hike together. After researching my ever shortening list of 14ers I saw that Sneffels fit the bill. Sneffels is relatively short with an elevation gain of less than 2,000 feet from the upper trailhead in Yankee Boy Basin. I know that some people have the 3,000 foot rule, and I generally follow that guideline but when it comes to hiking 14ers with Amanda my rules go out the window. I felt so bad for her that she couldn't finish San Luis I was determined to get her to the summit of a mountain!
Immediately after she agreed to hike Sneffels with me I went in for the kill and asked her if she wanted to do some climbing like she had done on Wetterhorn. I knew she had a blast on Wetterhorn and was more than capable to climb this route. She agreed to climb the SW ridge route and I was stoked!
Amanda picked me up from work and we left Denver by 2:30p and started up the road to Yankee Boy basin around 8pm. With high shelf roads carved out of the mountain and shear cliffs abounding the road leading up to Yankee Boy Basin is one of the most stunning and exhilarating I've ever driven.
Taken on the way down from Yankee Boy Basin
Ouray seen from CR 361
We decided to continue to the upper trailhead and sleep in the car. I was surprised at the condition of the road past the lower trailhead. I did have to put the car into a lower gear due to steepness but the obstacles weren't too bad. (About three obstacles in total) There was a large GMC or Chevy truck that made it to the upper trailhead as we began hiking, so I guess you don't necessarily need a short wheelbase to make it.
We made the upper trailhead about twenty minutes after the lower trailhead, folded down the seats and promptly fell asleep. We woke up at 4:30am, but due to the lack of sun and motivation we went back to sleep for another hour. I had a weird dream that a crowd of about a thousand people pulled into the trailhead to climb Sneffels, I was startled awake by the dream and finally made breakfast for us. We ended up leaving the car around 6am.
The view from our camping spot
Looking back towards the upper trailhead
Amanda makes her way towards Blue Lakes pass
Very quickly after starting we reached the trail split, right leads you to Sneffels, left will take you to Blue Lakes pass which ultimately leads you up the Southwest ridge of Mt. Sneffels. We continued left and quickly hit the base of the pass. The trail - at least from the upper trailhead - is a pleasant rolling stroll until you get to the bottom of the pass.
Early morning on Sneffels, the summit is off to the right
Amanda experiences some trepidation at the needle like ridge we are about to climb
After a short pep talk, we began ascending the pass. It took us about twenty minutes or so to summit the pass and we were rewarded with some cool views of the Blue Lakes. Beyond this point our hike became a climb and caution overrode speed.
Looking up the Southwest ridge from near the bottom of the pass. The Lavender Col can be seen to the right.
Taken from the base of the pass, our first goal is the summit of Blue Lakes pass, which is to the left of the jagged ridge
Looking back into Yankee Boy basin from halfway up Blue Lakes pass.
Still daunting though, the ridge now doesn’t seem as formidable. The route contours around the base of the jagged rocks.
Looking down into Blue Lakes, shadowed by Mt. Sneffels
Once we summited the pass we relaxed and took in the views. This basin is truly magical! Amanda and I both agreed that the jagged rock on this ridge looked like it's straight out of the Lord of the Rings. After seeing the route we were going to be taking Amanda wasn't as hesitant about it, and her excitement began to grow!
Amanda looks at the route going straight up the gully, the jagged rock towers above her
Nearing the top of the first gully
Once we hit the gully crest we banked left and it dropped us into another mini gully. Amanda was starting to hit her stride and was having a blast, as was I!
Looking down towards Blue Lakes pass from the top of the first gully
After we banked left we climbed another rubble filled gully, and literally hit a wall. I was curious how Amanda would handle this first wall, and to my excitement she picked her line and began climbing. Just when you think you know someone they go and surprise you!
Amanda reaches her first section of climbing
We dropped down and went right after this little wall just as Bill describes in his route description and started climbing the loose gully. I didn't want to lead Amanda over to something she may not have been able to down climb so we took the safe route. We dropped down below the major rock rib and went around and up. As we were ascending the loose gully we were greeted by some climbers who instead of dropping down just went straight across the rock rib and down climbed to where we were, near the top of the gully. This would be a good option for those wanting to avoid the loose stuff.
Looking across the rock rib we avoided to the crux wall at the top of the gully
This large notch in the ridge can easily be seen in picture #6. If there is weather approaching you could quickly descend this gully all the way back down to the basin. Once we approached the top of this gully, I became quite nervous that maybe this obstruction would turn Amanda around. The wall at the top of the gully seemed a little more difficult than class 3, but that's just my opinion.
Looking down the notch, we descended all the way below the rib, this made going up the gully a tough little job!
I told Amanda that this would be the crux of the climb, if we could get past this wall we would be home free.
In my opinion, the crux of this climb lies at the terminus of this gully slightly to the right
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is Amanda’s smile worth? Priceless. Taken immediately after summiting the crux wall.
Unfortunately this was the only picture I took as I was making sure Amanda could ascend this wall safely. Thank you to the gentleman below her that gave her a hand! As I helped pull her up all I could think was " My wife is going to summit today!" With her hands shaking and full of adrenaline she looked at me and said " I'm having a blast baby!" I was thrilled, and I thought this would be another good resting spot.
Shortly after the crux wall we happened upon an obscene couple openly showing their affections............
Break it up you two! Playing around the kissing camels formation.
So I had to put a stop to it, I wouldn't have minded it too much but my wife was with me! After Amanda's adrenaline rush wore off, and the fun and games ended we continued on with the task at hand: Summit!
Amanda nearing the summit ridge
Looking up at the remaining route.
It’s a long way down!
Here's where I made my mistake. The route we needed to take was to contour up to the actual ridge, but we ended up climbing below the ridge which put us on an exceptionally steep wall. Amanda kept a cool head and stuck to the wall like a spider. I told her I had lead us off route and that we would be heading up a convenient little crack to the ridge, I could tell this exposure was starting to get to her.
We traversed the wall behind Amanda, shortly after we decided to climb to the ridge.
Do you feel a draft?
Shortly after the above picture we were on the summit ridge. If you climb this route, make sure to get on the ridge like Bill suggests!
Summit Success! The Wilson group can be seen in the far distance over Amanda’s left shoulder.
Yup, I climbed that!
Hiking tough mountains with you just gives me a deeper appreciation for you and reminds me how much I love you, thank you for the unforgettable climb babe, I love you and I am truly proud of you!
I just wanted to thank everyone that we met on this hike, the gentleman that helped us past the crux wall, the 14er.com member Longlivethehuskers and his buddy that gave us some good advice while descending the impetuously loose and slick Lavender Col. Thank you for reading and have fun out there!