Peak:  San Luis Peak (14er)
 Route:  South Ridge
 Range:  San Juan
 Posted By:  druid2112
 Date of Info:  12/21/2020
 Date Posted:  12/23/2020

So, yeah, more snow that I was hoping to find. On the slope up from the summer TH to the pass where you first see San Luis and get to look down into the basin, I was in 12+ inches of powder. In any of the willows I encountered, it was twice that. Once I got an initial look at San Luis (first pic), or more accurately, the ridges, I was encouraged. Then I saw the basin in front of me and was not psyched. In the second pic you see the slope leading down to the basin. I gave it a little exploration and discovered a very hard layer of snow with 8 inches or so of powder on top, and the slope was steep enough and the snow so hard that I could barely get any purchase. Looking across the basin at the face of the first ridge (3rd pic), I wondered if that was the same stuff. I bailed and instead climbed the (non) 13er just south of where I was standing. From there, I could see a small slide (4th pic) closer to where I had come from.

Additionally, it should be noted that prior to reaching the pass, I heard a ton of "whumps" in the snow. I was not on any kind of slope to really worry about it, it was more of a "huh, that's weird, I wouldn't expect to hear that on these snow fields while still on the way up to the actual stuff where I would normally worry about it." But it happened a LOT. Kinda odd.

So, between the whumps, the slide I saw, the basin full of loose hell I saw, the snow I saw loaded on that ridge face, the impossible start down into the basin, breaking all the trail, and being solo, I bailed. Too bad, too, as it was an absolutely perfect weather day.

BTW, I had snowmobile pack under my feet for most of the way up to the summer TH, even past the Equity mine, although in the dark and the drift snow it was easy to lose it. That was a big help.

I've done some long winter climbs, but man, my hat is off to anyone who can do this route in the winter. It feels looooong and hell, I only did half.

Edit: added a couple more pics showing the ridge south of the San Luis peak.

Photos (click for slideshow):

Comments or Questions

never seen
12/25/2020 07:00
I've never experienced snow conditions this bad before. Also I don't recall trenching being this much work. Yesterday on a 20 degree leeward facing slope I heard the whumps too as a skier passed by and thought, if he keeps going he might die. The snow if very scary now. Thank you for posting! And the skier retreated. I was happy to see and talk to him back and the TH and he too agreed he's never experienced snow like this with 10 years of back country experience.


Tons of snow...
01/01/2021 08:52
Yep, been wallowing in the snow for some weeks now in the N San Juans... kind of a bummer for the snow to be stoopid powder and uncooperative...maybe manageable, tho?

You said ‘ the snow so hard that I could barely get any purchase.

What gear did you use? I‘ve had success with my crampons getting along the grittier, hardpack stuff... the deep powder, not so much: like quicksand and self arresting every few feet or so. No bueno with and without snowshoes.


Worse now
01/16/2021 16:12
Whiteout conditions today, snow cover is not any better. Made it 1/2 through the basin and ended up in chest-high powder; wind and powder covered all of my tracks within minutes.

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