Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Date Posted:  06/30/2011
Date Climbed:   06/23/2011
Author:  Dancesatmoonrise
 Sneffels' Summer Snow  

Sneffels' Summer Snow

Route: Lavender Couloir
Approach: Yankee Boy Basin
Date: 6-23-11
Length: 6 miles RT
Vertical: 3000 feet
Ascent Party: Solo

Yankee Boy Basin as seen from the Lavender Couloir on Mt. Sneffels

It's been a hot, dry June. Just what the doctor ordered for a quick mid-week run down to the San Juan to play with ax and crampons in the summer snow.
Not too much traffic on the roads and a fun drive down, got the SUV to the lower trailhead for a casual early afternoon start.
I had some concern about snow conditions this late in the day but everything went really well.

It was a little tricky crossing some of the runoff without plunging a boot or tangling with the willows.

Lots of runoff lower down.

I hadn't bothered to study the Yankee Boy Basin approach. It's not as straightforward as one would think this time of year.
A dry hill heading up seemed to best way to proceed without giving up and breaking out the map.

"On Sneffels' green and pleasant land." (Apologies to Sir William Blake...: )

At the top of the hill, the Blue Lakes Pass is easy to see off to the west, but it isn't immediately apparent where the right turn up the gully is. The trick is that both routes, the SW ridge route ascending from the pass, and the standard route up the gulley to the col, are only a half mile apart.

The "upper" trailhead.

One can navigate directly toward the pass, and eventually a south-facing gully appears to the right, which ascends to the east-facing Lavender couloir.

It is interesting that a fellow I met at the lower TH said there were two women just ahead who had planned to summit.
I saw two women headed for Blue Lakes Pass, where they turned back. I wondered if perhaps they had intended to take the standard route.

The view from this point is seen below.

After the upper TH but before the right turn up the south-facing gully.

As seen above, everything to the right of the pass appears to be the SW ridge.

However, there is a south-facing gully hidden behind the hill at the right side of the photo, which becomes evident by the time one gets to 12,800.

The base of the south-facing gully, seen from about 12,800.

Top of the gully and the view of the bottom of the Lavender couloir.

The snow is layered in the upper gully, with a firm crust on top of unconsolidated snow. Staying in boot steps or a glissade track helps to stay on top, though I chose to move right onto rock in the upper gully.

Photos can distort perspective. The col is a little steeper than it looks here.

Looking back from the lower east-facing Lavender couloir.

From an artistic standpoint, I liked this impact. But it's not nearly as steep as it looks.

A fun twist I had not anticipated was at the top of the col. It tops out on a snowy knife-edge, and looks down on the Snake couloir, extending to the north. It was momentarily puzzling. What you want to do is head left to the rock wall, have some faith, and trust that two or three slightly exposed moves will take you up and around to the south side, where the terrain opens up. The summit is only a hundred feet ahead. I thoroughly enjoyed the bit of wry mountain humor at the top!


Suncups just below the summit.

Dallas Peak off to the southwest, with the Wilson group in the distance at top left.

Looking back down to the Yankee Boy Basin.

Wetterhorn eclipses Uncompahgre to the distant E/NE, beyond 13ers Whitehouse and Ridgeway.

A shorts 'n' pons day.

Mt. Wilson, El Diente, and Wilson Peak, seen beyond Dallas Peak.

Sneffel's summit.

The snow was a a little mushy, but well-consolidated on the entire route except for the mid- and upper portion of the south-facing gully.

On the descent, looking down the Snake Couloir, from the top of the Lavender Couloir.

Looking down the Lavender col from the top.

Lower gully.

Headed home through afternoon shadows.

Gorgeous day, fun route!
Thanks for reading.


 Comments or Questions

The winners just keep coming!
06/30/2011 21:27
Another great report with FANTASTIC pictures, Jim. Hard to pick a favorite but the one of Wetterhorn in the distance is a true gem. As is your cover shot...


Gorgeous shots...
06/30/2011 21:53
...once again, Jim! Thanks for the post!


07/01/2011 16:27
Jim -- love the photo of Gilpin Peak/Telluride. I remember that view very well.


07/02/2011 01:57
Great pictures! I'm thinking about backpacking in to Blue Lake on the 10th and hiking it on the 11th. How reasonable is it to climb right now? Do you think crampons and ax would be necessary?


07/02/2011 02:02
Jay, MtnHub, SurfNTurf, thanks so much.

smcknight, thanks. I would say you would want a light ax (aluminum would be ok; that's what I had) and you could probably forego the crampons if you have boots that will kick steps. I also always take microspikes all year round and find them very helpful for traction on everything from loose dirt to hard snow. I imagine the lakes will be open by then (melted) so bring the flyrod! : )


07/02/2011 04:49

Do you think any of the snow in the Basin was still skiable or is it all junk by now? I may be headed that way this weekend and trying to decide if I should bring the sticks or not? It looks like the close up pics of Sneffels show thin snow and a lot of dirt but can't tell on the other aspects of the basin.



07/02/2011 04:55
Hard to say. There was definitely some skiing to be squeezed into the cols, especially the Snake. But it was going pretty fast in the basin. I suppose it depends on the purpose of the trip. If you really want to ski something there, I'm sure you can find it, especially if you're willing to spend some time on the north side. But if the goal is to climb it, I'd personally leave the skis home. Hope that helps.


Nice one Jim!
07/02/2011 18:05
Gorgeous pictures as always. I'm amazed how much things have changed down there in 1 week.

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