Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Date Posted:  08/11/2011
Date Climbed:   08/03/2011
Author:  ChrisM

 The Standard was Exciting Enough!  

This was an inspiring climb. I’ve been reading about the route through the experience of others and I finally saw it first hand.

Watching the weather was a depressing hobby over the last two weeks as I saw the forecast narrow itself down to undesirable conditions ie 60% chance of thunderstorms after noon. Being optimistic, Jason and I headed out from the Springs at 4:30pm and got to the TH at about 10:30pm after a long and rainy 6 hour drive. We had a minor navigation issue at the Y in the road which was at the 6.9 mile point and the sign for 853 1B was missing. By deductive reasoning, we figured we should go right.

The Y in daylight after climb. A little tougher to figure out in the dark.

The sign post without the 8531B sign.

The well used sign that said it all.

It finally stopped raining and the stars were visible, but the ground was wet so we bunked in the Pilot. It was a restless sleep. I kept thinking about all the possibilities of the next day’s climb, mainly rain. Alarm set for 4:45am (slept in) and with a 5:30am for the start.

The road into the basin.

I was so focused on the last 1000 ft of the climb, I wasn’t as familiar with the first 2000 and was surprised that it was a road. Not a really good road, but very much like Antero’s. It was quiet and peaceful. We were the only ones out. At the upper TH, the register showed 28 people had been there the day before and I wondered how they faired with the weather since it was predicted to be the same today as it was yesterday, and the day before that!

View from the Upper TH from whence we came.

The Upper TH had the sign posts, but no signs. Signage was maybe lacking at little on this trip.

Dawn arrived and we were in the basin coming up on the big gully that would begin the real adventure. I have come to the conclusion, like so many others, that the mountain will reveal itself to you, if you have patience and a good route finder. The direction of the gully is about 120 degrees off to the right of the trail so it is not visible until you’re almost on it. We were concerned about route finding since we didn’t want to add any additional challenges to this climb other than what was already in the standard route.

The long, long gully as seen from the beginning.

At the top of the long, long gully and basin below.

The long, long gully wasn’t as steep as Lindsey’s and much wider. My comfort factor was quite high. There were trail segments most of the way up, but usually interrupted by talus groups that you either went over or around. Gradually, we got to the col or ridge and turned left at the Lavendar Col

Standing in the same spot for the previous photo, looking to climber’s left.

You can see the snow field from here and how the gully has narrowed.

It looks inviting, but going left is not standard route.

I recalled previous climbers saying they took the wrong turn ie turning too soon, in the Col. We saw the “too early” gully. It beckoned to us, but we resisted and kept going up. The snow/ice field was in full force. Kick steps were in place and made it easier than the talus. Helmets were already on, ice axes and microspikes came out at this point. I know others before us had not needed them, but we felt safer. I estimate the snow climbing was about 150 feet, then back to talus and very wet dirt, not mud, but somewhat stable. A little more water and it would have been like grease.

The V notch on the left just near the finish of the gully. The summit is just on the other side.

Don’t look, it’s the exposure to the left of the V and someone is climbing up!

The V notch would be hard to miss. I didn’t find the exposure to be as disconcerting as having trouble reaching for hand holds in the V. When I’m going through a difficult area, I always flash the reverse route in my head. I said to myself, “Oh boy, I can hardly wait to crawl back through this!”

The summit was within easy reach after the V notch. I thought the climbing was a pleasant change from talus to a mixture of ledges and big rocks to climb around. I was surprised at how small the summit was. The view was commanding. The little gray clouds were multiplying. Exchanged greetings with two climbers who ascended from the SW ridge route. We summited at 9:36 am and left 4 minutes later. This was probably the shortest time on the summit, other than Belford when I basically walked over it on my way to Oxford. Weather issues caused a quickened schedule in both cases. After pics, we started down.

Jason’s summit pose. He was containing his enthusiasm. Probably thinking about the increasing cloud formations overhead.

My summit photo. Notice I’m still holding onto a rock! I think I had a rock (and not a loose one!) in my hand most of the climb at one point or ano

Yankee Boy Basin from the summit. Using a camera usually takes two hands so I had to let go of the rock to do this…

We mistakenly left our microspikes near the V and figured we would retrieve them on the way back. We had continued to wear them through the notch and took them off at a safe point on the other side. Finding them proved to be harder than we thought and had to reclimb a little to get them. No big deal, but it took a few moments. Now for the fun part. Jason, being much taller than me, went through the notch first. He started facing out and turned toward the mountain on the way out. I back climbed the whole way, never releasing a good hold until I found another. Jason spotted me on my way through. I know exactly where I would put a hand hold, if I could, though. Short arms need intermediate holds. Anyway, with that accomplished, we began the journey downhill. I have admit a sigh of relief and accomplishment at the same time and thinking “clear sailing from here.”

Plunging down the snow was fairly easy and quick until the end where it turned to ice.

The snow field was still solid since very little sunlight actually graces it during the day. We plunged stepped down, with ice axes and microspikes. The very last section was slippery so we back stepped anchoring with the adze with each step. After the snow, we put the ice axes away, left the microspikes on and brought out the trekking poles. The terrain appeared to be a little less stable than a few hours earlier. Our “spikes” ensured a sure footedness on the trek down.

At the gully intersection again, I’m looking out toward Yankee Boy Basin in someone else’s commanding pose.

The downclimb was almost uneventful until we witnessed a couple who lost traction and both sliding down the snow/ice! Thankfully, they self-arrested before hitting the talus. They were going up and had not gotten very far when they lost their footing. We ran into another couple who had a dog and we thought they had been on their way up, but now coming down. Their dog refused to climb on the snow field! We had to chuckle and gave the dog credit for being smarter than rest of us.

Much of the way down reminded me of coming down Columbia. No surf board rocks, but plenty of scree, forever.

Too much civilization.

We came out of the broad gully and was surprised to see all the 4WD vehicles and ATVs at the upper TH and they were driving up and down “our” road making noise and fumes. It was disappointing, to say the least, that the solitude of our return would be so violated. That reminded me, again, of Antero. At any rate, we dodged the traffic and made it back to the TH. We did stop to admire all the mountain flora that we missed on the way up. Beautiful area.

Couldn’t do justice to the flora with such a distant shot, but the area was ladened with flora.

Ladened flora.

A traffic jam at the cut out road, imagine folks only want one way not two way traffic!

We summited in 4 hrs 18 min and the whole climb took 7 hrs 20 min. I assume the gain was 2900’.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Thanks ChrisM
08/11/2011 18:13
Very nice trip report, Chris. Thank you for putting it together.


Very helpful
08/12/2011 20:02
Your trip report and pictures are extremely helpful. We'll be doing Sneffles on the 20th and haven't decided which route to take yet. Last time I attempted Sneffles, a guy fell down the snow field like a ragdoll and was pretty bloodied and hurt. So I'm definitely taking your advice into consideration


Nice, Chris
08/14/2011 03:50
Good for you sticking to the tools for snow travel. Too many have been injured trying to do steep snow without even an axe.

Great trip, kudos! And one 14er closer!! ...

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