Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Date Posted:  02/18/2013
Date Climbed:   02/14/2013
Author:  Dad Mike
 Valentine's Day on Mt. Sneffels  

Trailhead...10,600' on the Camp Bird Road
Route...Standard, South Face to SE Couloir
Mileage...9.5 miles
Elevation Gain...3600 feet

Dani and I have always had good luck with mixing days in the mountains and special occassions...
-my brother's birthday on Vermillion
-New Year's Eve in Ecuador
-4th of July in Ice Lake Basin
-Superbowl Sunday on Little Horn
-the day Michael Jackson died on Holy Cross

Those were some of the most memorable days of our lives.

I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day. It always feels so forced to me. But every year I give in to the pressure...I make a restaurant reservation, buy the flowers, make breakfast, be even nicer to my wife than usual. Well not this year. This year we are going to the mountains and I'm going to be mean to my wife. After lining up a couple places for us to stay in Ridgway, I threw together a list of activities for our 4 days down there...climb Mt. Sneffels, climb Wilson Peak, ski Telluride, ice climb in Ouray. I didn't commit us to a certain order because I wanted to see what the weather was going to do. I figured doing any of those 4 things on Valentine's Day would be a nice break from tradition and would create a memorable day. After consulting various weather websites from our room at the Chipeta Solar Resort, we decided on Sneffels.

After an amazing dinner at the Colorado Boy Brewery ( we went to bed early...dreaming of a day with safe snow conditions, sunny skies, and no wind...and if we could only get one out of three, we would take the first one, and that's all we got.

The day started off on a promising note. We got to the winter closure on the Camp Bird Road around 6:30am and found that the gate was open and the road was plowed. We were able to get all the way to the Revenue Mine at 10,600'...about 3 miles past the gate. I had a bad feeling about that gate. It just didn't seem right that it was unlocked. We found out later that we just got lucky. That gate was unlocked for the mine workers. After everyone gets past it, they lock it back up. So when we got back to the gate later that afternoon, the gate was locked and we were on the wrong side. I called the Ouray Chamber and the Sherriff with no luck. We sat there for 30 minutes before someone from the mine came up the road and let us loose.

We started up the un-plowed road at 7am under a beautiful sunrise and mostly clear skies. There were no signs of recent skier or snowshoer activity, so we had a blank canvas to draw our line.

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

Looking back at the sunrise over Ouray from our parking spot

Early morning light on Sneffels and Kismet

Dani getting higher into Yankee Boy still holding

Heading towards Kismet...Sneffels is still out of sight

Looking back at Potosi Peak

The weather started to deteriorate as we got to the upper trailhead

It didn't take long for the clouds to take over...visibility dropped to 50' and it started to snow lightly

We were still comfortable with the snow conditions so we headed up towards the Kismet, Sneffels saddle

We got all the way to the top of the saddle and headed into the deep couloir directly to the's Dani near the bottom of the couloir

And looking up at what looked like the couloir that would never end

The hardest part of the route is the exit out of the couloir & onto the ridge...we made this harder than it needed to by by choosing this option

Had to take my mittens off and got cold fast

4 days later and the tips of 3 of my right hand fingers are still numb

Lowered a rope for Dani so she wouldn't have to take her mittens off

Dani on the final ridge to the summit

It wouldn't be Valentine's Day with out flowers and I brought a rose and some russell stover chocolates

She said yes!!

If you're wondering why there is a rose on the summit of Mt. Sneffels, now you know

Ok...enough with the romance...time to get down and out of the wind

Here is the better option for getting into or out of the get to it you need to go all the way to the top

Dani at our snowshoe stash

You know it's cold when every thread on your hat freezes

As we got back to the trees, the clouds finally started to break Ouray the sun was Ridgway the clouds were pretty much gone

Despite the weather, I don't think I could have asked for a better Valentine's Day. It was a difficult and rewarding day on one of the most incredible mountains in Colorado. And I was with the woman I love. It doesn't get much better than that.

At least that's how I felt till Saturday when we climbed Wilson Peak on a day without a single cloud.

Dani on Wilson Peak's SE Face

Me climbing up the to the SW Ridge

Dani on the traverse

Summit Dance

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Romance Novel....
02/19/2013 11:42
...on 14ers. You're a stud Mike. But I know Dani is the driving force! More great photos to add to your collection too...and of course the memories. Nice trip, you two!


Way to get after it
02/19/2013 14:33
Congrats on getting to some beautiful places in winter! I really like pic #2. Some of those shots had some scary looking snow conditions, especially #25. Glad you didn't trigger anything.


02/19/2013 17:24
How sweet. And you weren't mean to your wife, you threw her the rope so she wouldn't have to take her mittens off! And they say chivalry is dead...

Nice to see a TR that features your better half, Mike. And clearly a smart woman who knows that hitting peaks and suffering in the cold with your man beats dinner in a fancy restaurant... on Valentine's or any day!


02/19/2013 17:44
Very cool story, Mike and Dani!

Mike, hope those fingers are feeling better. Matt did the same thing on Cables a couple years ago. Get some REI polartec powerstretch gloves to go under your mitts. They're only 2 oz for the pair. Let the mitts hang from the leashes while climbing in the polartec gloves. They grip well.

Amazing weather - Dani looks more like she's scuba diving in image 15!

Sorry I missed you guys on Wilson Peak last Saturday. We'll get out soon.

And congrats, you're really getting after it this year!


The bar is way too high, dude, way too high...
02/19/2013 17:54
Thanks for making my Valentine's Day weekend (and Sarah's b-day weekend) seem like total shit now.

All kidding aside, let's get our muses together for a climb in the next few months like we talked about.


02/19/2013 20:02
love the pictures! gave me goosebumps. I can't wait to get out there!


04/02/2015 19:45
I followed in your footsteps a couple of days later, although did not get all the way to the end. Smart idea to bring a rope, I didn't think of that. Oh and I am with Bill - plenty of avy activity in the basin.
p.s. Can't believe your luck about getting past the winter road closure. In my case, the gate on the way OUT was open.


Well played....
02/19/2013 23:04
Well done, Mad Mike & Dani. Spectacular photos. Great stuff.

I Man

Congrats bud!
02/20/2013 02:52
Very cool! Nice touch on the summit for Valentines day
Was great to hike with you both on Saturday. You guys had a hell of a ”weekend”


A beautiful romantic story...
02/20/2013 03:00
... that only you and Dani could write! Congratulations on some awesome climbing.

Wyoming Bob

Good job on the couloir exit . . .
02/20/2013 04:41
Stopped us in our tracks two winters back, well done and written.


02/20/2013 07:22
Happy for ya! Great TR. Great story!


God Mode
02/20/2013 16:30
One above Beast Mode, the mode where you are unstoppable. Nice work. Its very encouraging to see the San Juans are blanketed in snow. Solid report in every regards Mad Mike!

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