Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Date Posted:  09/10/2007
Modified:  09/11/2007
Date Climbed:   09/08/2007
Author:  Patinator
 Sneffes SW Ridge, Blue Lakes up, Blain Basin down   

Blue Lakes up, Mt. Sneffels Class 3 Southwest Ridge, Blain Basin down - ~12 miles, ~5,000 ft gain.

If you are like most, you will be arriving at the trailhead at night and will miss some of the great views. Make sure that on the way out, you check your rearview mirror occasionally so you don't miss the north side of Sneffels.

When the aspens do finally change, this area will be spectacular. I am sure that it would be worth it just to spend some time here taking a lot of pictures when they do change. Heck, it was cool just driving through the aspen groves in the dark.

This was a great loop that a lot of people might not take but should consider if they want a long scenic hike. The Blue Lakes trail is slow and steady and mostly under the cover of forest. Ever so once in a while, you will catch a glimpse of Sneffels' impressive west side. Yes, it was a misty morning.

Just as we broke out of the woods for our first big view of the area, Jeff and I heard some wolves howling. Either that or there were some pretty good camping pranksters. We took turns carrying a bloody slab of freshly killed venison to try and lure them out, but had no luck. Too bad, I have seen coyotes and bears before but never wolves.

Right about here, there is a waterfall on you left and you will see the bottom of the lower lake basin and Gilpin Peak. If you look towards the tree on the left that breaks the skyline, the ridge just above timberline is the second step you climb (which puts you right at the base of Sneffels' southwest ridge).

Here is the lower lake basin a little further up. If you are thinking about camping, this is the area to do it. Plenty of great spots.

The trail veers off to the left of the lower lake and is a little difficult to find, but since you have to go up this first step you will figure it out. It is the first steep pitch of the climb, but it is short and puts you right over the first lake for a cool look down.

From here you will gently pass by two more lakes before getting to the second step (Dallas Peak in Background).


As you are climbing up the second step, you get to look at the peaceful lakes below...

...And when you look up, you can see the narly looking, prominent notch that you will enter to start the southwest ridge.

Finally, when you get to the saddle, you get to face the notch that you have been looking at for the last hour or so. I have circled a couple of people in the notch. The green is the easier option.

After you get to the top of the notch and go to the right there is another similar notch - go up the right side. The left side looked like sure death, but someone here has probably done it. This will bring you to the part where you need to climb down, but you get a great view of the rest of the way up the ridge to the summit.

This is probably the breeziest part of the climb. It is difficult to tell from the picture, but you need to go around and up in order to get into a small gully. You are exposed to the steep gully below, but you are only about 15 feet above it and the move is over very quickly. Again, green is the easier way.

It seemed impossible, but a group actually got their dog up to this point.

I don't think the dog was enjoying itself. They at least had the sense that the dog could not make the next move and took turns getting to the top and coming back. I hope that poor dog was OK.

That move was probably the most difficult up the ridge. In this small steep gully, there is another right/left choice. The right side was wet and not climbable, but looked easier. Because there is a very small overhang on the left side, you need to climb out and then back over the overhang. Not too difficult, just the most difficult on the route. I did take picture, but it came out blurry because the dog almost knocked me over. It was probably hoping that I would get it out of there.

Once you are above that, there is only one final small gully before you go through the V and are on the final ridge ascent. The rocks that I have circled are a formation that looks a lot like the kissing camels in the Garden of the Gods.

I think because we went around some people, we got too low for the final approach. Jeff was able to make it back up, but I keep going diagonal and up until I met up with the standard route. Even so, that route was a total blast!

In order to descend via Blaine Basin, go down the standard route. I should have checked out some TRs of the standard route for pictures of the small V notch. From up above, what looks like a little pebble that will give way with any weight, is really the tip of a big rock that will support anybody.

Once you get to the saddle where the standard route turns right and goes down, go left down one long, punishing scree col. If you love controlled slides of 5-20 feet, you will be in heaven. The top part was pretty fun because you could actually do that without hitting bare patches and getting dumped. Not so much about midway down. Here is a look back up (Jeff is circled)...

...and down.

This is where it got fun. Gone are the small pieces of scree and instead there are the large wobbly boulders. You know, the kind where you step on one, it wobbles, throws you off balance, you hop to another and it does the same thing. Where one wrong step means your leg going down a hole and getting snapped. Good times.

We never did find the East Slopes route, and decided instead to climb up to the Northeast/Snake Couloir route (~12,400) - that's right, climb up in order to climb down. That boulder field was punishing.

You will find yourself way above the mine (circled) and you will proabably lose the trail a few more times just for laughs, but make sure you get to the stream or you will be tree bashing without snow.

Once you get back into the forest, you are home free...almost. Near the very bottom, the hiking trail becomes an ATV trail. There will be some green metal poles blocking motorized access. Make sure you turn left here or you will be walking back to the 62. There is also a sign, but if you are tired and cursing scree fields, you could miss it. This windy ATV trail takes you back to the trailhead. One great hike!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

09/11/2007 17:23
This is the way to do this mountain, thanks for bringing back very fond memories.

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