Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Date Posted:  07/17/2008
Modified:  11/03/2009
Date Climbed:   07/13/2008
Author:  alanb
 Sneffels Standard and SW Ridge Route  

Mt Sneffels-Yankee Boy Basin
Ascent: standard route
Descent SW Ridge
Party: alanb & lovenit

After an epic day on El Diente the previous day, we were ready for a nice easy end to our weekend so we had Sneffels planned. Yankee Boy Basin is simply gorgeous. Everywhere you turn there is green and more waterfalls than you can count. We didn't get to experience this until the return trip as it was dusk by the time we left Ouray.

This is a shot of the famous C section of the road (on the way back down of course). Just past here there is a pretty good rut in the road that will challenge lower clearance vehicles. The area in general, appeared to have been subjected to numerous large avalanches, the debris fields were impressive.

I didn't pay a lot of attention to exactly where the road conditions deteriorated, but I did see a fair number of vehicles stopped at the Governor /Yankee boy basin intersection and by the time we reached the parking lot with the restrooms we only saw higher clearance 4x4s. This is a shot of us getting ready in the morning.. messy aren't we?

High clearance 4x4s can continue up the road about another 1 mile or so. You can see in this picture where we stopped and backed up into the snowfield blocking any further progress. Just a stroll along the road from here up to the lake. After this snow field there is one other sizeable one that will stop vehicle traffic but other than those two the road is dry.

This is a shot from the lake area looking up the road towards the trailhead. You can get a general idea of the amount of snow still up there. On the lower portion of the trail you do cross a couple of snow fields but you hardly notice them. Once you make the turn to head up Lavender Couloir there is a snow field on the initial slope that you have to navigate but it's been pretty well kick stepped so no snow gear required for it.

I could not pass up a chance to post this extremely rare picture of the elusive marmot. This photograph is copyrighted, and pending negotiations with National Geographic for the distribution rights, I may be able to retire.

This is near the cornice looking back down the lavender. There were a couple of people in front of us and several time they knocked rocks loose but were very courteous and always yelled "rock" out and they were far enough ahead that they never reached up.

This is a shot of the cornice that remains. We stubbornly hung to the high side of it (bottom right of the picture) and actually had to put on our crampons to make up. It was solid ice, our crampons barely gave us any perch and ice axes would not bit without considerable effort. The much easier way to get past it is to head for the rocky knoll in the middle, where numerous people have blazed an easy path.

This is a view looking up the gully. About half way up, the gully still retains a considerable amount of snow. You can see it near the top of the picture. We ran into a couple of local guys at the TH who didn't think bringing our snow gear was necessary. This is where they stopped and turned around.

This is looking back down the gully as you can see, still full of snow. About of the way up the snow we met up with a group of 4 perched on one of the rocky ledges. They only had one ice ax between them and were taking turns using it to individually reach the summit.

It's a beautiful view in all directions from the top. We got great pics of Dallas Peak, the Wilson group where we had just come from and blue lakes far below us.

This is lovenit on the knife edge. The ridge is solid and it's all mental. You'd have to really not be paying attention to run into problems. Still its exposed and if you have a phobia of it, probably not the right place for you.

This is looking back up part of the ridge towards the summit of Sneffels. This portion is all good solid rock and pretty straight forward scrambling.

This is part way down the ridge looking at the entire Lavender Couloir. You can see the small snow field at the base as well as the cornice at the top. Also a good look at the valley.

Past the knife edge you scramble beside, between and sometimes over all the rocky spires on the ridge. The trail is sometimes easy to follow and other times you just keep heading in the right general direction.

Maybe halfway down the ridge we spotted this coulior. Picture it looking up it from the midway point. Lovenit had wanted to go up it on our ascent, but I talked him out of it, not being familiar with the area, and not knowing where it really went. Now we knew so we geared up and headed down. The snow conditions were spectacular.

A cool shot looking down from my perch at lovenit near the bottom of the coulior. I was surprised at how steep it is vs. how it looks in the pictures.

A more expansive view of the ridge and the coulior we descended.

And a final parting photo of the wildflowers that cover the area. A great weekend of hiking in the San Juans. There really is nothing to compare this area's just amazing.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
Sweet TR! I sure do wished I lived in CO. Looks like you had a great time!


nice report and climb
11/30/2010 17:28

I'm surprised to see that much snow high, thanks for the update

Interesting to take the SW ridge on the way down, as most do it on the way up.

How thick was the snow in the gully below the summit. I'll be there in two weeks and looks like I'll need an ice axe. Coul d you do it without crampons? Is there a possible glissade on the lower portion of the coulior or is it too steep?
thanks tom


Thanks for the report...
07/17/2008 22:20
definitely needed the beta for this weekend. Looking forward to this hike.



ice ax in two weeks?
11/30/2010 17:28
gortonc- I am sure glad I DO live in CO..

audiotom- I'd say bring one, that gully is deeply inset and while I did not measure the snow will be there for a while.

KirkT- have a good trip, this peak is a lot of fun.


SW route
07/17/2008 23:08
Alan, I should‘ve directed you towards our TR from the weekend before, the SW ridge route along with that variation couloir you guys descended, would‘ve made for a great, quick ascending climb. Nevertheless, you guys had the pleasure of upclimbing the gully after the Col, which made for a rather unpleasant descent. Too bad you couldn‘t complete the ED-Wilson traverse, that looked like an imposing wall, nice way to show some discretion.

And you are right about Yankee Boy being truly spectacular, I share the exact same sentiments.


sw ridge question
07/17/2008 23:14
lordhelmut -

we were planning the sw ridge route ascent

are you missing much of the sw ridge climb by taking that couloir?



07/18/2008 00:30
you aren‘t missing the good parts, but it probably cuts the ridge climb in half. Very fun climb of snow and rock.


Climbed Std Rt 7/11
07/18/2008 03:43
We climbed up the normal way a week ago, and I was able to bury my axe to the pick. In the morning, the snow is too hard to kick step w/o crampons, but perfect for using them. By 10am, the snow is slushy. We were the only ones who went up the couloir, everyone else turned the corner at the bottom, and climbed up the left over the ridge, and scrambled to the summit. Not a bad way to go, we came down that way. We glissaded the lower part of the dry gully on the left (looking up from the bottom), but it wasn‘t a fast glissade, because of how cupped it was. The snow was soft enough though, if someone had never done it before, it would be a good chance to give it a try. Gotta have the axe.


appreciate the comments
07/18/2008 13:54
all I appreciate the comments.

Brian- I should have spent more time looking into Sneffels and your route, it would have been a fun ascent. All my focus was on El Diente and the traverse. We were pretty bummed about not completing it and it was tough to get so close. Thanks for the positive comments on our choice to turn back.

jspydr- we did see on person doing the route you described. Our snow conditions were a little different, but either way I agree you have to have an ax

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