Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Date Posted:  09/12/2008
Date Climbed:   09/11/2008
Author:  4HClimber

 Sneffels on September 11 - Live to Climb another Day  

Sneffels on September 11 – Live to Hike another Day

OR: Lessons learned on Sneffels

OR: The Notch—My white whale

By 4HClimber


It was an uneventful day. I made it from the lower trail head to the notch in three hours and the 1-2 inches of snow the last 2,000 feet actually made the climb up much easier than slugging up the scree.

There were two hikers about 200 yards ahead of me. You can see them entering the gully.

Here's the look up the gully as I entered it.

Next came the notch—that's where the day went south. I was hiking solo and the two guys ahead of me had already passed the notch and were probably on the summit.

Here is a close-up of the notch. Note the ice and snow making this move a little tricky—especially with no climbing partner to give you a leg up or a hand up. It would have been a piece of cake if I would have had a climbing partner.

Standing at the notch. Looking down to the left at the exposure. Visually it was not real scary but, gravitationally speaking; one slip here would really mess up your day.

I tried the notch and couldn't make it. I actually was stuck in the notch on my belly for a couple of minutes not able to go forward or backward. After I extricated myself back out of the notch I heard the guys ahead of me for just a second or two—as they passed by the other side of the notch on their way to descend down the southwest ridge. There was nobody behind me for at least an hour or two at best. Given that there was nobody around to help me out, I decided to call it a day. To comfort my wounded, heart-broken macho spirit, as I started my decent I cranked up the IPod for some tunes and the first thing to play on the random shuffle of songs—"Sea of Heartbreak" by Don Gibson. I found that fitting as I was only 80 vertical feet from the summit. The second tune to play was "I just want to Celebrate—another day of living" I found that very fitting.

So here's what I learned that day on Sneffels:

1. Given my experience and comfort level with exposure, I won't tackle anything solo rated more than a class 2.
2. I had a whistle in my backpack. In retrospect I should have used it to get the attention of the two guys ahead of me to give me a hand through the notch.
3. The most important lesson--Use your head. When in doubt, choose to "Live to Climb another Day."

I don't know if anyone has ever died from a fall at the notch, but I didn't want to make or start the list.

But I did get to enjoy some great scenery on the hike down as shown in these pictures.




The bottom line is that I was able to appreciate the flowers on the hike down.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great pics
02/05/2011 00:22
And a nice perspective on things. Thanks for posting.
There is a way to avoid the notch (not the SW ridge), if you ever go back...
Anytime someone mentions Rare Earth, you know things are all right.
BTW, I wore my Cochiti Pueblo 4H shirt last time we summitted Sneffels.

CO Native

09/13/2008 01:42
Always better to live and learn.

Excellent photos. I really liked #6.


Sorry I could not make it!!
09/14/2008 02:15
Sorry I ahd to work and miss the trip, we would have gotten through it. Still worth while to learn new lessons.


Whistles are for emergencies
11/30/2010 17:28
"I had a whistle in my backpack. In retrospect I should have used it to get the attention of the two guys ahead of me to give me a hand through the notch. "

You did the right thing *not* whistling. I think a whistle should be used in times of true distress to summon help, not to advertise "I need someone to pull me up this crack." You should rely on your own (party's) abilities to climb a mountain. What if I were in the valley on the way down and heard it? I‘d probably either start back up there or go into Ouray and tell someone there‘s been an accident on Sneffels.

Still... it sucks that you couldn't summit on a such an otherwise nice day. Hope you can eventually get up there. It's a great summit.

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