Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Date Posted:  03/16/2011
Date Climbed:   03/14/2011
Author:  pioletski
 Happy Birthday Chutes   

Spring has sprung in the San Juans!

Ascent and summit ski descent of Mt Sneffels (14,150')
Approximately 10 mi. RT, 5000' climbed and skied
Crew: SarahT (ringleader), Dominic, Dwight, Kevin, pioletski (token two-plank trash)

Sometimes things just come together the way they should... like an opportunity to ski the Birthday Chutes on my dad's birthday and send him a video about it. All the sweeter when the experience is shared with new friends and involves new toys! I had met Sarah and her compadres two days earlier on San Luis and asked to tag along when they mentioned plans to climb Sneffels. With their gracious approval, I joined this intrepid crew.

So I shook myself out of my cozy bivy sack at 3:30 am. That seems awfully early right after the transition to Daylight Savings time. (In May it feels like sleeping in, of course.) The Camp Bird Mine Road is plowed to just over 9000 feet, about 1/2 mile past the Thistledown campsite. We were underway at 4:00, with a starry sky overhead. Nobody seemed very talkative at that hour (imagine that!), so I marched up the road alone, taking advantage of the efficiency of skis on a gentle, hard-packed surface. By the time we regrouped it was 7:30, smiling rosy-fingered Dawn was making her presence known, and we had ascended about 2400 feet. Sunrise in Yankee Boy Basin is a treat to behold!

By 8:30 we had attained the highest summer trailhead:

Upper trailhead at sunrise

This is a very wide-angle shot, the people in the picture are closer than they appear. Gilpin Peak, the doorkeeper of Yankee Boy Basin, shone in the early morning light:

Gilpin Peak

Rounding the corner to the outlet of the Lavender Couloir, my intended descent route came into view:

Looking up the Birthday Chutes

Again, my companions are not far away...

Looking back from Lavender Couloir

Ascending to the Lavender Col, it was my turn to struggle to keep up. My companions were on snowshoes and were able to use both their flotation and cramponage to good effect. Meanwhile, when the slope became too steep for skinning, I was relegated to postholing in my boots for a few hundred vertical feet. Above the Col, however, the playing field evened out once more. We climbed a short distance up the obvious chute above the col, then gained an arete just to the south and followed it to the spectacularly airy summit:

At the summit

At the summit

I understand now why so many climbers name Sneffels their favorite 14er:

View toward the Wilson Group

We arrived at the summit at about 10:30, perfectly timed for a spring ski outing. After a pleasant 1/2 hour in the brilliant sunshine we parted for the descent. I broke out my latest new toy: a helmet-mounted video camera, which took the somewhat lame still shots I have placed in this TR as well as the following video of the descent:

I waited at the bottom to thank my companions for sharing this fabulous day - but I didn't wait for them at the trailhead. Rapid descent is the skier's main advantage; I was back at the car before noon.

Notes on snow conditions: unlike San luis, the snow on Sneffels has not made a full transition to spring firn, though it is about as bomb-proof as it gets.

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to the crew!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nice job Matt!
03/20/2011 20:06
Thanks for the beta - looking to get down there soon. I like the ski video!


03/19/2011 21:54
Gotta' get me one of those GoPro thingy's


Thanks y'all
03/17/2011 16:31
This one definitely bears repeating!

Kevin Baker

Nice day out
03/17/2011 13:49
It sure was a picture perfect day! Congrats on another ski descent, Matt. Here's my TR on Summitpost.


Great video!
05/02/2011 14:23
Sweet helmet cam action. I liked the intro when you're clicking in. Looking forward to catching up with you soon for some skiing.


Pretty Sweet
03/17/2011 04:18
Nice work, Matt.

And such a short shift!

ap snow

03/17/2011 04:26
Nice! This looks tempting...


Thanks for the bootpack/skintrail.
03/17/2011 00:51
Matt-Thanks for the nice boot-pack and skin-trail on San Luis-we had perfect conditions today and hiked/skied the same line as you guys. Awesome corn is an understatement. By the looks of some of the holes along the skin-trail, I am surprised you made it back with all of the members on snowshoes! Awesome TR and helmet cam action. Nothing says happy birthday like the birthday chutes. Your dad should be proud.


03/17/2011 00:37
I enjoyed the video, it's a little different than the normal extreme ski video, it actually had commentary. I have resort skied in my past so I know how much hard work those steep slopes can be.


03/16/2011 15:41
Matt, that is a sweet first ski video. I second the drama comment. I would've enjoyed hearing a dramatic fake ”Ohh my Goooddd” and comedy crash sounds. Sneffels summit to car in under 1.5 hours??


Nice Video
03/16/2011 18:04
I just got one of those video cameras myself. Tested it last weekend too. Need to find some editing software before I post anything. Too many silly ”Is it on?” moments

Looking forward to more videos!


Happy Birthday Dad!
03/16/2011 15:10
Awesome Matt! Looks like you had a gorgeous day and took full advantage. Pretty impressive how calm and effortless you sounded skiing down the 50 degree slope - couldn't you have played up the drama a bit for the video?


another great winter outing
03/16/2011 13:40
It was a fine day out indeed and an excellent climb. Congrats on your ski of the birthday chutes, we weren't able to see much of your descent, I'll watch the video tonight after work.

It was a long walk out, I think I got back to the car at 2:45. The big ice over shelf road was dripping extensively,but, none of them fell on us.


Awesome Matt!
03/16/2011 13:03
Wish I could have joined on this one, looks like a super fun line. Here's to birthdays, new toys, and new lines! Looking forward to this weekend.


03/16/2011 11:41
VERY nice TR!

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