Mt. Sneffels

The forecast for 7/6/15 called for afternoon storms, so I decided to get a (very) early start. Slept in a Walmart parking lot in Montrose, CO, and woke up at 2:15 am with plans to start hiking at 3:45 am. I underestimated how rugged the road to the trailhead was, however, and didn’t end up starting until more like 4:15 am. In the process, I managed to navigate my little Honda Fit across several small streams and some very rocky stretches of road. I still ended up having to park about half a mile below the Lower TH.

Sunrise over the Yankee Boy Basin (taken from the base of Mt. Sneffels)

Sunrise over the Yankee Boy Basin (taken from the base of Mt. Sneffels)

The hike to the base of Mt. Sneffels (14,150′) went pretty quickly, and I found myself climbing the mountain’s lower slopes just as the sun started creeping over the horizon. I had opted for the standard route (rather than the enticing SW ridge) since I was tackling this solo, and since I’d seen online reports of some fun-looking snowpack in the Lavender Couloir. The initial scree climb to the Sneffels-Kismet saddle was kind of obnoxious…but rewarded me with some great views from the top.

Upper section of Sneffels as seen from Kismet; the Lavender Couloir is visible in the top-left

Upper section of Sneffels as seen from Kismet; the Lavender Couloir is visible in the top-left

Lavender Couloir seen from below

Lavender Couloir seen from below

The climb was a lot more interesting from here on out. In order to reach the “V Notch” – a short scramble to gain access to the summit – I had to climb about 300-400 feet of steep snowpack.

Testing out the ice at the start of the climb

Testing out the ice at the start of the climb

It wouldn’t have been feasible without my ice axe, and I found myself wishing for crampons (and/or a rope) more than once.

Stopping for a selfie mid-climb

Stopping for a selfie halfway up

I would occasionally stop and re-descend a few dozen feet before continuing upward. My #1 rule is to “never climb up what you can’t climb down”…so I found it useful to test myself periodically. I finally made it to the “V Notch,” made the final scramble to the summit (which was now enveloped in a cloud; no good views unfortunately), and began retracing my steps.

Looking up at the

Looking up at the “V Notch”

View from the top of Lavender Couloir, looking back down on Kism

View from the top of Lavender Couloir, looking back down on Kismet

I had to self-arrest once on the descent. A chunk of snow and ice came lose under my feet, and I ended up tumbling 100 feet or so before my axe finally brought me to a stop. The rest of the descent was uneventful. On my way down the scree slope, I was able to capture a shot of two other climbers in Lavender Couloir, just as the storm clouds started moving in.

Two other climbers

Two other climbers can be seen on the snow, if you look closely

I finished the day right around lunchtime. A couple of other climbers even offered me a ride in the bed of their pickup to save me a 45 minute walk down the 4WD road, which was nice.

The 4WD road into Yankee Boy Basin

The 4WD road into Yankee Boy Basin

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Published in: on July 15, 2015 at 11:37 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. The sunrise photo of Yankee Boy Basin and selfie half way up are my favorites!


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