Mount Sneffels

Date to Climb: June 29, 2009

Date Climbed: June 30, 2009

Elevation: 14,150

Range: San Juan

Latitude: 38.00360, Longitude: -107.79220

Route: South Slopes ll, Class 2+

Round-Trip Mileage: 8

Pre-Climb Comments

Only one peak to climb this day! We want to climb early. Our friends Jon and Laura should join us for the climb. For them to climb with us they will have to find us the night before wherever we will be camping. I hope they have good speed crossing America, but stay rested on their journey. What an area to wake up to even if you are hung over from 1400 miles of driving. They definitely want to climb Sneffels, but they will not be acclimated. Maybe they can sneak up before anyone tells there lungs that the air pressure is different. We will have to park about a mile below the trailhead with the restrooms. If we leave to climb before we meet the Frapers we will take Jake to the upper gully and then probably either leave him tethered or climb solo while the other rests with the dog. After the summit we will return to the car and drive to Telluride, then on to Navajo Basin trailhead, and finally backpack 4.5 to 6 miles depending on where we camp.

Post-Climb Comments

After a much deserved rest day, we were going to attempt Sneffels. Note: when we do too much in a day (such as - climbing Windom and Eolus, backpacking out 16 miles, and then driving to Ouray) we inevitably want to take the next day off.

Our amazing Element made it to the trailhead with the restroom (not the upper trailhead.) It was a rough drive, but not as bad as the road to Grays Peak. For the short climb, Jake was able to hang out in the car.

Mount Sneffels is highly regarded as one of the best mountains of the high peaks (over 14,000). Since we are trying to climb all of the peaks we have been commenting on what our favorite mountains are. Even though Sneffels has a great view from the top, it is a 4WD road to within a mile and a quarter of the top. Because it is a road peak we rank it with Princeton and Antero. The hike up is very short for the 4WDs and ATVs. For hikers the road is very dusty and unpleasant.

At 5 we had ’butts in seats’ and began the drive up the dirt road to Sneffels trailhead. The caravan consisted of the Element and two Mini Coopers. Jon and Laura led the way dodging holes and ravines while keeping it on the road for fear of a shelf road drop. Nick tried keeping up with the other Mini, but his was equipped with high performance road tires and therefore had more trouble negotiating the steep hills (or that was his excuse.) We brought up the rear without any trouble.

The Minis had to park below the trailhead due to their low clearance. Jon and Nick began their dusty trek at that point. We picked up Laura and drove to the regular trailhead.

After brief pack adjustments we tied our shoes and started up the road. Being fairly acclimated (finally) we moved quickly to the end of the road. We carried full crampons and ice axes because of the lingering snow in the upper couloir. One person was ahead of us on the mountain, I had noticed the red Jeep go by while we were still in the campground that morning. Other than him we had the mountain to ourselves.

The trail ended in the lower part of the gully and we began a slow slough up the sliding rock. Nothing in the gully was stable as the loose rock slid down with every step. Going uphill when you lose a half of foot for every step, sucks.

Sneffels Gully

Mount Sneffels South Slopes

At the top of the saddle we found the snow. After putting the crampons on our boots we headed up the concrete hard snow. The hiker who started before us was sitting on a rock in the middle of the lower part of the couloir. When we approached him he told us that he was going down because he did not have an ice axe or crampons. We thought it was a wise decision too. Looking around we suggested that he try climbing the rocks to the side. He did and raced us to the top, he climbing the rock ledges and us up the ice.

The summit of Sneffels is grand. It is small enough to think of it as a summit but large enough to be comfortable. Being in the middle of the San Juans the views were also spectacular.

Sneffels summit

The Summit

Our new friend, Jeff, met us at the summit. He was a geologist from Houston who was on vacation in Colorado to climb some 14ers. Sort of sounds like us.

After a few pictures we headed down the route we had suggested Jeff climb. The route was fast and fun and soon we were back in the saddle again. Nick was there getting ready to climb the couloir and we spied Jon and Laura still foot slogging up the nasty scree.

We left Nick and scooted down the loose rocks to Jon and Laura. The terrain, which was so difficult to ascend, was a breeze to descend as we skied over the rocks in our boots. After a brief conversation with Jon and Laura we were on our way down. They were probably going to sneak up to the summit even though they had just come from Tennessee and were not acclimated at all.

Practically running, we hustled to the car and back to town for lunch.

Nick, Jon, and Laura all made the summit.

We are off to the Wilson Group outside of Telluride to the Navajo Lake trailhead.

Mount Sneffels - June 30, 2009 summit check