| San Juan Part 2:...and Winter
Mount Sneffels via Yankee Boy Basin 9/23/2013 9:30am:
7.2 miles from the 853 1B Junction, ~.7 miles below the lower TH
Total Time: ~9 hrs (~6 up, ~3 down: Snow is slooooow)
NOTE: If you are staying in Telluride (like we were), google will tell you to take Imogene Pass (though it doesn’t call it by this name) for about an hour drive. If you try it, like we did, you’ll realize in about 15 minutes, like we did, that it’s a serious 4WD route. Instead, you’ll have to reroute, like we did, through Ouray, which cost us about 2 hours. Whoops.
The previous days had allowed us to hike Handies and Wetterhorn with beautiful dry weather (Trip Report here) ...things were different today! I realize it isn't really winter on September 23...but it looked like it!
After leaving Telluride around 6:30, heading towards Ouray, we tried to spot Sneffels from Dallas Divide. There were clouds obscuring the peak, but it was still a great view -- and we knew it was back there somewhere.
View from Dallas Divide scenic overlook
There were many great views along the way.
Once we were well along the road to Yankee Boy Basin, things just got nuts beautiful.
Just a little color on the road to Yankee Boy
At the 853 1B juction, the snow (about 4 inches here) was too much for our 2WD replacement rental car, and we parked, got our gear together, and set out. We anticipated snow, but we did not expect how beautiful the landscape would be with this layer of fresh snow. We began to see groups of deer running around us (accompanied by gunshots in the distance).
We ogled Stoney Mountain, Petosi Peak, Teakettle Mountain, Kizmet, and eventually Gilpin began to blow us away.
After a couple miles, we reached the upper TH - there was no.one. Not another car, no tracks, and an empty summit register for the day. It was spectacular (and a little spooky, hoping we weren’t foolishly alone).
This was the most scenic pee I will ever have
Postholing was the name of the game
The route from the Upper TH across the base of Kismet to the bottom of the gully was not easy to find - 4-8 inches of snow, no tracks. We knew the general direction, and after about 15 minutes got on the trail...or close to it based on the cairns.
Making the pitch up was arduous. Probing the snow depth with the poles, testing for loose rocks, and post holing gave us a looooong trek upwards. The snow was around a foot deep here on average, but any open space had drifts knee or mid-thigh deep. There was intermittent fog above us, but it seemed clear the weather was holding.
Looking down at the broad gully and Yankee Boy
We reached the saddle-like upper section at Lavendar Col, looking to our left for our 1000+ft vertical of remaining route. At this point it was 2:15, and we decided we needed to turn around by 4pm regardless of where we were to give us time to get to the road with plenty of light. We began trudging up, and it was truly incredible. The 100+ft walls on either side feel like they are straight out of Lord of the Rings, and the snow added to the eerie feel.
Kismet from Sneffels
Approaching the walled-in gully above Lavendar Col
Ascending the walled-in gully above Lavendar Col
Ascending the walled-in gully above Lavendar Col
After a relatively quick (but exhausting) pace, we spotted where we knew the notch would be. As it came into full view, I grew a little nervous. It was filled with snow. Like, FILLED. We made it up to the notch itself (and the 80 foot drop beside it), and I spent 10 minutes or so clearing snow, somehow totally bending my trekking pole in the process.
How we discovered the Notch -- full of snow
The notch with the snow was certainly slippery and a bit dicey -- we had to psych ourselves up, but I think it was reasonably safe with proper preparation and planning. However, with the snow it was every bit a class 3 move to me.
The Notch, from above, after clearing and climbing
I was feeling the altitude/exhaustion/hunger at that point, so the push to the summit was difficult. In hindsight, I should have immediately stopped to have water and a snack, but wanted to get to the top asap, as our 4:00 deadline was approaching. In the end, the summit was immensely rewarding.
Summit - there's a little "Time to GO" on my face
Soon, it was time to descend as safely as possible. While we had tried to soak in every moment descending Wetterhorn, today we were trying to get down, get safe, and get to the car ASAP. The snow had a nice predictable compaction for each step, but we each managed to fall approximately 23 times on the way down. I somehow incurred our only injury on the trip while we were on the 4WD road, when I stepped on my formerly sprained foot incorrectly, folded over, and fell with my knee directly on a rock. Thankfully, it was only a mile or so from the car, and it was only bruised. Besides some site seeing jeeps low in the trail, we didn't see another footprint or sign of humanity during the entire hike.
Creature silhouettes against Potosi
After a return to Ouray for a hot meal, we started our late night drive to Summit County, planning to hit Grays/Torreys the next day. This plan downgraded to Evans, which downgraded to sleeping in and going to the outlet mall. We remembered that this was actually vactation, not just a hiking trip.
Once again, this trip was eye opening to the wonders of these mountains. We can’t wait to get back!
At work the day after returning, I was discussing the Sneffels hike with a co-worker, and he asked what it was like. While trying to pull up some photos on my phone, I looked up, and no joke, there was a poster with Sneffels on it RIGHT THERE!
My work also has an appreciation for Sneffels!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):