Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,155 feet
Date Posted:  03/20/2016
Date Climbed:   03/13/2016
Author:  Yikes
 Sneffels in perfect winter condition   

As Winter 2015/2016 comes to a close and we scramble to get a few last summits in, Jeff let me know he was planning on attempting Sneffels. It sounded good... having hiked in the Elks four times this winter, I was looking for something different. We also expected it to be a bit easier than our recent climbs of Pyramid and Maroon (Jeff had also climbed Snowmass and attempted N Maroon this winter).

I had some vacation time to burn, so figured I would leisurely make my way to Ouray - drive to Salida Thursday evening to spend the night and then drive out to Ouray Friday afternoon. Jeff and Michael (who I had not met previously) were driving straight from Denver on sat morning. I spent a casual afternoon/evening in Ouray - beer at the Ouray Brewery, dinner at Buen Tiempo and a comfortable bed at The Matterhorn (only $90, it was a LOT more pleasant than trying to sleep in the back of the truck). I woke around 7 and headed over to Roast&Toast to nourish myself with a sticky bun and coffee (aka power food). It was a 15 minute drive up to the road closure (muddy and more than a few potholes) and I hung out and read a novel for 30 min waiting for Jeff/Michael to arrive.

Jeff/Michael pulled up around 10:30, packed up and we started up the road a little after 11am. I was expecting an easy hike up to the Revenue mine, but was pleasantly surprised to see that the road was plowed to Governor Basin. The road was a muddy mess, but it definitely beat having to break trail. Once we turned off towards Yankee Boy Basin, we were on snow till the summit (no windblown tundra). We hiked up to treeline and found a decent spot to setup camp. After setting up camp, we broke trail another 750 vertical to make the next day's start a little easier.
Mad Michael; new kid on the block

The area gets some snow in the winter

Road was plowed further than I expected

Michael learning the fine art of snowshoeing

It was a typical night of non-sleep, I think I woke up about 7 times (almost always on hour intervals). At least it was a little more relaxing when there are other individuals camping nearby; camping out by myself at Crater Lake was less fun (wondering if bears stopped hibernating with the global warming....). We woke up at 4:15 and we headed up the trench around 5am.

We made quick progress to the end of the trench and then attempted to orient ourselves in the right direction (with the clouds, it was pitch black and could barely make out the mountains). I had my GPS at the ready in case we went off track too far, but Jeff did a good job getting us to the upper TH. The sun started to come up and we could see the route. Snow was very stable and I didn't feel any concern for avalanches. It didn't take too long to get up to the saddle where the sun awaited. One very nice thing about Sneffels is that pretty much the entire route is visible from the saddle, no heartbreaking false summits or mile long ridges. The couloir was in pretty good condition, and we were able to kick steps to its top (only in a few sections did we encounter softer, deeper snow).
Beautiful morning heading up to the saddle

Cliffs in the morning light

Jeff gaining the ridge

The main gully, our ascent route

Looking down the gully

Michael and Jeff finishing the gully

At the "upper" saddle we noticed that the summer's route V-notch was somewhat impassible with overhanging snow. So we scrambled up some rocks to gain the final ridge. Climbing the rocks was pretty straightforward, but flipping onto the final slope was a little more challenging. The rock under the snow is very slabby and I had to sweep out a bit of snow to find something comfortable to place my crampons on.
Michael on the crux

Michael on the crux

Once in deeper snow, it was an easy to kick steps up to the summit.
Reaching the summit

Happy to summit Sneffels, only 10 more...
Winter Summit #49

We only stayed on the summit for a few minutes, no time for lounging.
Michael on top of the world; 1 down, 58 to go

Descending from the summit

We quickly downclimbed the short "crux" and plunge stepped down the upper colouir (I don't think it would have made a nice glissade with the exposed rocks).
Done with the gully

Looking back

We took a quick break at the saddle, where I pulled on some old rain pants for a glissade (nervous about trashing my Pataguccis). The glissade was a little slow, with a fair amount of snow piling up where I would rather it didn't... but I made it down to the flats in short order (and gave my feet a break).
A quick descent

It didn't take long to hike down to the campsite and we were packed up within 30 min. There were heli-ski tours going on all morning and our campsite was buzzed about 50 times (not exaggerating). Jeff and Michael donned snowshoes for the hike down to the dry road, while I went boots-only, which mostly worked but started to posthole near the very end. The hike out the road was uneventful but we were happy to finally see the cars.
Happy customers

We stopped at Applebees in Montrose for some calories before the long drive. I was thinking of tacking on Uncompahgre (wanting to reduce my overall drive time in the Winter 14er challenge) so I started to kill some time in Montrose by stopping at the movies ($5 is a pretty good deal). However when I checked the weather forecast (after buying the movie ticket), I decided the forecasted high winds weren't worth the effort. So I drove back to Salida a few hours later than I could have, putting me right on schedule for the "deer on the shoulder" slalom near Gunnison.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Congrats, Jim!
03/21/2016 08:36
Looks like a stellar winter summit! Gosh, I wish Natalie and I had had that fresh snow up there when we were there in early March. Would have made for some nice turns for us! Hope you are well, man.

03/21/2016 11:07
Enjoyed the trip report. curious what do you think about a ski descent? would it be possible?


03/21/2016 11:16
Very Nice Trip Report! Great photographs too. Fantastic work in the hills. Love the summit shots. Thanks for putting this together. That's a phenomenal summit of Sneffels

03/21/2016 11:25
Deer on the shoulder slalom is an awesome description for that section. Nice climb.

03/21/2016 19:38
Just amazing. Great TR.

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