August 29th, 2003
Getting the Labor Day weekend started Amy and I departed Boulder around 2 p.m. an headed west to Grand Junction. As we turned south on Highway 550 the San Juans could be seen in the distance and as we got closer, Mt. Sneffels began to dominate the surroundings. We headed up the Yankee Boy Basin and soaked in the spectacular scenery. The road was pretty good for the most part and the most exciting section would definitely be the picture above. We made it to the 4wd parking at around 8:30 p.m. and quickly set up camp in back of the 4runner. The stars were out and we were hoping the weekend forecasts of rain all weekend would be wrong.
August 30th, 2003
The alarm at 5 a.m. rang out and looking at the sky the stars were no longer out. Watching the horiron out the back window, sheet lightning was flashing across the sky as the rain began to fall. We decided to sleep for another hour and assess the weather again. At 6 a.m. as the sky began to lighten it was still raining. After sleeping awhile longer we decided, if we were to get a break in the weather, it would be a really short window so we proceeded up the road parking below Wright Lake. Wanting to be within quick striking distance of the peak, we waited in the car for the rain to stop. Around 8:30 a.m. the intensity of the rain picked up and it turned to hail and sleet. The lightning and thunder also picked up and the peaks were completed shrouded in dark clouds. We figured the weather wasn't going to clear out anytime soon and it wasn't too smart to be parked high up in the basin with lightning present. We decided to salvage something of the day and take a scenic drive to Durango and then over to Telluride. We headed up and over the Million Dollar Highway and drove through Silverton since Amy had never been there. While we were in Silverton blue skies began to appear and we decided to head back to Ouray and see if the weather was improving over there. Back in Ouray, it was still pouring rain so we decided to grab some lunch and see what the weather would be doing in an hour. After lunch some patches of blue skies were presented so we decided to head back up Yankee Boy Basin. I think I might have set a new speed record from Ouray to the top of Yankee Boy Basin, passing many jeeps and other vehicles. We got back to the 4wd parking around noon and headed up the road. The photo below shows the point where we departed the road and headed up the trail to Wright Lake.
It was a quick 15 or 20 minutes up to Wright Lake shown in the photo below. There was a trail around both ends of the lake but we decided to use the trail around the right side of the lake since it looked more traveled.
We continued up the basin and after about 20 minutes of leaving the lake we reached a junction in the trail just before the trail begins to Switchback up Blue Lake pass. We turned right and crossed the scree as we headed towards Mt. Sneffels south slopes. The route up Scree Col can be seen in the photo below. Some people also call this Lavender Col but it didn't look very purple to me.
The trail had remained really mild until this point and steepened as we proceeded up towards the saddle. It was easier to stay on the left side on the larger rocks instead of the middle which consisted of loose dirt and rock. The weather was still looking pretty good, there were clouds coming from the west but they were staying south of the peak. Almost to the top of Col, we decided to drop our packs and just proceed to the summit we our raingear and the camera. Once we dropped our packs we zoomed up to the saddle where we turned left and proceeded up the first couloir shown in the photo below.
The rock in this couloir was pretty stable and we were flying up the slopes. We were catching up to a party the had gained the saddle as we began up the Scree Col. We knew the route headed to the left about 20 feet below the top of the couloir. The photo below shows our route up the couloir and the point where we proceeded left to exit the couloir. We actually climbed up the wrong crack that was a little harder than the standard route, but still very doable. In the photo below, the actual route goes behind the large rock that we climbed in front of towards the top of the photo.
Climbing up the crack we gained the correct notch to exit out of the couloir in the photo below.
Climbing through the notch its hard to tell what is on the other side. I was preparing for the worst but was delighted to see that the route was quite easy from here to the summit. We scrambled up the last 200 feet to the summit on the broken ledges. We made it to the summit just after 2 p.m. taking us just over 2 hours to get to the top. There was an older lady who had climbed 51 14ers and an older gentlemen that had climbed all the 14ers and all the peaks in the area. The weather looked pretty good and we were relieved to know we weren't going to have to make a mad dash down the mountain.
To the east we could see Kismet and Teakettle Mountain, and to the west we could look down upon the Blue Lakes shown in the photo below.
Sneffels north face drops quite dramatically and the peak stands high above the valleys below. We chatted with the older couple, signed the register, and began our descent after about 10 minutes. As we proceeded down the couloir back to the top of Scree Col we heard what sounded like a jet engine fire up right by Kismet shown in the photo below. It was the loudest rock slide I have ever heard and it last for well over a minute. A large cloud of dust came billowing up the couloir as the slide began to taper off.
We made it down to the saddle in short order and proceeded down to where we dropped our packs. There were several parties making their way up Scree Col and we hoped the weather would hold out for them too. One group had about 6 kids ranging for about 8 to 14, and they hadn't learned to yell "rock" when the sent boulders flying. A group of 3 kids were in the lead and they knocked a rock loose about the size of a basketball and it was headed straight for the mom and a girl that was probably about 10. They didn't notice the rock and I yelled for them to watch out and get out of the way. After I warned them, the mom gave me a dirty look like a kicked the rock down on them, even though I was standing 50 feet to the left of them. Oh well, at least the little girl didn't get creamed.
We took the Blue Lakes trail once we got to the bottom of Scree Col and it ended at the road above Wright Lake. We proceeded down the road to Wright Lake and then down the trail rejoining the road again. It was a short distance down to the 4runner and we arrived back at about 4 p.m. We were very happy to have climbed Mt. Sneffels since earlier in the morning, we thought for sure we wouldn't be climbing at all today. We drove back down Yankee Boy Basin again passing several jeep tour vehicles. Basically these are jeeps and trucks with benches in the back for driving tourists up the basin. For $50 a person, they can pay me and I'll bounce the crap out of them in the back of the 4runner until they want to throw up. Seems like a silly way to spend your money, I'd rather rent a jeep and drive myself, but each to their own. We left Ouray and headed over to the Nelly Creek Trailhead for the next climb of the weekend, Uncompahgre Peak.