Mount Sneffels Scramble

Date of trip: 07/04/2018

Mileage: 4.1 Miles

Elevation Gain: 1900 Feet

Time: 4 Hour(s) and 45 Minutes

Class: 3

Partners: Carrie

GPS Track: View Here

Peaks Climbed on Trip:
Peak Name Elevation Prominence Range Close to County highpoint Range highpoint Map
Mount Sneffels141503050San JuanOuray, ColoradoOurayNo38.0036, -107.7923

Trip Report

We were in Colorado for a week of peak bagging and vacation. During the mornings we were bagging peaks and then doing tourist activities during the afternoons and evenings.

We started the trip on Mount Peale in Utah. At 12,721' high, that became my wife's new highest point. On that hike, she got a touch of altitude sickness. So instead of jumping right up to a 14er, we slowed down a bit, climbed some 11ers, a few 13ers, and slept above 11,000 feet on back-to-back nights to acclimate.

On the 4th of July we were feeling great and ready to take on Mount Sneffels. Sneffels essentially has 3 trailheads... the lower for cars, the middle for 4x4s, and the upper for jeeps and rugged 4x4s. When we arrived at the lower trailhead, someone was throwing rocks into the ditch one must cross to continue on. Dude had a truck, but told me it was too big of a dip. I disagreed and drove through it easily. Right after we got thumbed down by 3 young gals hitchhiking to the middle trailhead, we had plenty of room, so we gave them a ride.

Soon we were at the middle trailhead. It took us only about 5 minutes to park and get ready. Just as we were departing, a Forerunner pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride to the upper trailhead... sure, why not?! Sandy was from Denver and worked for an engineering firm similar to the one Carrie and I work for. He was just out for a morning drive. We had great conversation when we weren't scared to death from the rugged road he was driving at 25 mph!!! His vehicle was pretty bada$$ and soon we were near the upper trailhead (he had things to do, so didn't take us all of the way).

The ride had saved us about 800 feet of elevation gain. It was already a reasonable day and much easier now (which was good, since we wanted to get back and rest so we could celebrate the 4th of July).

We hiked the remaining road, then the trail, then entered the gully. I had heard the gully was steep and loose, but my research led me to think that if we went climber's left we could get into solid, large rocks and avoid the loose scree. Sure enough, that worked and we basically walked along the edge of the climber's trail and stayed on large rocks when possible. We had a group of 5 above us, but never heard them say "ROCK!" once, nor did any rocks head our way. So much for the reputation of this section being extremely loose and a bowling alley.

The next section of the route was a left turn into a more narrow and rocky gully. Here we caught the group in front of us. This upper gully led us to the crux, which is a 5-foot climb into a v-notch with some exposure climber's left. I watched as some polite guy guided a few people from above on where the holds were. Then Carrie went and gracefully navigated the challenge. When it was my turn, I wasn't graceful and went the brute force method, which worked.

The summit was an easy scramble from the crux. The views from the top were amazing! Blue Lake below us, the Wilson Group of peaks, the peaks around Ice Basin, the sea of mountains to our east, and the other peaks in the Sneffels group were all very scenic. We enjoyed a PB&J on the summit and shot photos, but I was nervous about getting down the crux, so we didn't hang out for long. I must not have been the only one, as about 5 people followed us when we left the summit.

We hiked down to the crux and Carrie went through first and of course made it look easy. I was next and was receiving assistance from someone below (whether I wanted help or not). After I was through, I assisted a few people down through the move, then 5 or 6 people heading up the mountain... it took a while, but I was glad to assist and meet some nice people.

We had a slip or two in the lower gully, but no real issues. Once we got out of the gullies and on trail, we could finally relax and enjoy the day! The weather was perfect, the views scenic, and the climb was a blast!

Carrie was thrilled with her first 14er and we were done early enough to go back to Silverton and eat/nap before listening to live music on main street. Great day in the mountains!


Getting There

From US 550, 1/4 mile south of Ouray, turn west onto CR 361. Reset your mileage and follow this signed dirt road toward Yankee Boy Basin. Stay right at each intersection. At 7.5 miles you will reach the lower trailhead for low clearance vehicles. If you have high clearance, continue to 8 miles, where you reach the main trailhead with a bathroom and ample parking. Just after this trailhead, the road gets much rougher, but you can take a rugged 4x4 to the end of the road at 12,440'!

Numerous reports (and a sign) said that only short wheel based vehicles should continue after 8.5 miles, but I saw an F150, Dodge truck, Forester, and numerous jeeps above that sign. Guess it depends on your driving skills and how much you like your vehicle.


Hiking Directions

Follow the jeep road until it ends around 12,440 feet. Here you will see signage and information about the route up Sneffels. After the signs, the road becomes a trail heading toward Blue Lake Pass. Head up this trail for less than a mile to 12,600 feet, where it forks. There is a sign here... take the right fork. This climber's trail leads to the eroded gully on Sneffel's south face. Follow the gully to the saddle at 13,500'. From the saddle, turn climber's left and start up the obvious, boulder strewn gully. About 25 feet below the top of the gully, the v-notch appears on your left. After you are through the notch, the remaining slope to the summit is class 2 with many possibilities on route.


Photos

View Slideshow

Early morning views on the trail to Mount Sneffels
Early morning views on the trail to Mount Sneffels
Upper trailhead signs
Upper trailhead signs
Lower gully on Mount Sneffels
Lower gully on Mount Sneffels
Gilpin Mountain
Gilpin Mountain
Carrie starting up the upper gully
Carrie starting up the upper gully
Looking south from Mount Sneffels
Looking south from Mount Sneffels
Looking east from Mount Sneffels
Looking east from Mount Sneffels
Carrie on Mount Sneffels
Carrie on Mount Sneffels
Looking south from Mount Sneffels
Looking south from Mount Sneffels
Final gully on Sneffels
Final gully on Sneffels
Teakettle and Potosi Peaks
Teakettle and Potosi Peaks
Flowers along the road in Yankee Boy Basin
Flowers along the road in Yankee Boy Basin




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