Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Mt Sneffels is a long hike, makes me cry like a child, remains the greatest mountain ever

My single goal for this summer -- nay, this year, or this lifetime -- was to climb Mt Sneffels, the most beautiful, distinct mountain in the world. As you can see from the 10,000 pictures I took of it, which are displayed below.

Early on Sunday morning over the Labor Day weekend, we set off into the Mt Sneffels Wilderness. We were going up the Blue Lakes Trail and then up the Southwest Ridge, which was going to be my first Class 3 route. This path was longer than the usual Yankee Boy Basin approach, but, having been up the other to about 13,000 ft, I think that Blue Lakes was much prettier and well worth it.

Here's some shots from the trail up.

Summer was clearly on its way out.

However, there were still some wildflowers to be seen.

Here's Lower Blue Lake, the bluest of the lakes by far.

Here's the uppermost, where Nathan and I stopped to have some lunch.

Then we began a switchback ascent up the side of the mountain, passing from a beautiful field of wildflowers into barren scree as we gained altitude.

All around were views of the rugged Sneffels Range, which is an igneous intrusion into the western San Juans. These mountains are primarily made of crumbling rock.

From the saddle looking down in Yankee Boy Basin, this was our route up the Southwest Ridge. At this point I was feeling very good about the hike, having just made good time up from the Upper Blue Lake. I figured Class 3 couldn't be too hard, right? Or else they would have called it Class 4?

Turns out I was wrong, and Class 3 was HARD. The rock was crumbling and prone to tumbling down the mountainside, and the slopes were steep. Class 3 means some actual climbing. One portion really freaked me out and I had to take a quick breather afterwards and calm down a bit.

Then we came upon this formation, which is known as the kissing camels. I dunno if they really look like camels...

Nathan standing by the kissing camels.

The next portion of the climb was very exposed, meaning that there was a big drop off behind me at all times. At one point we came to a small portion where there was a big drop off on either side, and I hit a huge psychological barrier. For a few minutes, I wasn't even sure if I could make myself go across it -- but as Nathan pointed out, it would be a lot harder to go back than to go on. Watching four other climbers go across this portion also helped. So by crawling on my hands and knees and clinging to this rock for dear life, I made it across, and after that nothing else about the climb seemed scary.

Here's some views from the summit! Looking down to the Blue Lakes: 

Looking towards the Wilsons (other 14ers) to the right and the slopes of Telluride to the left:

Looking north, towards 13ers Potosi and Teakettle:

Above the Blue Lakes, there is another 13er, this one being Dallas Peak:

Here we are at the top.

Now, we started our descent. Here's Nathan about to go back down a Class 3 climb.

Looking down the rocky couloir towards Lavender Col:

The view from Lavender Col starting down into Blaine Basin:

The view back up the couloir:

The views descending into Blaine Basin were amazing, but descending was difficult due to shifting rocks and steep slopes.

Looking back up the descent:

Once in Blaine Basin, we found ourselves on a rock glacier that also wasn't very much fun for walking. However, there were beautiful columbines, only a little bit tattered:

This is looking back at the rock glacier:

Finally we got off the rocks and descended back below treeline. It had taken us nearly 12 hours to go 11 miles. 

There was also a beautiful aspen grove.

We fell asleep almost immediately after returning from the hike. The next morning we took some photos of Mt Sneffels from different angles and then went to Telluride. 

The addendum to this story is that three weeks later, this is what this area looks like:

No comments:

Post a Comment