Easy day on the Snave
In the mixed pursuits of bagging 14ers and venturing up lesser but more technical Colorado peaks, I thought the Snave route up Mt. Evans would be an exciting way to check one of the less exciting summits off my list. Without friends nearby willing to accompany me, I apprehensively bit the bullet and decided to go it alone.
The trailhead for this route is at 12,850, which means that all of your "approach" is done on a long paved road beginning in Idaho Springs. I felt a bit guilty about this, as if cheating the rules of officially bagging a 14er. Oh well. I was also dismayed to pay a $10 daily access fee to the forest service for road and facility maintenance, but reluctantly forked it out.(As of June 31st, 2007, they still charge you to access the area by motor vehicle.)
Anyhow, once at the trailhead, it is perhaps a mile to the summit, making it one of the shortest and most direct routes on any Colorado 14er I've encountered. The hike/mild scramble to the final couloir is straightforward, routefinding is easy, and I was nearing the final pitch within an hour. Even in late June, there was a reasonable amount of snow on the route (which stayed cold and hard in the morning shade of the north face), so an axe is definitely recommended for the upper 300 feet. I also found crampons to be helpful, but not mandatory. As for the final pitch of rock scrambling, I was a bit apprehensive after reading descriptions of 4+/low 5th class terrain, but found these assessments to be a bit exaggerating. I would rate the last pitch of rock following the snowy couloir to be low 4th class at most, and it is only about 50 feet long. Though only 5'9'', I never called upon my axe to reach distant rock holds, nor did I use it at all on the final dry pitch. In truth, I was a little disappointed to have reached the summit so quickly after expecting much greater and committing climbing to finish. From car to summit took about an hour and twenty minutes. That being said, this is one of the more entertaining routes on a mellow peak that offers primarily class 2 trail slogs, and I didn't see anyone else on it all day.
In summary, the Snave is easier than it looks, even if it appears daunting from the parking lot. I understand that opinions vary on technical route difficulty, but I am hesitant to rate this as a 4th class climb, let alone low 5th. Leave your rope at home, and if you're a reasonably comfortable high-altitude scrambler, you'll have no problems with this at all. Enjoy..
June 31st, 2007