We met a gentleman who had summited Mt. Sneffels many times over a 60 year period having started with the San Juan Mountaineers. He explained that the geology of this mountain is such that the couloirs run up one side and down the other. The veins/weaknesses run all the way through the mountain. During summit trips on several routes we observed this to be so and wondered about the couloir that would be the other side of the DogLeg north face route. After glassing this part of the mountain from the highway 62 below Dallas Divide and other vantage points my son David and I decided to explore and see if we could find it.
We parked at the standard route trailhead, reaching Blue Lakes Pass early and began our traverse around to the north. In a little over an hour into the traverse we’d gained a few hundred feet to cross the man eating scree field immediately below the cliff band and dropped several hundred feet to cross a large scree bowl to come within sight of the couloir. It turned out to be cool and inviting, narrow tall walled, steep, mostly good footing, relatively good rock and gradually curving up out of sight. After an hour or so on, we were at the DogLeg looking down a thousand feet of ice into Blaine basin. Looking up to 500 feet of ice in the couloir above and an inviting ledge system on the right shoulder of the couloir above. We followed the ledge system to the ridge, joining the standard route and on 300 feet to the summit. Later returning via the standard route.
The traverse is mostly 2nd class and the couloirs are mostly 3rd class with a few moves of 4th class. The upper couloir especially has several sections of loose rock wall. We were continually aware not to pull a refrigerator size rock down on ourselves-literally!! The trip from car to summit is probably about 4 to 5 hours. We took a couple hours longer as we were enjoying the sights and had not actually planned to summit. The weather was excellent and everything seemed to invite us on.
It was a magical feeling of being in effect lead up the mythical north Face of Mt. Sneffels in our jogging shoes. Especially after the previous trip, 3am alpine start to hike the seven miles and climb the 1000 feet of ice to reach the Dog Leg before the rock fall starts at 10am.
This is one of the days that when filled in with the depth of feelings comradery, connection and beauty, answers the uninitiated persons question of ” why would you want to climb a mountain?”