Intro and Route Stats Mountains: Gilpin Peak (13,694’) and Mt. Sneffels (14,156’)
Route: Started at the campsite (~11500’) at YBB. Traversed around Wrights’ Lake and cut across to Gilpin’s NW ridge from below blue lakes pass… summitted and descended to camp by 11AM on account of weather... set out for Sneffels’ SW ridge at 1:30PM after the first round of storm clouds cleared out… descended the standard route via Lavender col back to camp.
Crew: Jamie, Jon, Mike, Prakash
Elevation Gain ~4900’ gained (approx):
After swimming up two outstanding YBB piles of choss on day 1, we regrouped at the restrooms and moved our camp up to a neat spot at ~11,500’. We packed crampons and axes although we found that it is currently possible to complete the standard route without having to use spikes. We ate an early dinner, fooled around for a while and hit the hay with plans for a 6AM start.
We were on the trail shortly after 6AM and made good time up the Wrights’ Lake trail… Here’s a shot of our objective. The North couloir splitting the two prominent looking summits in this picture has made it to the bucket list. A report I’ve seen on the net somewhere claims that it tops out at 70 degrees somewhere in the couloir…
Gilpin Peak with view of N. Couloir
Mike and I followed a climbers trail approximated by the blue trace up to the ridge while Jon and Jamie strapped crampons on and used the red variation for a short while. Both alternatives are fun in a sick kind of way.
Gilpin Peak - NW Ridge
Here’s a closer look at the ridge from the saddle…
Gilpin from the Saddle
The snow was pretty soft as expected. Mike and I traversed just below the rock, using rock handholds while stepping across the snow. The holds were seldom solid however.
Working towards the summit ridge
Grandeur across the valley… Potosi’s N. Couloir must be climbed someday.
Ball-bearings strewn over slabs of San Juan junk…
Loose San Juan Junk
The view of the Blue Lakes basin was a fine reward for mastering the difficulties on the ridge.
Blue Lakes basin from Gilpin's NW Ridge
Here’s some beta on Dallas…
This last portion prior to gaining the summit ridge was a little sketchy with ludicrously loose junk covered casually by melting snow and ice.
Loose Junk + Unconsolidated snow
Here’s a quick snow conditions report for the T-ride ski resort…
T-ride snow report
This monstrosity’s SW ridge was itching to be climbed again in the near future…
We endorsed the following very fine product vociferously from the summit. Please support Chris' private schooling.
Here's your buttscratcher here...
We connected sweet glissades and boot skiing on the way down… some butt-scratching was demonstrated here thanks to all the loose choss we dislodged over the snow slope.
A storm system started moving in from the direction of the Wilsons and we decided to scrap Sneffels for the day and head back down to camp. A few rain drops were all that came out of it.
... and back again.
Down at camp we got into sandals, whipped out the beers and began eating a pretty leisurely lunch while the weather proceeded to clear out completely. In minutes we were faced with bluebird conditions. A small amount of persuasion convinced everyone that attempting the SW ridge on Sneffels then and there would be a fantastic idea since there was so much daylight left. At 1:30PM we left camp again with a fresh objective. We arrived at blue lakes pass at about 2:20PM and assessed the weather for a while… Jon and Jamie had to turn around here unfortunately to tend to Jon’s eyes. The clouds were building again but we looked at them for a while and noticed that the wind was blowing the tops off the thunderheads and also blowing them off past Sneffels. Mike and I decided to go for it and started moving quickly up the ridge with no more picture breaks until the notch.
Looking down from the notch
There’s a very short moderately steep snowy down-climb to the first cairn past the notch. I down-climbed rock to the cairn without crampons… Mike opted to fish his axe / spikes out and descend the snow.
Descending from the notch
… put your right leg in and shake it all about…
Here’s looking down the gully. Don’t bother going all the way down it…
Looking down the gully leading to the notch
Slingshot about the cairn and go up an adjacent branch of this gully which (the lower half of which is also snow covered currently) leads you to the ridge crest.
Rocky gully leading to the ridge crest 1
Rocky gully leading to the ridge crest 2
The ridge crest is neat class 3 scrambling on solid rock atypical of the San Juan. Be wary that there is some loose stuff if you wander away from the crest. We summitted a few minutes after 4PM and met another group of 3 there who had ascended the standard route. Ramen was brewed with the last few remaining drops of gas left in my last canister. A decent number of people seem to climb Sneffels for their first 14er.
Sneffels Summit Register
The weather was great and we didn’t leave the summit until shortly before 5. The descent was pretty straightforward plunge-stepping down to lavender col and some fun scree skiing thereafter. We took the Wrights’ Lake trail back to camp by 6PM.
At the end of a given day the only feeling that beats having climbed a mountain is having climbed two. We drove down to Ouray to meet Jon and Jamie for dinner and watch the 4th of July parade and fireworks show. Getting out of town was as big a cluster as I imagined it would be, but the parade and the fireworks were worth the trouble.
Fireworks Display - Ouray