Both of my parents have always told me stories about their time in Ouray. My dad (SP Member Aaron Johnson) wrote an entire album based on the area. I never really understood what all the fuss was about. Why drive for 5 ½ hours just to see some more mountains? We have tons of mountains right in our own back yard! What could be better? On Thursday August 3, 2006, I found out just what all the fuss was about.
I have wanted to climb Sneffels and Wetterhorn since I started climbing. But, my dad’s watchful eyes told us both that I wasn’t ready. After a lot of work and planning, we were able to set up the trip for the first weekend in August with some others from our IU hiking club. We left Denver at 4:00pm on Wednesday and it was dark when we rolled into Ridgway around 10:30. We had to be up at 4:00am to do Sneffels! Worried, neither my dad nor I slept very well that night.
We met Colin, Randy and Sharon in the hotel lobby at 4:30 and were on our way up Yankee Boy Basin in no time! It was still dark when the views would have come into sight. By the time the sun came up, I was in AWE of the mighty San Juan Mountains! Crisp, clean air filled my lungs as I laced up my boots and took it all in…
We started hiking around 6:00. The plan was to climb up the south West Ridge and down the standard route. We were moving at a great pace when the climbing started. The next 1.5 hours were 1 ½ of the funnest hours I have ever had! It was magnificent! The views were unbelievable, and the climbing was top-of-the line, as far as I was concerned. It was my first day of my first trip to the San Juans, and I was on cloud 9. When we reached the summit, my dad and I shared a hug and a sandwich. Peanut Butter and jelly hadn’t tasted that good since the day I climbed the Citadel! I reveled in the beauty of the area, shot a roll of film, and we were on our way back to the car. On the way down, we ran into SP member Skorpio, who was on his way up the standard route. We descended leisurely and enjoyed the San Juan weather. I knew that it was monsoon season, and expected less. The PTB were really smiling on us. Here is our summit shot:
On Friday, we toured the area and took pictures. We shopped in Ouray, drove the million dollar highway, visited lots of falls and ate like piggies. We visited Mineral Falls (shown below), which was amazing!
We were planning on taking Engineer pass from Silverton to Lake City. While in Silverton, however, the rain started pouring! We ended up taking the highway all the way around. My dad was worried about the rain for our ascent of Wetterhorn on Saturday, but we all stayed positive as we went to bed.
Again, we woke up at butt-ugly o’clock on Saturday morning. It was dark most of the ay to the Matterhorn Creek trailhead. When the sun did come out, we saw that the sky was filled with clouds and drizzle. We marched on toward the mountain, in hopes that it wasn’t raining on the rocks. If it was, we would have to turn around. None of us wanted to risk our butts for the summit. It ended up staying relatively dry. We got to the summit, and were able to see nothing. I mean nothing – A BIG FAT ZERO! It was clouds all around us. Oh well, I figure I’ll go back anyway.
Sunday, we ate lunch, drove up Engineer Pass then parted ways with Randy and Sharon. They were climbing Goldenhorn on Monday. We were going back to work.
On the way home, we listened to my dad’s CD, San Juan Stories. I now understand how/why it was so easy for him to write the album. The San Juans filled me with a natural high and motivation. The mountains are muses to lots of people, I’m sure. To me and my dad, it is a very special place. And this trip will always have a place…
Thank you daddy!
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