Teakettle Mountain is an often seen, seldom climbed sort of peak. Teakettle is easily seen from the summit of Mount Sneffels and its distinctive summit block lends the mountain its name. Complete with an almost perfectly circular handle to a wonderful little spout (which has been shortened due to rockfall). Teakettle is dwarfed and neglected by the nearby Mount Sneffels, yet the summit of Teakettle is one of the most distinctive in Colorado and should not be missed. Precipices lie on three sides and the summit is much like a table both in size and flatness making it the perfect location for a pleasant tea party!
Unfortunately, Teakettle's incredible summit is flanked by the typical loose volcanic rock which characterizes much of the San Juan Range. The work is tedious to get there, but the payoffs are immeasurable: A view down into stunning Yankee Boy Basin and to the regal queen of the area: Mount Sneffels.
From Denver, drive to Montrose which takes about 5 hours. At the junction with US Highways 50 and 550 in the center of town, continue south for 47 miles on Highway 550 to Ouray.
YANKEE BOY BASIN ACCESS
Continuing south from Ouray on the highway, continue up and around the first major switchback and turn right into County Road 361 with signs for Yankee Boy Basin. Head up this steep but well-graded road for 6.5 miles and stay right at the Camp Bird road junction. Winter maintenance usually ends here. The steep cliffs and shelf section are spectacular yet scary for some people. There is a short stretch of shelf road just past the Camp Bird junction that was carved into the cliffside during the mining days. In the spring a waterfall often cascades over the road here making for a real sight to see and one strange drive! This dramatic stretch is just wide enough for one vehicle. Consider the road's condition and your comfort before proceeding.
It is a good idea to have 4WD beyond the Camp Bird entrance. In my experience driving this road, 2WD cars get held up on a fairly steep and loose section just before the dramatic shelf. All-wheel drive cars or passenger cars with decent clearance can make the road up into Yankee Boy Basin when dry. Pass the Imogene Pass junction and at 10,800 feet, the Governor Basin Road heads off to the left (at a large mine). A high clearance 4WD vehicle is required beyond this point. I was able to get my Toyota Camry this far in 2012. With a 4WD, continue and up to the right at the Governor Basin junction and park at the vault toilet facility 0.8 miles past the Governor Basin junction at 11,300 feet. At this small bathroom there is room for many vehicles and this is probably the most popular parking spot. Although a rougher road continues into the upper Yankee Boy Basin, park here for Teakettle Mountain.
2012 Update: The Yankee Boy basin Road will open May 1st each year from this point forward...regardless of whether it's clear of snow or not. Prior to this date, the road is closed at the gate at 9,100 feet elevation.
See the Southeast Ridge route page for a great description of the standard route up the mountain!
A fee system for access to Yankee Boy Basin was in place until recently, when it came under fire from various opponents and proved publicly and politically unpopular. Thanks to local communities, this fee system has been lifted.
From a Rocky Mountain News Article:
ATTENTION COLORADO RESIDENTS - Scott McInnis has now withdrawn support of a fee program. Representative Dianna DeGette opposes the fee program. Senator Wayne Allard no longer supports a fee program (according to the paraphrased Rocky Mountain News article above). Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell opposes a fee program.
Please keep this pristine area open and free for all to enjoy and practice "Leave No Trace" policies. Pack out trash and build campfires only in designated sites. Camping is only allowed in designated campgrounds along the Yankee Boy Basin Road. Respect private property signs and don't be that guy who ruins it for everyone!
This is a frequent avalanche slide area. Check here for an avalanche forecast
Since 2001, camping in Canyon Creek (the road/drainage you drive up to reach Yankee Boy Basin from Ouray) has been in designated sites only. There are 3 camping areas. Listed from lower down the road to the highest, they are Angel Creek, Thistledown, and Atlas. Atlas is near tree-line and only 2 miles or so from the highest Sneffels trailhead. Camping in these sites does cost $10 but isn't worth it in my opinion. These sites do not guarantee anything, don't have water or a table, however, there is a fire ring and porta-potty facility.
For more developed camping for those with families or ones that need all the bells and whistles, go to the USFS Ampitheater Campground. It is close enough to provide good access to Mount Sneffels. This campground has hosts, tables, clean bathrooms, firewood and it's located only a few minutes from Ouray where you can satisfy your hunger before embarking on a climb.
Mount Sneffels Wilderness
Gerry Roach's Colorado 13ers book is essentially the bible for climbing the high 13ers in Colorado.