Last Monday, I had a chat session with my buddy Chris about what to do on Saturday. My initial thought was to do the Wilson trifecta, and the OB couloir on Kit Carson as a back-up plan. After further investigation, I decided that I (and Chris, probably) was not in shape for 8,500 vertical (up and down) that the Wilson group holds, and want to save the Northern Sangres for a one-day attack later this year. It hit me like a brick on Tuesday though: Sneffels. Fairly easy snow climb up the Lavender couloir. Rappel into the Snake couloir. Super well-protected climb and decent for the predicted 80mph winds. Chris was in total agreement, and Tyler changed his plans for the weekend and sat in the jump-seat of the Ranger for the drive down Friday afternoon.
I decided to approach from Blaine Basin on the north side of the Dallas Divide for two reasons: Free camping, and no re-ascending after skiing the Snake. Unfortunately, the trail is rather difficult to negotiate at night, and we probably hiked a half-mile in the wrong direction twice before cutting our losses and deciding to get some sleep at midnight. Four hours of sleep later, we found the path to Blaine Basin, which was far from dry, and alternated post-holeing and hiking in AT boots for an hour before switching to skins.
Soon after the first transition of the day, we had more difficulties finding a trail from East Dallas Creek Road into the basin, and spent another hour or so flailing and falling on the frozen snow trying to ascend into Blaine Basin, which we finally found at about 7AM.
From Blaine Basin, Chris and I discovered the damage that snirt can do to one’s nylon skins, while Tyler finally was able to kick our butts in snowshoes for the first time ever. The Basin during sunrise is magnificent, however, and I was glad to have a camera.
After getting a good look at the bottom of the Snake, we wrapped around to the Lavender couloir for what was to be a simple, albeit fatiguing, crampon up to the ridge between Blaine Basin and Yankee Boy Basin.
About the predicted 80 mile and hour winds: Throughout the night, and throughout the hike, the winds would pick up fairly heavily, but then it would be dead-still for long periods of time that were rather reassuring. By the time we reached the top of the Lavender couloir, the alternating periods between wind and no-wind had shortened to about ten minutes without wind, and 2 minutes with (as opposed to 2 hours with/5 minutes without the night before). But, because the winds were mostly coming from the south, we found ourselves gripping our ice axes with white knuckles while laying on the snow every 5 to 10 minutes from the top of the Lavender all the way up the South Col to the summit. My camera also died at the top of the South Col, so these scenics are from the top of the Lavender.
Luckily, on the summit (and during the class 3+ climbing crux out of the South Col), the winds died down for about 20 minutes, just until it was my turn to rappel.
On the summit, I tested out the picture-taking abilities of the GoPro, and it turned out pretty well. For the rappel and ski decent, you’ll have to wait until I get the video to load on my computer, which should be soon. Until then, here we are on the summit, all happy to have checked off our first San Juan 14er, and excited for the descent soon to follow.