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Mount Sneffels via Yankee Boy Basin, CO

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Guide 17 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CO > Southwest
4.6 of 5 by 8
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance One Way 1.14 miles
Trailhead Elevation 12,460 feet
Elevation Gain 1,555 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,693 feet
Avg Time One Way 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.78
Interest Perennial Waterfall, Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
8  2016-09-19
Blue Lakes Trail #201
22  2016-09-17 xthine
21  2016-07-28 rvcarter
24  2016-07-23 friendofThunderg
20  2016-07-14 big_load
8  2014-09-12 TeamBillyGoat
8  2014-07-28
Mount Sneffels via Blue Lakes Basin
The King Reigns
31  2013-07-02 GrottoGirl
Page 1,  2
Author rvcarter
author avatar Guides 33
Routes 304
Photos 2,146
Trips 236 map ( 1,436 miles )
Age 73 Male Gender
Location tucson, az
Co-Author friendofThundergod
co-author avatarGuides 18
Routes 278
Photos 7,651
Trips 711 map (8,339 Miles)
Age 37 Male Gender
Location AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Jun, Sep → 7 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  5:54am - 6:18pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Holy Scramble Batman!
by rvcarter & friendofThundergod

Likely In-Season!
Mt. Sneffels is the 27th highest 14er in Colorado at 14,150 feet. It’s located in the San Juan Range of the Uncompahgre Forest, west of Ouray. The history of the mountain’s name is somewhat vague and subject to considerable difference of opinion, but includes one theory that is linked with the Jules Verne 1864 novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth”. Go figure, we’ll let you look into that, if interested. The usual starting points for climbing Sneffels are out of Yankee Boy Basin, but can also be reached, with a good bit more effort, from the Blue Lakes Trailhead to the north off CR 62. The most commonly used routes to reach the summit are (as named by are Mt. Sneffels - From Yankee Boy Basin and Mt. Sneffels – Southwest Ridge. The naming convention seems curious since two routes share the same trail from Yankee Boy Basin for much of the way. This description covers both approaches. The starting point for either route depends greatly on what kind of vehicle you have. Reaching the upper trailhead (12,460 feet) REQUIRES a tough 4WD vehicle (read Jeep) with high clearance. Starting at the lower trailhead (11,350 feet), commonly called the restroom TH because of the pit toilet there, is somewhat easier to reach but still requires a very study, off-road, hardened 4WD (if you have a Suburu or similar, count on parking even lower, as we did at 11,100 feet). Try to get to at least the lower TH because the tourist shuttles turnaround below this point.

What we have attempted to do here is describe both routes to the summit in one description. Hopefully this information will help the reader decide which route to attempt, but we warn you, neither is easy. The standard route is west across a boulder field, up a scree slope to a saddle, then boulder scramble to the top. classifies this route as difficult class 2 with class 3 exposure. Starting from the upper TH, the numbers are 2900 feet aeg and 6 miles RT. The Southwest Ridge route is from the saddle at Blue Lakes Pass, then north up a boulder laden and faint trail to the top. The numbers are 2950 feet aeg, and 6.5 miles with class 3 difficulty and class 3 exposure. The reader is advised to look closely at the tracks posted for the two routes to better understand the narrative below.

• Standard Route by friendofthundergod
The standard route description will start from the upper TH (Yankee Boy Basin). Remember, as stated earlier the road to the upper TH is steep and aggressive. A combination of a shorter wheel base, 4WD and high clearance is strongly recommended. The standard route is pretty straight forward, or perhaps more appropriately pretty straight up. After leaving the TH, you will travel barely three-tenths of a mile to a signed junction marking the turn-off to Mt. Sneffels. The trail will take you through a talus field and a few switchbacks before the steep ascent begins. The trail ascends almost directly up the middle of a prominent gully to a saddle, or col at about 13,600 feet. The trail up is loose, badly eroded in spots, steep and not definitively recognizable among the several paths worn through the middle of the gully. Simply choose the route that best suits you and shoot for the col. From the col, make a sharp left up the boulder strewn chute. Be aware of those above and below you during this portion and watch for dislodged rocks. If snow seems to be blocking access up the chute, one can bypass the chute by scrambling high up on the left. At the top of the chute you will make another left. Next locate the small V shaped notch that guards the final few hundred feet to the summit. Pull yourself up into the notch and then follow the pretty well cairned route to the summit. Some modest scrambling is required; however, it remains a class 2 climb to the summit. Once at the summit, return the way you came, or for a little more adventure consider a return via the class 3 route.

• Southwest Ridge Route by rvcarter
We started hiking well before the lower trailhead at about 11,100 feet. This made for a more difficult and longer day, but allowed us to take the Blue Lakes Trail through some very beautiful terrain, past Wright's Lake, and lots of flowers up to Blue Lakes Pass. After Blue Lakes Pass, the adventure begins. Looking up the ridge, it looks impossible, but as you gain elevation openings appear and you keep climbing. We got off to the left at one point (see my “up” track) and had to downclimb and go to the right. The scrambling is continuous, but the views are increasingly spectacular. There is no mystery to this climb; just keep going up and watch for the infrequent cairns. I’m not sure the track will be of great help, because one cannot scramble class 3 rock and carry a GPS in one hand. You won’t encounter a lot of people on this route, even on weekends, because of the difficulty. Once you get to the top, expect lots of other hikers reveling in their achievement, and rightfully so because either route is challenging. We went down the Standard Route. The scrambling and boulder hopping to the southeast saddle is very challenging (see above). From the saddle, the entire descent to the lower part of the boulder field is down the slipperiest slope I’ve seen in a while. This is a dangerous area and there are routes everywhere from people trying to find the best way up or down. After slip/sliding for a while, it seemed to me that it is best to stay off the scree and just boulder hop down. Kicking rocks loose is too easy, but the danger of dislodging rocks is lower among the larger boulders. You really have to watch where you are relative to people above or below you. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to wear a helmet for the entire loop and a pole may be helpful going down in the loose stuff. This route leads you to the Blue Lakes Pass connector trail, upper TH, lower TH, and to wherever you parked.

Additional Resources is a great resource Mt. Sneffels. A good paper map is the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map “Telluride, Silverton, Ouray, Lake City” #141.

Storms accompanied by lightning, are nearly a daily occurrence in mountainous Colorado. Many hikers are struck by lightning each year. The rule of thumb is to be well off the peak before noon, but you should look at weather forecasts before starting out and watch the sky while on the trail.

Mt. Sneffels is definitely not a dog friendly peak along either route. If you bring Fido, you’ll spend the majority of your time and a lot of energy lifting and carrying the dog up and down class 3 terrain. You might not even summit and may endanger yourself and your dog in the attempt.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a more difficult hike. It would be unwise to attempt this without prior experience hiking.

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This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Mount Sneffels via Yankee Boy Basin
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My wife dropped me off en-route to Ouray on the nice portion of Yankee Boy Basin Road, and I managed to hitchhike a bit further. Thanks Mick! Loads of flowers under a very warm and sunny sky as I walked up the road portion. The scree slope on the way to the saddle was not as bad as I had remembered, mostly because I stuck to the boulders on the west side. Watched rockfall from the southwest ridge from hikers; looked a bit sketchy where they were at. Their dislodged boulders looked like bombs going off as they hit a snow patch below.

Felt great to get out of the wind going up the almost snow-free Lavender Col/standard route. Ran into a few others coming down in that area. The V-notch was more intimidating than I had remembered. I had read online that the bottom step had rolled off the mountain or something in recent years. I’m not a climber, class 3 is my comfort limit, so I ended up wedging a new rock step into a strategic spot halfway up the V-notch for my own peace of mind. Much better after that. Made the summit a few minutes later, and had the place to myself.

As I descended, smoke from the 416 Fire changed direction and began to envelop the entire area, turning the sun deep orange, and at one point, blocking it out entirely. An invisible marmot whistled at me from Blue Lakes Trail, and the wind nearly knocked me down a few times. Enjoyed shooting some wildflower photos along the road through Yankee Boy. Struck up a conversation with a fellow hiker on the road, and hitched a ride a second time back to my waiting wife at the Imogene Pass junction. Had dinner in Ouray and spent some time soaking in the hot springs there. Great day, and great to visit old Sneffleupagus again!
Mount Sneffels via Yankee Boy Basin
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Outstanding hike through lush wildflowers, fantastic rock formations and over diverse and sometimes very difficult trails. We went up the Southwest Ridge and came down the standard route. The Southwest Ridge is an adventure because of the constant scrambling up and down all the way to the top. The way down is also a challenging scramble and the slip and slide down the loose scree will not be quickly forgotten. We parked pretty far down the road, so don't use my statistics for a start at the lower trialhead. However, even if you start from the upper trailhead, this is not a hike to be taken lightly. Espect a full day and have some ibuprophen ready when you get back to your car.

The views are incredible in every direction. I would like to hike up from East Dallas sometime along the beautiful Blue Lakes. From the top, you can see the ski slopes at Telluride. Highly recommend this 14er, but it is second most difficult one of the 13 I have done (right after Long's Peak). Eat your wheaties.
Mount Sneffels via Yankee Boy Basin
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This amazing little wilderness area was our final stop in our short car camping tour of Colorado. I knew zero about the area, but came across it while buying some fuel at a sportsman store in Gunnison. We were looking at Nat Geo maps for Colorado and searching for ideas of what to do next when we noticed a map for the funny sounding wilderness area. Intrigued by the name and area, we bought the map on the spot and made that our final destination.

However, getting there was a small adventure. From a quick glance at the map it appeared Telluride was the nearest town to Mount Sneffles, so we plugged the mountain town into google maps and were on our way. Telluride did prove to be the closest town to Mount Sneffles, in fact, it is only 4.5 miles from the summit as the crow flies. Unfortunately, there is no real vehicle access from Telluride and we found ourselves on the complete opposite side of the mountain range and two hours from Ouray the town that Sneffles is reached from. Telluride ended up being a cool detour and I would recommend a visit to the town if in the area, however, it did add a couple hours to our drive, but all we could do was laugh at our error.

Despite silent objections and a little stress from the passenger, we were able to make it all the way to the top TH of Yankee Boy Basin. In my passenger's defense, the road up may have been one of the most aggressive and difficult roads I have driven, but the reward was an amazing car camping spot at 12,200 feet. I could not get over it, I had driven up to and we were camping at an elevation of just a few hundred feet below Humphreys! We enjoyed a simply amazing night on the tundra and woke up early the next day for an attempt at Sneffles and possibly a trip down to the Blue Lakes afterwards.

The first thing we noticed was the sign at the TH saying the peak was not dog friendly. We decided we would play it by ear, not knowing that it would be the snow that would end up being our biggest obstacle to the summit. Other than flipping open a map, I really did zero research on this one. Nevertheless, we continued on to the short but extremely steep climb to the saddle (13,600 feet) that offers the final route up Sneffles. The dogs did just fine for this part, but I knew it was the final chute that would prove to be the most difficult, so I was not getting overly excited about reaching the summit. About half way up, I passed two guys wearing helmets, carrying ice axes and traction. Both asked me if I had any traction or poles. I said yes on poles, but they are in the car and no on traction. The one guy laughed and said well there is a 35 yard snow field that needs to be negotiated to reach the summit and its "bullet proof" hard. He said I might be able to make it, but others were turning around.

When I reached the saddle, I was surprised to see it was as bad looking and as nasty as the guy had described. I told Jackie it probably was not for her and definitely not for the dogs, but I was giving it a shot. So armed with a stick and about a 15 inch piece of pointed wood that I had found by the pure luck on the way up I took off up the boulder strewn chute to the snow field guarding the top. I met a girl who dejected explained that her boyfriend had turned her around and told her she was not going up. I told her that I was not in the habit of climbing up to 13,900 feet and turning around and they were welcome to share my sticks and follow me. The boyfriend said no way and started making his way down, but surprisingly she was game. I started kicking out one icy foothold after another and switching off with our "ice" sticks until we finally cleared the field. For future reference it takes like ten kicks to carve out a good foothold in "bullet proof" snow and this was a very tiring process. But we made it and after a borderline class three scramble and a wrong turn we were on the top! I know I sound redundant, but amazing views yet again. The views coupled with the challenge in making it to the top, immediately vaulted this one to the top of my short 14er list. Number nine on the trip and perhaps the best. From the summit, it was clear why the poor girl wanted to make it to the top so badly, she had her own sign made and everything, so we took a couple photos for each other and headed back down. Although, she was a little disappointed because her boyfriend was carrying their two summit brews, oops.

There was a little more traffic in the chute on our way back and a ray of sunlight was now on the snow, making it much more manageable. However, the majority of hikers were still wearing traction or carrying an ax, or poles at the very least. I found a nice run along the wall of the chute and threw the sticks back to my new summit partner and did not see her again. Jackie was with the BF and I told her his girl made it, which did not surprise him, but he had no regrets not going up. Jackie was a little disappointed, but I put it into perspective for her. I said at the end of the day, you still climbed a thousand feet higher than anyone in the state of Arizona can climb today and that there was no shame in hanging out at 13,600 while I finish off a peak. She liked the little analogy and we both headed down pretty satisfied with the first hike of our day.

From the summit, I could very clearly see the amazing Blue Lakes that were just a name on our map the day before. I knew right there, that we had to go see them and that is where we headed after slipping and sliding down the chute that served as the main route to the saddle.

The Blue Lakes were absolutely amazing and the views heading down into them almost other-worldy. Other than the additional AEG we enjoyed the area thoroughly and it certainly lived up to some of the hype we had read about the area after the fact. For example, some consider Mount Sneffles to be the most beautiful mountain in Colorado and it is perhaps its most photographed. There was also a reference to Mount Sneffles belonging to a stretch of the San Juan mountains that is sometimes referred to as America's Switzerland. I have never been to Switzerland, but I can attest to it being one of the most scenic areas I have visited and probably equal to some areas in the Sierra Nevada. Just an amazing area and a great cap to my three weeks in Colorado.

Our only regret was not making it down to the final Blue Lake, which from the summit was clearly the most picturesque, but it simply was not in the cards. I had already led Jackie and the dogs up to a nearly 14,000 foot saddle only to drop down them down two thousand feet so they can make another climb to the 12,900 feet Blue Lakes Pass, this was followed by another 2000 foot drop to the first of the three Blue Lakes that would inevitably be followed by an eventual climb out. Not daring to suggest we drop a few more hundred feet and another mile, or so to the final Blue Lake, we headed back after a picture perfect lunch along the lake with the pups.

The climb out was not that and we were happy to make it back to the car after maybe the toughest little six mile hike I have did in awhile. From the car it was the nerve racking trip back down the old mining road to semi-decent road and eventually the very scenic 550 all the way to Durango.

Simply put....a flower lovers paradise above the treeline..
Mount Sneffels via Yankee Boy Basin
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Mount Sneffels via Blue Lakes Basin
We wanted to summit a 14er. Colorado rules say you have to climb more than 3,000 ft gain to be considered a summit. So we camped at Blue Lakes trailhead. Everything we had heard about this place was spot on, it was gorgeous. The Blue Lakes trail was an amazing hike and I would recommend it to anyone. Summiting Mount Sneffels was a great reward. The skree field on our way up Sneffels made things interesting. It was the only part of the hike/climb that was not enjoyable. My friend slid about 40-50 yards down the skree field uncontrolled but escaped without injury. The walk back down Blue Lakes trail was a little rough due to tired feet. The hike overall was amazing!
Mount Sneffels via Yankee Boy Basin
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we started at the second parking lot and about 20 mins into our hike we were able to catch a ride to the third trail head .the trail starts off really easy to follow but once you get half way up the scree slope there is no trail and you just try and fined the best route with the fewest loose rocks . once you reach the saddle you turn left and head up a steep scree chute that at the time still had some snow left in it . once I hit the snow the elevation was really starting to get to me I made it about 30 feet up the snow be for I lost my footing and slide back to the rocks at this point I decided to turn around be for I hurt my self.

Permit $$

Map Drive
Strictly 4x4

To hike
From Ouray, Colorado, go west on CO 351 (turns into 853, also known as Camp Bird Road) for about 4 miles into Yankee Boy Basin. About 1 mile past Camp Bird, turn right onto the narrower 853.1B. 831 continues along Imogene Creek and eventually over Imogene Pass to Telluride. Continue on 853.1B another 5-6 miles (or as far as you can go in your vehicle) to the upper Sneffels trailhead.
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