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Blue Lakes Trail to Blue Lakes Pass - 5 members in 4 triplogs have rated this an average 3.8 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Jul 23 2016
friendofThunde
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 Guides 16
 Routes 271
 Photos 7,496
 Triplogs 694

36 male
 Joined Jan 21 2013
 AZ
Mount Sneffels via Yankee Boy BasinSouthwest, CO
Southwest, CO
Hiking avatar Jul 23 2016
friendofThundergod
Hiking6.52 Miles 3,571 AEG
Hiking6.52 Miles   6 Hrs   23 Mns   1.36 mph
3,571 ft AEG   1 Hour   36 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
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.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Extreme
Simply put....a flower lovers paradise above the treeline..
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5 archives
Aug 15 2012
CannondaleKid
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 Guides 43
 Routes 135
 Photos 20,157
 Triplogs 1,837

69 male
 Joined May 04 2004
 Mesa, AZ
Blue Lakes Trail to Blue Lakes PassWest, CO
West, CO
Hiking avatar Aug 15 2012
CannondaleKid
Hiking2.60 Miles 724 AEG
Hiking2.60 Miles   2 Hrs   17 Mns   1.49 mph
724 ft AEG      32 Mns Break20 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners partners
trixiec
With too much to do in too little time, we cheated just a little. Instead of starting at the Blue Lakes Trailhead we continued driving up the very steep and rocky road to the Mount Sneffels Trailhead, saving about .7 mi of hiking and almost 700' more elevation gain.

The first part of the Mount Sneffels Trail was a moderate climb but the loose 3-4" rocks required us to plan every step. When the Mount Sneffels Trail started it's climb to the peak we continued on to connect with the Blue Lakes Trail. AS we began the climb up to Blue Lakes Pass we passed a trio of backpackers at a point it appeared there were two possible trails up. Tracey and I started up the shorter, steeper one but realized within 30' that the terrain was too loose to continue so we dropped back down and continued the longer but safer route up.

As we neared the top there seemed to be trails every which way. While we were tempted to try what looked like short-cuts, after our previous experience we stuck with the more sane route.

At the pass we met another group who were headed up to Mount Sneffels from the Blue Lakes side. Although we had planned on hiking over the pass, down to Blue Lakes and back up, once we saw the roughly 2000' drop to the lower lake, we knew this just wasn't gonna happen today. So we opted to descend a few switchbacks then climb back up and head back. And in the end, it was a good thing because we had plenty more adventures in store for the rest of the day.

I posted 40 photos here on HAZ, the full set of 52 photos is here:
http://changephoenix.com/jpserver/web/public/album.php?id=198
Fauna
Fauna
Pika (American)
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CannondaleKid
Jul 21 2011
skatchkins
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 Guides 2
 Routes 22
 Photos 3,114
 Triplogs 210

41 male
 Joined Dec 22 2007
 Mesa, AZ
Blue Lakes Trail to Blue Lakes PassWest, CO
West, CO
Hiking avatar Jul 21 2011
skatchkins
Hiking2.60 Miles 1,500 AEG
Hiking2.60 Miles
1,500 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners partners
bigredjeepchick
Hands down the best trip of the trip.

I really tried to squeeze everything I could into our 1 week CO trip leading 15 of my friends and their 8 vehicles. Each day was planned out by the hour. Thursday was no exception and after we competed Imogene (one Jeep pretty much without a transmission), we ate a late lunch on Yankee Boy, then had the non-hikers drop off the whittled 4 of us at the end of the road. I chose the Blue Lakes Area as our second backpacking leg of the trip for its documented photo beauty. I also used the "highly rated" Ouray Hiking Guide by Kelvin Kent. I personally don't recommend the book. Almost all his listed trails contain no maps (and I love maps); he'd rather fill up the page with directional words.

I couldn't find tracks for the hike so to play it safe, I drew over the mostly visible hiking path in Google Earth, saved it, converted it, and loaded it up on the GPS. I was worried about being on the 13,000" pass too late or if there was any bad weather looming around, but we began with what I thought was enough time to make it to my proposed camp spot on Lower Blue Lake.

We made decent time on the way up. We ran into 5-6 snow patches we had to hike on top of.
When we reached the pass, the freezing wind tearing over it kept us from dallying too long. It also began to sprinkle which really worried me now that I saw the path down that we were up against. 1200" feet of elevation in .8 miles of one foot in front of the other switchbacks of loose scree awaited us. It was a bit unnerving at times. Every time I looked through my camera view finder for a quick pic, it took me a little while after to regain my bearings and balance. If you slip at all here, the bad news is you won't make it back to where you fell- the good news is that perhaps you'll be able to stop yourself on the next switchback below you. Needless to say we buddied up and took our time. At a couple spots we actually had to anticipate slippage and hike a few feet higher than the trail to ensure we landed back on it.

You could clearly see where the rocky switchbacks ended and the 10 green switchbacks began near the hill bottom. The perception problem was that we were so high up we kept asking aloud, why are those switchbacks even there, surely you can just cut across them- the zig-zag looked to be only on a horizontal plane from or viewpoint.

We joyously reached the green to find three things, the switchbacks were still very much needed, the ground was finally stable, and this section offered the best wildflowers we had seen on the entire trip (much better than touristy American Basin).

We continued on snapping pics along the way, passing by the big Upper Blue Lakes that had seemed puddle sized from the pass. As we began the decent to the lower basin we scared up a deer and then our breath left us as we saw Lower Blue Lake. It was wildly the most beautiful view yet. Every photo of it looks faked, every color incomprehensible. On the way down we saw the second best wildflowers of the trip on the switchbacks overlooking the lake there. We crossed a few streams and reached the waters edge and began looking to set up camp. Jonathan scouted then reported the best spots were on the west side of the lake but they were all taken so we set up shop in a nice spot with no neighbors near the north shore. It is a wilderness so there was no fire that night.

Before it began to get dark, Jonathan and Dana cleaned up a bit in the creek but something got a hold of me and I set my sights on the lake itself. Without thinking too much I stripped down to my skivs and ran and jumped in the water to the astonishment of the few nature lookers on the other shore. I used some camp soap and then jumped back in a couple more times for good measure. 100x better than coffee :)

The next morning, I woke early and hiked back up to the upper lakes and then lay near the trout filled lake stream outlet and awaited the sun. As soon as it came into view the layers came off and it was t-shirt weather again. I stuck around for a little while then came back down just in time to put the pack back on for our exit. We left via the trail that comes in from the north on CR 7 to meet up at 1:00 with a couple of the Jeeps that would take us back into town.

This route was much easier but the views weren't anything to shout about. Mostly 3.25 miles of shaded forest on a gradual decline. Where we saw so one on the Pass hike, we saw tons of people coming up against us. This path is the easy way in for sure.

We made it back to the Jeep pick-up, then back to the whole group and on to the Hot Springs in Ouray.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Extreme
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May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;
Armchair Crisis Design
1 archive
Jul 15 2007
Grasshopper
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 Guides 41
 Routes 453
 Photos 7,938
 Triplogs 497

73 male
 Joined Dec 28 2006
 Scottsdale, AZ
Blue Lakes Trail to Blue Lakes PassWest, CO
West, CO
Hiking avatar Jul 15 2007
Grasshopper
Hiking6.40 Miles 2,342 AEG
Hiking6.40 Miles   4 Hrs   45 Mns   1.60 mph
2,342 ft AEG      45 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
It's just too pumpkin :sweat: HOT :sweat: this week for me to "Hike AZ", so I have decided to reminisce back to July'07, my 8 hiking days in Western Colorado (the Ouray and Telluride areas) at 9600' to 13k') :D


Overview this hike(day#2): From Ouray, CO, in July the drive into Yankee Boy Basin and/or hike to Blue Lakes Pass at 13,000ft (or beyond to Blue Lakes) is a solid "five star" adventure and not to be missed if spending a few days in the Ouray, CO area;

July wildflowers, waterfalls, perennial creeks, and stellar near and distant views of this section of the Uncompahgre Wilderness high peaks is a must see experience;
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Extreme
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(Outside.. "there is No Place Like It!!")
average hiking speed 1.48 mph

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.

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