Date climbed: September 26, 2014
Elevation: 14,157 Ft
Climbing Partners: Mom & dad
This being only my seventh 14er, I was a little intimidated by the reputation of Sneffels. The climbing didn't seem too intense, but the rockfall sounded horrendous. However, like it or not, it had to be done if I were to continue my journey along the 14ers.
Luckily, I grew up hiking, backpacking, and four wheeling these mountains, so my parents were eager to join. The drive up was an adventure in itself; so much so, that many of the hikers without capable vehicles had to hike the road rather than drive it.
This was one of the most beautiful basins I had explored to date. Every direction was hemmed in by rugged peaks, all of them a challenge, yet somehow calling to be climbed. At that point in time, I had no intentions of going beyond summer hiking and scrambling. Little did I know the skills and hobbies I would pick up along the way as I completed my quest to climb all of Colorado's 14ers. Of course now I look back, hoping to recover quick enough to one day climb Teakettle and ski the Snake.
The hike to the base of Lavender Couloir was a bit loose, but straightforward. In fact, the hike up the couloir itself wasn't too bad, just a bit tedious. It was the hike down that would demolish my knees. After slow but steady progress, we finally made the saddle. Both sides offered stunning views, although the route ahead looked loose and challenging.
As we began hiking up the second gully toward the summit, I was glad to have a helmet. With a half dozen climbers above us, I became a little nervous they would kick something down on us. I knew of a small path off to the left that was a little more exposed, but had a lot less overhead danger. I called out to my parents to hang left at the small notch. Once in the notch, the climbing became more difficult, but not quite as loose.
The last bit of the sneak was a little taller and required more class three moves (hand over feet) as opposed to crawling. At this point, I let my dad pass me so I could help my mom. At this point, my mom turned around, feeling that she could not make it up the small step. She opted to go back out into the gully and try from the normal notch. I was nervous to have her out of sight, but I figured she'd grown up in Colorado and would have no problems (honestly, she could've made this little scramble too).
Focusing back on the route ahead, I called out to dad from around the corner to see if the route leads to the summit. He called back that it did, and so I continued up and around. Shockingly, we were only a coupe hundred feet from the top, where we saw two other climbers waiting for us. We made quick progress across the slightly exposed face and up to the summit where the others congratulated us.
One of the hikers had recently made a trip up Wilson Peak (my parents' first 14er) and he shared a story of a crazed miner who apparently shewed him off the trail with a sawed off shotgun. To this day, I still don't understand where this hiker would have been that this would have happened, although my guess is he probably took the private road which leads into Rock of Ages (thankfully, this would not be our experience when I finished my 14ers). The second hiker had recently completed a race from Telluride over Imogene Pass into Ouray. I was intimidated by their experience, but the competitive side of me wanted to surpass their experiences. Years later, I still have my competitive side, which has probably helped me to experience some of the harder challenges found in Colorado, but I now see this competitiveness as being toward nature rather than other climbers and hikers.
After signing the summit register, down we went. Mom had still not made it up yet, so I was a little anxious to find her.
We took the standard route down, as none of the climbers we had seen above us on the way up seemed to have made it up. After a short travers across a ridge, we down climbed out of a small v-notch onto the top of the gully mom had ascended. A few hundred feet below I could see mom looking up at us, waiting for dad and I to join her. Apparently, upon arriving at this notch, mom had felt she was unable to continue, so she turned around and descended, assuming we would catch up to her.
The hike down the gully was slow, but steady. Once at the top of the Lavender Couloir, however, the descent became much tougher as the large boulders were replaced with small, marble sized rocks and dirt that would slide with every step. After falling on my butt a dozen times, I decided just to slide on my feet with my knees bent (the worst decision I could possibly make). Yes, I didn't fall anymore, but by the time I reached flat ground, my knees were screaming at me in a way I hadn't felt since my basketball days. They would be this way for about a week, and I took that lesson to heart.
Once back at the four wheelers, we saddled up, and did some more riding to finish out the day, visiting Governor Basin (where I spied Medotta Peak, now one of the top ski descents on my bucketlist). The ride out was fun and we wrapped up the day with a visit to Ouray Brewery. I was thankful to have parents who had introduced me to southwest Colorado when I was young. Looking back, this played a huge role in where I decided to go to college (Colorado Christian University), which inevitably led to my continued love for the mountains. Seven down, many more to come!