Monday, May 6, 2013

Sneffels Trip Report

(Mt. Sneffels)
"Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path." Proverbs 4:25-26.

I often chase what I most desire...I spend a lot of time pursuing what I most enjoy. Unfortunately, I can be careless in my pursuit...because above all else, my heart is deceptive. When I want something, I plow straight ahead. My heart...that is the feelings and desires I have...often dictate the path I take. This often leads me onto unsafe terrain in life, and the results are typically the same...disastrous. When I go chasing the thing things I want without regard to my surroundings (my family, my home, my relationships, and my responsibilities) and more importantly my relationship with Christ, I set my course for trouble.

Solomon tells us in Proverbs 4:23, "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." Solomon said this because he knew we needed to concentrate our desires on Truth...to keep us on the right path. To make sure our intentions lead us in the right direction...and more importantly to put boundaries on our desires, to not go after everything we see! To look ahead...keep our eyes fixed on the ultimate goal.
You see the picture above? That was my goal on this trip. That's what I had my eyes set on for the last month. That little point above...merely 80 or so feet above. I already climbed over 3000 feet ...just to get to this point. All that was left was those last 80 feet. There was nothing more I wanted in that moment. But conditions weren't great...the slope was steep, the snow had softened, I had seen imminent signs of avalanche activity in isolated terrain. I knew what I knew...and that is there was a chance nothing was going to happen. I was tempted...to the extent that I traversed a few steps onto that slope when something in my heart told me to stop. I thought of Sarah...then the girls...and the thought of them not having a daddy. And at that point, I knew my path on this day was no longer towards the summit...but back down the mountain. Back to my family, safe and sound.

I have know seen the picture above a hundred times...and each time I do, it reminds me of the boundaries I have to set for myself...in my outdoor pursuits and in my walk in Christ...Those last 80 feet are the crux of my life. Those last 80 feet will always be a reminding metaphor of my life:

That is that my life is not my own...I have to fix my eyes on what's ahead...mark a safe path...and above all else, guard my selfish heart from itself.
What: Climb Mt. Sneffels 14,150'
When: May 4, 2013
Who: Ethan (never caught last name but is epacalicious on 14ers.com), Brad Hardin, Myself

Brad and I left DFW on Thursday, May 2nd in the evening...we drove straight through the night (under 15 hours) to Telluride to traverse the Via Ferrata (Trip Report coming next). After completing the Via Ferrata, we took the scenic hour drive around to Ouray (Coolest town in Colorado) and took a dip in the Hot Springs.
(Brad enjoying the 102 degree water)
We stayed in the water and recovered in the healing waters of the Ouray Hot Springs Pool.
After the natural healing...we headed over to Ouray Brewery for much needed replenishments and vitamins:
So we nourished our healing bodies with the mountain's best energy source...microbrew! This place has awesome burgers and better beer. Drink their Brown Ale...good stinkin beer!
So after a few beers, we headed up Camp Bird Rd. to Yankee Boy Basin in the Prius...we were meeting Ethan (from Denver and fellow 14ers member) who has a 4X4 blazer and could make it all the way to the lower trail head. Camp Bird Road up to Yankee Boy Basin is an amazing drive. The road gets narrow at times with dramatic drop offs. The views are spectacular with big walls and several waterfalls...
The gate is officially open to and the road is plowed all the way up to lower TH. The road is wet and muddy, but in really good condition.
Brad and I camped at the TH and Ethan slept in his car. The TH's elevation is at 11,350'. Exactly 24 hours before, we were leaving my home at 705'...probably not the wisest move, but we were shotgunning this trip.
The night was clear...the stars were bright...the winds pleasantly calm. When we woke up, the temps dropped to 26 degrees...but it was really a nice and ideal morning.
We woke up at 4am, really 3:45...got dressed, ate breakfast and were moving up the mountain at 5am. Within a few minutes of moving...I had warmed up and was feeling pretty good.
We started out in the dark, headlamps shining...but within the first hour, enough light was in the basin that we could see the peaks above...I underestimated the first part of this hike. On the topo map...the two "little hills" on the way to upper TH do not look that steep...but they are! The road to upper TH was still snow covered so we couldn't find it in the dark...so we chose to go directly above and over. I would say this was the first mistake we made...and it slowed us down.
(me, just glad to be over the "small hill", we camped down below)
Upper TH ahead!!!
After 1.5 hours, we finally arrived to the upper TH. I admit, it took us longer than I thought. But I was glad to get there. The upper TH is a 1700' ascent and 1.75 miles from camp...I feel that if we found the road or went North around the hill, we could have shaved some time. Nonetheless...the TH sign says we are only 1.2 miles to Summit. But from where I was standing, I could not see the Summit...nor the wide gully I was supposed to climb. I started to think this 1.2 miles may not feel like your typical mile.
After leaving the upper TH, I saw several slides like the one above...seeing the recent activity in the basin always kept you alert...no matter what the avalanche conditions are (which they were low)...you never know. And in light of what has occured in the past few weeks in Colorado...I was really sensitive to every small slide. My heart goes out to all the families and friends who lost a dear one in the past few weeks. My condolences and prayers go to you all. I can't fathom.
As the sun began to rise above the mountains...Yankee Boy Basin began to look like a masterpiece painting...though my route was ahead of me, I kep turning around to look at the panorama above. At this point, I thought...if all fails, I still get to leave with this image. I win.
So we continued to head West towards the SW ridge and Blue Lakes Pass. That's Ethan above in the middle, making his way to the wide gully that doesn't come into view until you are below the ridge above. All of the colouirs you see above are known as the birthday chutes...there are some daring skiers who make their way down those bad boys.
This is a panorama of Sneffels from below the wide gully...Far left is Blue Lakes Pass, then it's the SW ridge, the Summit is above and hidden, then it drops down to a saddle with the wide gully below and then you see Kismet Mountain (13,694' to the right)
From the base of the wide gully, these are your views to the Southeast. The peak to your right is Gilpin Peak (13694' as well) You can see Ethan and Brad down below...
I took us two hours to get the base of the wide gully. We stowed our snowshoes and poles here...strapped on our crampons and got our axes ready to go. It was 7am, and we were ready for the ascent up to the saddle...
This is our new bud Ethan...real quick...just want to thank him for joining us on this trip. He was good company and a good leader, especially on the steep snow. This guy is a beast...I'm sure we slowed him down because this guy can fly up a mountain. He is a strong climber...dude is mentally tough...and has steel nerves. Bud...I hope to climb with you again and hope to see you this fall on 4 pass loop.
(Brad)
(Me in the middle of slope)
Me making my way...
Struggling
Struggling some more...
Officially sucking...from below, the Wide Gully looks easy. There's nothing too technical about it...depending where you start your official ascent, you want to go up more than a 1000' to a pass that connects you to a steepr gully named "Lavender Col" at 13,560'. Though it's not too steep...it is long!!! Don't be fooled from below...the gully is longer than it looks.
When you reach the pass above...you get your first views of the mountains looking North. You also see the base of the Lavender Col...from this point, you move up on steeper terrain.
I was getting hot...
This is the Lavender Col...from this point, the Col climbs about 500' before you reach close to the summit...
This is the same col...different perspective. When looking up...it doesn't look so long. When looking down...it feels about right.
As we continued up the Col...nearby 13ers came into view. This is the great "Teakettle off to the East...I will like to climb up there one day...
...and sit in that hole.
Another view of Gilpin. and the peaks to the South...
So here we are again...we are at near 14,070'...we couldn't climb through the V Notch since it was completely filled in with snow (sorry should have taken picture), so instead we scrambled some 15-20' to the point you see above. My heart dropped when I saw this...not because of the steepness per say...but because the 30 mintues before...the snow started softening and I even began to sink in the snow on a few step. Conditions were getting worse...and it felt more slushy by the minute. I still wanted to summit...so I started to traverse across the middle of this when I slightly sank in and my ice axe would not anchor in properly...The only other option was to take footsteps above (from a previous climber) and take the ridgeline or above...problem is, I knew from a previous trip report that what was above was more of a cornice than a ridge...and if the snow had softened, there was no way I was going to risk poking through that snow. I couldn't risk it...my heart broke. I knew my summit bid was done. I couldn't move one...I thought of my family...I thought of me sliding down this slope to death...I thought about this slab possibly sliding away and taking me with it. I just didn't like it. I had to turn away...I worked so hard for this moment. Gone.
But our boy Ethan outweighed his risks and rewards and went for it...I'm proud of him. He went up there, touched the summit, threw back a brewskie, and carefully made his way down. Congrats Ethan...you are the man!!!! You were making me nervous dude...at one point, ethan was standing on that cornice. He admitted later he didn't realize he was that close...Ethan summited at 10 a.m.
We made our way down the slush and glissaded down the wide gully...was a blast.
We grabbed our stowed gear...and snowshoed down the basin to TH. We were back down at the TH at noon. It took us 7 hours roundtrip. Hell of a day...
My tradition is to celebrate a summit with beer down back at camp...I didn't summit, but I made it back. That was reason to celebrate for me. Cheers!

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