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Mt. Sneffels Birthday Chutes. 5.26.08

Mt Sneffels. 14,150′

There are a number of different fourteeners that I don’t mind re-doing at all to help Brittany reach her goal of skiing all of them as well. Sneffels, with its’ great access and multitude of terrific routes, is one of them. It also helps that it’s only a couple of hours away.

With a little bit of new snow last week, we were hoping that the North facing Snake couloir would be holding powder. We also knew that road crews had been working to get the road open high into Yankee Boy basin, making for a relatively short day. So we headed that way Sunday afternoon. Sneffels, from outside Montrose:

Then we made our way through spectacular Ouray:

Onward through the freshly cleared road:

To the end of the road, where we camped in my truck:

There was a slight bit of snow on the road:

Unfortunately, neither of us slept well, partially because the truck was constantly buffeted by high winds. When the alarm went off, the clouds above seemed to be racing by at 100mph, and the wind on the ground didn’t seem much better. Oh well, we’ll give it a go anyway, we thought.

Skinning up Yankee Boy:

The clouds were putting on a good show over Teakettle and Potosi, however:

We decided to climb the standard Lavender col route. The col is named for Dwight Lavender. Born in Telluride c. 1911, Lavender is credited with a number of first ascents in the San Juans, including the first ascent of the Snake couloir in 1932. He was considered the driving force of the San Juan Mountaineers, which put up tons of new routes in the San Juans between 1929 and 1936. He graduated from Stanford, where he manufactured the United States’ first piton. Sadly, at the age of 23, he died of polio. (Info from “Roof of the Rockies” by William M Bueler)

The wind was fierce and I was literally blown to the ground a couple of times.

This rock step is the crux of the route, and the wind certainly made it more interesting:


We looked down into the Snake and saw some tracks from a day or two earlier. Combined with the relentless wind which was making for a less than ideal situation, we decided to ski the S facing Birthday chutes instead of rappelling into the Snake. Besides, I had already skied the Snake and skiing the Birthday chutes might be deemed more legit in terms of my completed 14er project in somebody’s eyes. Looking down into the Snake:

The clouds and wind hadn’t allowed the Birthday couloirs to soften much, but they were still fun. Brittany:

And a few of me:

Skiing the apron, with the birthday chutes above:

All in all, not the greatest conditions, but the nice part was that we were done in just over 4 hours. That was certainly a welcome change from the typical 12 hours or more that many fourteeners take.

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