Summiting Sneffels

Marijuana may be legal in Colorado, but there’s no high that compares to standing 14,150 feet in the air.

Just west of the city of Ouray lies the picturesque Sneffels Range, its silhouette features jagged tips that stretch for miles in the San Juan Mountains. The most prominent peak of the range is Mt. Sneffels, Colorado’s 27th highest “14er” and the highest point in Ouray County.

After a year and a half of talking about it, and one failed attempt, I finally made it to the summit.

My second journey up the mountain began at an ungodly hour on Saturday morning. Too eager and anxious, I barely slept the night before and didn’t bother eating breakfast the morning of (something I do not recommend for this activity). To top off the already unpleasant morning, I found my water reservoir leaking, leaving me with no water before our trek even began. Despite all that, I met with a small group of friends that would join me in my conquest. I was not going to let these minor annoyance deprive me of an adventure.

I’m not sure what time we officially began the trail. We arrived at our starting point at 7:30 a.m., which was probably another two miles of ascent before reaching the trailhead. According to the trail post, it’s only 1.2 miles from the trailhead to the summit, but don’t let the short distance fool you. It’s 1.2 miles of steep, rocky terrain.

Of all the 14ers in Colorado, Sneffels is considered to be of moderate difficult. However, being a native sea-level flatlander, my incessant huffing and puffing to the top might say otherwise.

We traversed over loose, sharp rocks, boulders, cracks and crevices all the way to the top. At our pace, it was probably a three and a half trip to the summit. During the last third of the hike is when the altitude and my empty stomach tried to stop me. I had to rest on one of the larger rocks for a short bit before overcoming the nauseous feelings.

There were some points during the climb when I looked at the obstacles ahead and thought “there’s no way I can get over that,” but it’s amazing what you can do when you let go of your inhibitions. Climbing a mountain like Sneffels is definitely a case of mind over matter.

The tired legs, aching feet and scraped hands were worth it once I reached the top. Maybe it was the altitude, but I swear I could feel God as I stood at the peak. With the clouds at an arms-length above and an awe-inducing panorama of the land, it’s hard to deny the majesty and creativity of the creator. Even if you’re not religious, there’s something spiritual about standing at the very top of the mountain.

fav view blue lakes

I took my time soaking it all in; I knew the descent would be much more difficult than the ascent. Of course, I was right. But while I may have been moving at a snail’s pace, I’m glad I didn’t need a rescue team to bring me down.

The feeling of accomplishment was so satisfying, but nothing tastes as delicious as a burger after a long hike and nothing feels as good as a soak in the hot springs after a morning climb (look out for a review post in the future).

I would say that the summit of Mt. Sneffels is easily my favorite spot in Ouray County. If I could, I would be up there every day. But until they set up a zip line or slide down the mountainside, I’ll enjoy it from afar until I feel the peak call on me again.

If you’re ever in the area and are looking for a challenge, I highly recommend spending the day summiting Sneffels. If you do decide to make the hike up, here are a few of my personal suggestions:
– start early and take your time. If you’re looking to fully enjoy the experience or aren’t used to hiking at high altitudes, slow and steady is the best method.
– go with others. I know plenty of people who can make the trip on their own, but I think it’s easier and more enjoyable to have someone else helping you to the top. It’s also much safer if you’re not familiar with the area or terrain. During our trip, we watched a helicopter airlift someone just below the peak. According to the rescue team, a hiker had fallen 90 meters and dislocated his hip, broken a femur, and mangled his foot.* Fortunately, he had a friend who called for help.
– bring a rain jacket (it gets windy and afternoon showers are typical for the area), pack snacks and plenty of water (nuts and sugars are great pick-me-ups and staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do), and wear sunblock (my burnt lips and face can attest to this).

If you’re looking for more information about Mt. Sneffels check out the Ouray Trail Group page or SummitPost.org.

One down, 57 to go.

Here’s a quick video of the trip. It’s not professional but hopefully you enjoy it. Comment and let me know what you think!

*NOTE: These were just things I heard from other hikers. Not confirmed facts, yet.

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