August 10, 2000 - Yankee Boy Basin and Lavender Col
Following a foreshortened climbing effort in the Weminuche, we bailed out of Durango and went on up to Silverton to play tourist for an hour or two. I was, in an “earlier life” (three years ago before law school) a mining engineer and Dan played about as a chemical engineer before his managerial career, so we both took in the mineral history and sights of the town. We then went on up the road to Ouray and checked out the approach to the Sneffels climb. The road was is great shape and we found that we could get to the terminus with but a touch of 4WD savvy. The next need was a camp spot and rather than settle for the lumpy ground we found in a few Forest Service commando spots, we simply sold out and took a flat spot at the KOA just north of town.
The next morning we got up early and drove to the trailhead for the Sneffels climb, arriving just after light. The trail loops on up and around to Wrights Lake and then meanders up the valley to the base of the great scree slope below Lavender Col. If there is any slope I could ever look at and know that it should be climbed in snow, this is it. A scree hell lay before us, paths snaking left and right and the small stone underfoot would obviously be a pain in the ass. Rather than making a direct assault, I took the left flank of the scree route and rock hopped to the saddle between Sneffels and Kismet. The route had some sections of trail but was generally more stable than the path chosen by the myriad of Cottoneers we would pass on the way down. From the Lavender Col, the couloir route is obvious and forms a tight cleft scramble up toward the summit. There is a place to cut to the left perhaps half way up, but I chose to climb the couloir all the way to the top and then cut over just below the upper most reach of the climb. I found the cut over to an unremarkable climb but it does take some thoughtful hand and foot placement to complete safely. Actually, the route up the couloir without snow offers one a great opportunity to be hit by a rock dislodged by a climber above or make a slip when leaving the couloir to sustain an injury worth bragging about. I scrambled but did so with care.
Dan and I made the top of Sneffels and took in the sights. The Wilsons were off to the south and to the north; the elevation just drops off into the valley heading toward Montrose. We also scoped out the Southwest Ridge route to the top of Sneffels but that will have to wait for another trip. By the time we descended to the base of the Lavender Col, the Cottoneers were assaulting the scree slope like Marines on Iwo Jima, masses of cotton just digging and clawing their way up the gut of the slope, the old cajoling the young and one fearful, honest to God, turning their climb to descend on hands and knees. Dan and I hiked on back to the truck and back to Ouray to take a soak in the hot pools. If you are climbing near Ouray, Buena Vista or Glenwood and not taking the opportunity to soak after climbing, you are missing out, no matter the season.
I delivered Dan to the Denver airport the next day and enjoyed his company on the trip. He headed back to California and parts unknown, and I to Cheyenne.
Mt. Sneffels in the snow . . . or perhaps by the Southwest Ridge