Type: Trad, Snow, Alpine
FA: Dwight Lavender and friends 1933
Page Views: 7,839 total · 39/month
Shared By: Julian Smith on May 26, 2002
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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From Blaine Basin, a glance at the north face of Mount Sneffels will reveal a couloir bisecting the right hand side of the face. Climb up the couloir for over 1000 feet. It averages 40 degrees, but steepens to 50 degrees where the couloir necks down a bit, about half way up. At the halfway point, the couloir splits at a small rock pillar. Take the dogleg to the left. At the top of the couloir, either traverse east to connect to the final few feet of the normal route (yucky) or go straight up a short band of rocks and come out directly onto the summer (better). A rope may be handy for this section, as a slip could have dire consequences, but the climbing is not too hard.

Use Blaine Basin/Blue Lakes trailhead on East Dallas Creek Rd for an approach after spring-melt off. Usually this is sometime in May. Alternatively, use Yankee Boy Basin as an approach by climbing to Lavender Col and descending into Blaine Basin. Allow two hours for an approach from either trailhead in good conditions.

Use the normal route for a descent to Lavender Col. Either drop back down into Blaine Basin and return to the trailhead, or go down into Yankee Boy Basin and its trailhead.

Do not leave any gear stashed too high in Blaine Basin. The descent from Lavender Col comes into Blaine Basin well below and to the side of the start of the routes on the north face. Don't get stuck having to climb back up just to get stashed gear.

This superb couloir has been a popular Colorado test piece since 1933. It is cool for both climbing and the extreme ski descent. See Rock and Ice number 85 and Dawson's Guide To Colorado's Fourteeners as examples of references. Enjoy.


Take some ice screws, depending on the time of year. Earlier in the season there will be no ice, only snow. Also include perhaps a very light rack for the headwall just below the summit.
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
I agree, a great route! I climbed it Labor Day weekend some years ago, and then the crux was pretty much all ice. We took a left at the crux, a narrow chute which did not look fun. Just after we traversed left below the narrow chute, a huge TV-set sized rock came pummeling down it at high speed. This would have spelled disaster had we taken the direct line. A great line, but be careful and try to stay out of the line of fire!

The direct finish up rock, as noted, is super-exposed but quite easy technically. Watch again for loose rock. Jun 1, 2002
Question:Anyone know what the conditions are now - August 2nd 2004?

If rock-hard alpine ice, are horizontal-point (Grivel G12) crampons up to par? I'd think so since that's all the old-schoolers had to use. Thanks. Aug 2, 2004
can anybody help with beta oriented towards a ski descent of this route? May 6, 2005
thanx man, just a little beta always helps, I would have to see some pictures to understand all these transfers and what not that you describe, as far as just skiing straight down the snake, how is that? what is the crux like? I can ski 50+ hard snow...but just wanna know what to expect. I like the car shuttle Idea, cause I heard its a long approach for a direct climb, so as far a rap off the summit, what kind a pro is there? slings?what is it, like class 4 to summit from the top of the couloir?

I appreciate the info

no thanks to ac, I guess he's got it all figured out.....

May 12, 2005
J. Fox
Black Hawk, CO
  Mod. Snow PG13
J. Fox   Black Hawk, CO
  Mod. Snow PG13
Climbed this on 6/14/2008. Not sure by which route I exited the couloir by, but near the top of the snow climbing, I turned SW and climbed 60+ degree snow into a little notch below a cornice. I got some good sticks with my Cobra (maybe AI3) where the snow turned to vert ice at the cornice. Then I climbed maybe a 5.5 finger crack up the SW side just below the summit for 15', no rope/pro necessary. The rest of our team came up by the rock on the N. Face but said it wasn't anything above 4th class. We all brought ropes, harnesses and pro, but didn't use them. Jun 16, 2008
Andy Leach
Denver, CO
Andy Leach   Denver, CO
I was with jfox. You can see some photos and a video at andyintherockies.com/trip/1…

Regarding the direct finish that Roach calls 5.6 - it seems to me that you would have to do something pretty contrived and really go out of your way to find much 5.6. The way we went (which seemed like the logical direct finish from the top of the couloir) was no more than 4th class. What we did looks like what is pictured in Julian Smith's photo above mountainproject.com/v/color… Jun 16, 2008
the Mountains
Stiles   the Mountains
Good skiing conditions make for bad climbing conditions. The route is shaded and collects snow and would make for extended steep wallowing. A late spring ski situation where you climb alpine ice early and ski corn down would be tough, as its a loong climb up the couloir. The standard approach from Ouray up the summer road in Yankee Boy Basin provides easier ski access.

  • *Recommended approach: I skinned from the north (Ridgway) and stayed at the Ridgway Hut (part of the San Juan Hut System--an outstanding resource) before gaining Lavender Col via a wide couloir on the mountains ESE side and summiting via the standard south chute hiking route; before laying sweet tele turns down the Snake. This made for a great adventure, and the huts are pure luxury. Snowmobiles stashed high up East Dallas Rd ease the walk out.
Oct 4, 2009
chris righter
  Steep Snow PG13
chris righter  
  Steep Snow PG13
Just did this 7/18/11. Still a lot of ice in the couloir. We climbed with one alpine tool each and BD Neve crampons. Felt a bit like playing Russian Roulette. We had at least five blocks come tumbling down, with one near miss. We stayed to the left side out of the line off fire below the bottleneck, then sprinted up the crux ice section (bottleneck), then stayed to the right side of the couloir. This seemed to minimize our exposure to falling rock. The rock climbing above this is not super hard, but a little sketchy, because everything is so loose. Maybe we didn't go the right way? I think if I did it again, I would traverse the snow field (climber's left) below the rock band, and then go up. Jul 19, 2011