Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yankee Boy Basin: Sneffels, Where Art Thou?

On October 29, 1992, my brother-in-law, David Kenison, and I, drove to the Yankee Boy Basin, outside of Ouray, Colorado, in an attempt to climb Mount Sneffels, a fourteener at 14,150 feet. Dave, now living in Orem, Utah, had lived in Longmont, Colorado for a number of years and had previously climbed a number of fourteeners. This was my first one.

We drove late Friday evening into the Yankee Boy Basin and camped in the back of Dave's Blazer. Snow had dusted the area at higher elevations and a storm was on the way. We woke up Saturday morning, October 30th, and it was very overcast. We had a printout from a book of hikes with a poor figure drawing of a map and we were surrounded by the giant peaks of the Yankee Boy Basin, trying to figure out which of them was Mount Sneffels. Below, clouds cover up the far end of the Yankee Boy Basin, making it difficult to determine which of the mountains was the highest (Sneffels).
We made our best guess and began to climb. What we thought was Sneffels turned out to be Potosi Peak, a 13,786 foot mountain nearby. Potosi is known for its steep, loose, talus slopes and rotten, imposing cliffs. Below, Potosi, as later seen from farther back in the Yankee Boy Basin.
We began to climb a very loose, talus slope, covered with a film of new snow. It was extremely slick and it was nerve wracking climbing up, with a fear that a slip would send us hurtling down the chute. Below, Dave climbs down the chute after having previously climbed it.

A closer view of Dave climbing down the chute and the loose talus.

Dave at the top of the loose talus chute.

We got about halfway up the mountain, to the top of some grass before another level of steep cliffs. We decided to cut the trip short. We realized by then we were probably on the wrong mountain (the visibility was improving) and we were very concerned for our safety if we went any higher up the steep cliffs. Below, looking up toward the summit.

Another view of the summit.

The picture below shows the path we took through the loose talus. We then made it to the top of the grass, the solid snow patch at mid-level.

Another view of Potosi Peak from farther back in Yankee Boy Basin.

After climbing back down, we decided to venture further into the basin. We then correctly determined that Mount Sneffels was further back in the basin and we were able to drive closer to it. Mount Sneffels is to the rear right.

From left to right, Teakettle, Cirque and Potosi Peaks in Yankee Boy Basin.

We parked much closer to Sneffels and got a pretty good view of it.

We hiked up closer and found the base of Sneffels, but the top was shrouded in clouds.

Another view of the base of Sneffels, the southwest ridge rocks visible to the back left.

Gilpin Peak, to the south, was still visible.

We did not have time to climb Sneffels and decided it would have to happen another day. That other day did not happen for 17 years, the subject of another post. On the way out of Yankee Boy Basin, we saw some beautiful country and the road took a spectacular route under an overhanging cliff with a steep river canyon to the side.
We went into Ouray and spent some time window shopping before heading back to Utah.

My next attempt at a fourteener, also with Dave, was White Mountain, the next summer. We got caught in a snow storm in August and had to turn back. After that climb Dave commented that it was all my fault that we weren't getting to the top of these fourteeners. I was bad luck. Fortunately, we were able to do several fourteeners several days later (Langley, Muir and Whitney).

1 comment:

  1. You were INSANE to do this in the snow anyway! What were you thinking?