Mt. Sneffels, My First 14er

Its been a month since Ive been living in Grand Junction this pass summer and its only right that I climb a 14er….or maybe several 14ers!
It was hard to really plan the trips since you have so many factors working against you; availability, work schedule, weather and time.
Needless to say, it isn’t easy to coordinate a trip up a 14er. It takes time and good planning and lots of luck.

I was recommended Mt. Sneffels as the first 14er due to its relative ease and giving the best overall view. I looked up the trail maps and decided that I wanted to do a night hike and try to reach the summit by sunrise. July 4th (Happy Birthday America!) was a full moon and the weather was perfect. Showers only from 10pm to 3am and 11pm and on. A 4am start and return from summit by 11am was perfect for this window of opritunity.

It was a chance I couldn’t give up on. Rally the troops!

My coworker and I who I've been bugging to do a 14er with me for the past several weeks, left grand junction at 2am. The moon was out. I was tired and hungry. But when has that ever stopped anyone?

The drive was pretty boring, through Delta and Montrose and into Ouray. Luckily it was the middle of the night and no cops were around..

A haze developed as we neared the trail head. I feared that the moon would be long gone before we even started…

As we get onto the road, our truck, a 1 ton Ford F350 (its has the extended crew cab and extended bed) got stuck about 2 miles away from the trail head. It meant we had to leave it and add 4 miles round trip to our hike. Already a bad start! The Moon although covered by the glare was enough to give us some light to guide us.
This is a false image. That’s the moon on a 15sec exposure, not the sun!

More realistically, it looked like this (with light from the headlamps on the truck)

As we pressed forward 1 mile, a jeep comes in from the rear and gives us a lift. Thanks to those guys, we saved 1 mile from our trip up to the trail head!
However, we spent so much time getting the to the trail head that the morning sky was already breaking. There was no way we were going to reach the summit in time for sun rise.

The trail head post.

The moon begins to fade away behind the mountains…

The sun is already breaking the morning sky. We missed it! Perhaps next time!

The climb up was slow and tedious, mainly due to me wearing Vibrams. They don’t hold heat in well so my toes, joints and ball of my foot were completely numb. The jagged rocks were almost piercing the sole and I was in a lot of discomfort. It seemed like a great idea at first, but it didnt take long before it realized how dumb of an idea it was.

There were many stops to try and catch some sunlight to warm up my toes. They were almost numb from the chill and I couldn't feel my footing anymore.

Partway up…

A push through the exposed V and we are near the submit. The V has a decent drop off to your left (the right of the photograph). Its just one exposed maneuver that gets you to the last 50 feet towards the summit.

Finnaly! We reached the summit! It was a great feeling to get to the top. Although it wasn't a difficult climb overall, the vibrams made it much more painful then it needed to be. The cold feet, the slow movement and extra muscle movements to get a stable footing really slowed us down.

Yea that’s a coors light. ROCKY MOUNTAIN COLD FOR THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS!

And yup, just a customary shot of my five fingers. Another job well done….sort of. I don’t think I am going to ever do a summit with these things ever again. They were the most painful experience I ever had. They slow you down and have absolute no heat retention. With that said, if they built one with a thicker sole (even thicker than the 2 previous versions ive had) AND they made the seems stronger, then I might consider it. But this is the last time they are going up with me!

A shot of the summit.

I ditched my pack to make a scramble for the summit and returned for it unscathed. One thing I love about Colorado is the sense of outdoors that everyone brings with them. Respect for each others gear and nature. Something you don’t find often. Several pieces of gear was left along the way. No one touched it and left the owner to come back and retrieve it. I love this state!

A happy He man en route down!

So how were the vibrams?....ehhhhh

On the way down, I decided to go real barefooting. For about ½ mile I treaded softly until it became to slow to keep up a decent pace. Yes those are my shoes in my hand and my face in pain!

On the way down, we met up with a couple that turned around midway. They were kind enough to give us a lift from the trail head back to our truck.

A last pic I snapped of the two before we drove off…

He actually wanted to get her on the summit but she couldn’t make it and turned around. He was going to propose to her and instead got down to tie his shoe lace and well you know the rest! Right on the rocky mountains where she was scared of falling rocks, he brings out a real shiny rock!
Congrats you two!

As soon as we get off, the noon rain begins to pass over. The golden rule of all 14ers is to get off before noon. And this is why! Thunderstorms!

This was my first 14ers of many to come. It was fun and exciting. A lot of things went wrong, but they say that adventures always begin with bad planning and we did not plan to be stuck before the trail begin, or meet some great people to hitchhike with!
Now…which 14er is next????

Some last few pics for your enjoyment!
Just a beaver hanging out!

And some of the only flowers that can grow in the area.

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