Some climbs carry more meaning than others. A while back, a friend of mine asked whether I would do him a favor. A friend of his had recently passed, and her favorite place was the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He asked if I would spread her ashes somewhere in the high country and I humbly accepted the request. Shortly thereafter I tore my ACL and my climbing pursuits were put on hold. Fast forward 6 months, my recovery was ramping up and my friend reached out and reminded me of his request. Summer was giving way to Fall and I knew there was a short weather window but I told him I would get it done. I struggled to think of a good place for someone to spend eternity. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense that it had to be somewhere in the San Juans. They are the crown jewel of Colorado’s high peaks. Then it hit me… Sneffels. Known as the “Queen of the San Juans”, with sprawling views, there was no better place.
I set out from Denver on a Friday evening and made the long drive to Ouray, CO. I arrived around 1am and began the drive up the road to Yankee Boy Basin. I didn’t want to drive too far in the dark, so I was primarily looking for a place to pull over and get some rest before embarking the next morning. The moon was full that night and its brightness made it hard to sleep. Morning came quickly and I jumped in the driver seat and continued the drive up to the trailhead. The roads in the San Juans are no joke, and this one proved more than my Hyundai Santa Fe could handle. After getting pinned on some rocks I managed to turn the car around, parked, and continued the journey on foot.
As I began the slog up the road I could see snow on the high peaks. I was hoping the trail would be clear and it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. After about an hour I was nearing the trailhead and I caught a ride with a local couple for the last mile or so. I thanked them and began the actual climb from the upper trailhead. From here the route was straight forward. I would follow the trail to the base of a couloir, then basically climb straight up until reaching a saddle. From the saddle I would cut left and climb straight up another couloir until reaching a crux before the summit.
I didn’t get any photos heading up as I was too focused on not slipping and taking a 1000ft slide down the mountain. Suffice to say, the climb up the couloir(s) was loose and rocky and certainly tested my healing knee.
Before long I was at the summit, where I found a group with a radio and some beer. They were clearly enjoying their morning. I quickly set to work fulfilling my friend’s request and managed to get the ashes in place.
I took a video for my friend, snapped some summit photos and began the journey back down the mountain.
The climb down was quick and uneventful. The weather was fantastic and I snapped some photos of the Basin now that the sun had started shining.
This climb carried with it a sense of accomplishment more than simply summiting a peak. I hope my friend’s friend finds peace on top of Sneffels. I can’t think of a more beautiful place with a more beautiful view for someone who loves the mountains. Mt. Sneffels, her final resting place. RIP.