San Juan Mountains Condition Report (Snake Couloir, Mt. Sneffels Ski Beta) May 27, 2017

The conditions in the San Juan Mountains and southwest CO are ripe right now! From skiing big lines to climbing fun and warm sandstone, there is something for everybody.

This past week I had the chance to ski the Snake Couloir, a classic line on Mt. Sneffels 14,150 ft.   There is still PLENTY of snow up high for weeks of great skiing.

Picture by Grady James.  Sven Brunso (up close in orange) and Josh Kling pictured.

Picture by Grady James. Sven Brunso (up close in orange) and Josh Kling pictured.

Camp athlete and AMGA Certified Alpine Guide Josh Kling nearing the top of Lavender Col. Picture by Sven Brunso

Camp athlete and AMGA Certified Alpine Guide Josh Kling nearing the top of Lavender Col. Picture by Sven Brunso

The approach to Mt. Sneffels and the Snake Couloir via Yankee Boy Basin. The approach in proved easy skiing on a supportable crust.

While we brought ski crampons they were never needed. Conditions allowed us to skin the entire way to the col and part way up the to the summit.

Camp Athlete and AMGA Certified Alpine Guide Josh Kling nearing the summit of Mt. Sneffels. Picture by Sven Brunso

Camp Athlete and AMGA Certified Alpine Guide Josh Kling nearing the summit of Mt. Sneffels. Picture by Sven Brunso

Do NOT climb all the way up the couloir to the col/ top of the couloir.  About 1/3 -1/2 way up the couloir you can exit on the climbers left side of the couloir on a snow ramp.  This puts you on a very mellow ridge the rest of the way to the summit.  By doing this you avoid the rock step at the top of the couloir.  It also gets you out quick, which lessons the chance of getting hit by rock fall from above.

Sven Brunso kicking steps towards the summit.  Picture by Grady James

Sven Brunso kicking steps towards the summit. Picture by Grady James

Skis were put on the packs for the final push to the summit. At high elevations and north aspects, the snow provided a great boot pen and easy step kicking.

The crew (L-R) Grady James, Josh Kling, and Sven Brunso on the summit of Mt. Sneffels just before  the rappel into the Snake Couloir.  picture by LEKI selfe stick ski pole.

The crew (L-R) Grady James, Josh Kling, and Sven Brunso on the summit of Mt. Sneffels just before the rappel into the Snake Couloir. picture by LEKI selfe stick ski pole.

 

The rap into the Snake

The rap into the Snake

There are two rappel options to get into the Snake. The common one is directly on the summit.  There is a buried picket and a bunch of tat.  If you rappel off the summit, you  will require a 60 M rope (for most skiers). If you are comfortable doing some legit scrambling it is doable with a 40 M.  You can also rappel in off a rock feature just prior/ east of the summit. You will need some nuts to leave in the rock. This rappel spot is great! You can rap from here with just a 20M rope! It also provides an easier egress back out of you get into the snake and decide it’s no good.  This makes the line substantially less committing (IMO).  This also means you can do the rappel into the ski the Snake Couloir with only a 20 M rope!  (I have done this and it will take you from the ridge all the way to snow with now scary scrambling).  IMO, a 30 M Rad line or something similar would be ideal.

Sven Brunso making it look good on the top 1/3 of the Snake Couloir.  Picture by Grady James

Sven Brunso making it look good on the top 1/3 of the Snake Couloir. Picture by Grady James

 

Skier: Sven Brunso, Location: Mt Sneffles (14,157' ), San Juan Mountains, CO

Sven Brunso making it look good on the top 1/3 of the Snake Couloir. Picture by Grady James

Skier: Sven Brunso, Location: Mt Sneffles (14,157' ), San Juan Mountains, CO

Sven Brunso making the bottom third of the Snake Couloir Look good just before the choke.Kling skin Blayne Basin

The downside of something like the Snake is that after the ski you have to skin an other couple thousand feet back up to Lavender Col to ski out. Here Camp athlete and AMGA Certified Alpine Guide skinning towards Lavender Col one last time. Picture by Sven Brunso.

The quad anchor utilizing the CAMP USA 240  Dyneema sling, two CAMPS USA Photon wire gates, two CAMP HMS Compact carabiners , two CAMP USA HMS Nitro carabiners, CAMP USA OVO belay device

The quad anchor utilizing the CAMP USA 240 Dyneema sling, two CAMPS USA Photon wire gates, two CAMP HMS Compact carabiners , two CAMP USA HMS Nitro carabiners, CAMP USA OVO belay device

Down low though, summer is in full swing! It’s prime rock season back in Durango with temperatures in the 70’s. The quad style anchor with all Camp gear is my go to anchor setup for Durango guiding. The Camp 240 CM quad length dyneema runner, two photon non locking carabiners, two HMS Nitro carabiners, two HMS Compacts, and a Ovo belay device. From in town two pitch guiding to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, this is a great system and always on my harness.

A Boy Scout group from AZ enjoying rock climbing, rappelling, and our custom Tyrollean Traverse, all under the supervision of American Mountain Guides Association Certified Instructors and Guides.

A Boy Scout group from AZ enjoying rock climbing, rappelling, and our custom Tyrollean Traverse, all under the supervision of American Mountain Guides Association Certified Instructors and Guides.

Topping out Dogs of Doom (5.8) at East Animas climbing area in Durango.

Topping out Dogs of Doom (5.8) at East Animas climbing area in Durango.

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A climber hanging around at the base of the Direct Start Travel’s With Charlie (5.9). East Animas Climbing Area, Durango, CO.

It’s also Black Canyon season! We’ve ran three trips in the past three weeks! The temperatures there have been perfect this week! So far this year KMG has ran trips on Maiden Voyage (5.9 6 pitches) King Me (5.10, 3 pitches), and the Russian Arete (5.9, 1800 ft).

 

The north rim and the SOB gully pictured on the left.   The north rim campground would be visible on the left if it were more zoomed in.

 

The top of the Russian Crete (5.9, 1800 ft, grade IV) Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Picture by AMGA Certified Rock guide Gary Newmeyer

The top of the Russian Crete (5.9, 1800 ft, grade IV) Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Picture by AMGA Certified Rock guide Gary Newmeyer

The Russian Arete (5.9 1800 ft grade IV) in the middle of the picture.

The Russian Arete (5.9 1800 ft grade IV) in the middle of the picture.

It’s a little early to get into the remote San Juan high country for peaks such as Jagged and Wham Ridge on Vestal however.

Mid June 2016 looking at Jagged Mountain from Jagged Pass

Mid June 2016 looking at Jagged Mountain from Jagged Pass

Jagged Mountain with the full route visible w/o snow from Sunlight Basin.

Jagged Mountain with the full route visible w/o snow from Sunlight Basin.

Overall it’s been a great spring though!  Never hesitate to get in touch with the the AMGA Certified Guides of KMG for up to date conditions and route beta.

Josh Kling

AMGA Certified Alpine & Rock Guide

Camp USA Athlete Ambassador

LEKI Ski Team Ambassador

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