Trip Reports: An Evening With Sneffels, Colorado - June 2013

On Saturday we ventured into the Sneffels Range in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado for a quick overnighter backpack trip. Taking advantage of a clear weather forecast, we camped all the way up at 12,900 feet on a high sub-peak of Sneffels.

Mt. Sneffels, San Juan Mountains, spring, June, green, CR7, photo

Mt. Sneffels and the brilliant spring greens as seen from County Road 7.

Summer is in gear, and the aspens have their freshly sprung brilliant green color. We were surprised at how much snow has already melted away up high, and how green the tundra has already become! Though we brought crampons and gaiters with us, we never even needed to use them.

Colorado, Mt. Sneffels, San Juan Mountains, Sneffels Range, photo

Hiking in front of Mount Sneffels.

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Sunset at our 12,900 foot camp on a high ridge near Mt. Sneffels - June.

It’s a rare treat in Colorado to be able to camp up high like this without fear of thunderstorms! We brought the winter tent in case it was windy, and hauled up extra water in a dromedary bag.

Mt. Sneffels, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, sunset, alpenglow, photo

Alpenglow on Mt. Sneffels

Sunset light illuminates the 14,150 ft. summit of Mt. Sneffels, as seen from a high ridgeline in June, San Juan Mountains.

Of course, the main reason I wanted to camp up so high was for the killer view of Mt. Sneffels! I’ve shot sunset from this high point once before, back in 2008, but I was excited to come back and actually spend a night up here.

Colorado, San Juan Mountains, Sneffels Range, photo

Claudia bundled up with Cirque Mountain in the background.

When we got to the top and set up the tent, I surprised Claudia with a bottle of wine that I had stashed in my backpack when she wasn’t looking. What a guy!

camping, Mt. Sneffels, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, June, photo

Camping on a high ridge near Mt. Sneffels.

What a great place to spend an evening, with views spanning all the way from the La Sal range in Utah to Grand Junction and Grand Mesa, to the West Elk Mountains towards Crested Butte. And of course the rugged Mt. Sneffels massif dominating the scene.

Mt. Sneffels, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, Milky Way, galaxy, photo

Sneffels Galaxy

The Milky Way shines over Mt. Sneffels on a new moon night in June.

At 1:30am I crawled out of the tent to photograph the Milky Way above Sneffels. This took two successive exposures to pull off: one at 30 seconds at ISO 6400 for the stars and galaxy, then another at 10 minutes at ISO 800 for the brighter mountain and foreground. It’s amazing what the camera can “see” with long exposures like this, even when the only light is starlight!

Despite my grogginess, I woke again to shoot sunrise, though that proved to be less appealing than sunset was. Later in the morning while dozing in the tent we could hear my friend Jim – a mountain guide who we had run into down in the basin the day before – climbing up the Snake Couloir with a couple clients. When the tent got too hot in the sun, we pulled our sleeping bag outside and tried to get some more zzz’s in the fresh air. When I heard Jim’s “woohoo!” shout from the summit, like an alarm clock, I figured it was probably time to get out of bed and start the day!