An Evening with Sneffels

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

On Saturday we ventured into the Sneffels Range for a quick overnighter backpack trip. 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.

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

Taking advantage of a clear weather forecast, we camped all the way up at 12,900 feet on a high sub-peak of Sneffels. 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
Alpenglow on Mt. Sneffels : Prints Available

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

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, five years back, but I was excited to come back and actually spend a night up here.

Cozy in the mountains

Claudia staying cozy in her down cocoon. When we got to the top and set up the tent, I surprised her with a bottle of wine that I had stashed in my backpack when she wasn’t looking. What a guy! 🙂 This was probably our most spectacular “wine spot” to date!

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

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
Sneffels Galaxy : Prints Available

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!

10 thoughts on “An Evening with Sneffels

  1. Excellent series, Jack! Yeah, I’m surprised by the lack of snow. Has it been that warm already to melt that much snow? Looks almost like early July rather than early June. I’m guessing the galaxy shot was taken with the 5D3 or did the X100s so how magically capture that?

    Great set of shots!

    1. Thanks Justin!

      We had a below-average winter; last I saw, last week we were at something like 40% of average snowpack level. We also had dust storms in April, which makes the snow melt faster. It’s been hot lately, but not super out of the ordinary. Mostly I think it’s just that there wasn’t much snow to begin with.

      The galaxy shot and sunset shot were with the 5D2. The rest were with the X100S.

  2. I love your photos and have been a faithful reader of your blog over the last year. My boyfriend and I are also avid hikers in Colorado and I always wonder what some of the specific trails are that you hike. I’ve referenced your site and tips many times and can’t thank you enough for all your posts. Keep them coming!

    1. Thanks Heidi! Yeah, that first spot is the “classic” icon spot for Sneffels, where the photogs all line up in the autumn. A beautiful view, no doubt! I always love coming around that corner in the road.

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