Mount Sniktau

13,234 Feet (448th highest in Colorado)

Southwest Ridge Route From Loveland Pass, 11,990 Feet
October 28th, 2007
3.6 Miles Roundtrip
2,798 Feet Elevation Gained
Greenhouseguy (Brian C.) and Slow Moving Fun Seeker (Jay F.)

 

A Ragged Mountain

 

Mt. Sniktau is on a spur ridge off of the Continental Divide northeast of Loveland Pass. Because its high trailhead is easily accessible from Hwy. 6, Mt. Sniktau is a popular hiking destination. The short trail and relatively low elevation gain make this an ideal beginner or training hike. The prevailing wind blowing over the Continental Divide scours most of the snow from the crest of the ridge, which makes it an attractive winter hike. It does not require a great deal of skill or stamina to gain the summit. If hikers are seeking a greater challenge, Mt. Sniktau can be climbed in combination with Grizzly Peak and “Cupid.”  The views from the summit make this hike well worth the effort. The mountain was named for Georgetown newspaper editor E.H.N. Patterson’s pen name Sniktau, which he used in the editorial pages. Patterson was a close friend of author Edgar Allan Poe, and was planning to start a literary journal with Poe before Poe’s untimely death.

 

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Mt. Sniktau seen from I-70

 

We got a leisurely start and headed for the Loveland Pass Trailhead. This is a fairly short hike, so we didn’t opt for the alpine start. There were a few skiers and boarders on the west side of the pass when we got there, but there was not too much competition for the limited number of parking spaces. There was not enough snow on the east side of the pass to interest the snow riders. When we hit the trail, we could see that there was a hiker on the trail ahead of us. He bore to the right at the fork in the trail and headed towards Grizzly Peak.

 

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A lone hiker following the ridge up to Pt. 12,915

 

The well-worn trail up to Pt. 12,915 is pretty steep, and this is undoubtedly the hardest part of the hike. The trail disappeared under patches of snow in a few places, but the clever people who laid out the trail located it such that it avoided most of the areas where snow accumulates.

 

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Higher up on the trail, approaching Pt. 12,915

 

There are several bumps on the ridge between Pt. 12,915 and Mt. Sniktau. The highest, and only officially-named “bump” is Pt. 13,152.

 

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Mt. Sniktau and its false summits, viewed from the trail below Pt. 12,915

 

Pt. 12,915 is a fairly significant peak with nice 360-degree views. It has a large stone wind shelter that must certainly be necessary at times; the peak is on the Continental Divide, which can be terribly windy when a front is moving in. The A-Basin Ski Area is due south of Pt. 12,915.

 

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The A-Basin Ski-Area, with a nice dusting of snow on its slopes

 

To the northeast, Pt. 13,152 blocked the view of Mt. Sniktau’s true summit.

 

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Pt. 13,152’s snowy southeast slope

 

The snow became harder to avoid as we progressed up Pt. 13,152. However, the snow was not deep and the footing was solid.

 

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A thin skim of snow blown over the trail on Pt. 13,152

 

From the summit of Pt. 13,152, we had an excellent view of Mt. Sniktau’s summit. There was still a little bit of grunting to be done; we had to descend to the saddle, and ascend more than 200 feet to the top of Mt. Sniktau.

 

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Mt. Sniktau viewed from Pt. 13,152

 

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Jay admiring the view from the saddle between Pt. 13,152 and Mt. Sniktau

 

The last stretch of the trail up to Mt. Sniktau’s summit presented no difficulties. The path wound through the talus, and disappeared beneath the snow in a few spots.

 

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Jay topping out on Mt. Sniktau

 

Mt. Sniktau’s summit block is a low and unassuming jumble of talus. I welcomed it as a place to drop my pack and enjoy a few minutes of rest.

 

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Greenhouseguy on Mt. Sniktau’s summit

 

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Slow Moving Fun Seeker on Mt. Sniktau with Mt. Parnassus directly behind his head

 

The view from the summit was inspiring. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a description in his short story A Tale of the Ragged Mountains that would fit Mt. Sniktau well: “The scenery which presented itself on all sides, although scarcely entitled to be called grand, had about it an indescribable and to me a delicious aspect of dreary desolation.” Many of the surrounding peaks had steep, nearly vertical slopes. The windblown terrain was almost all above timberline, and was nearly devoid of all color except for shades of gray and white. Poe’s description of a dreary, desolate landscape could not have been more appropriate.

 

There were peaks in every direction that would make nice day hikes, with the added benefit of being close to the Metro area. Mt. Parnassus and Mt. Bard were the closest peaks to the northeast. Mt. Parnassus was named for a mountain in Greek mythology that was sacred to the Greek God Apollo and was home to the Muses. Could Colorado’s Mount Parnassus have received its name from the wildflower Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia fimbriata), which is common in the area?

 

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Mt. Parnassus (left) and Mt. Bard (right)

 

Herman Gulch was due north. The gulch has a fine hiking trail, and is one of the best spots in Colorado to enjoy wildflowers in July and August.

 

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Herman Gulch is the valley that runs diagonally from upper left to lower right in this image

 

To the northwest, thirteeners Hagar Mountain and Pettingell Peak sit on the Continental Divide, and twelver Mount Bethel is just east of the divide.

 

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Hagar Mountain and Pettingell Peak are in the left of this image, and Mount Bethel is front and center

 

To the south, I could see the snowy east slope of “Cupid” with Grizzly Peak in the background.

 

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Grizzly Peak (background), and “Cupid” (foreground)

 

Torreys Peak seemed huge. Grays Peak was almost entirely hidden behind Torreys Peak.

 

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Torreys Peak with Baker Mountain’s long, low ridge in the foreground

 

It was quite cold on the summit, and the wind picked up considerably. We enjoyed a lengthy visit before we headed down. On the way down, we met 14ers member dfreed83, who was on his way to Grizzly Peak. It was good to see a friendly face up there; he was the second hiker that we had seen all day. It was a satisfying hike; we enjoyed some solitude, some sunny skies, some remarkable views, and a decent workout.