Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mt. Sniktau; 13,234 feet on the Continental Divide

Start of hike at Loveland Pass
Friday, August 6th was my birthday and I had planned all week on doing a high elevation hike, preferably a front range 13er.  I choose Mt. Sniktau which was easily accessible from I-70 and I felt comfortable driving there in our 11 year old SUV which has seen better days.  I told my husband where I was hiking and interestingly he was immediately concerned that I was doing this high elevation hike alone.  I was surprised at his reaction, it's unusual for him to be overprotective, but his concern made me think about how different it is for me to hike as a single female (with 2 dogs) than as a single male hiker.  I often read blogs from male writers who describe their latest solo peak-bagging trip, but my experience on the mountain is a very different experience.   Some of my girlfriends don't like to hike alone for fear of danger from other people; which is the least of my concerns, but I understand where why she has this fear.  Mostly, I worry about mountain lions, rattlesnakes and bears; and my car breaking down or getting stuck on the side of a mountain out of cell range.  

Getting there:  From Denver take I-70 west to exit 216 which is hwy 6.  Continue on Hwy 6  up Loveland Pass for 4.4 miles to the top of Loveland Pass.  Park in the lot and take the trail to the east (opposite side of the street as above sign).  There is no bathroom on top of the pass, the closest is in Silver Plume several miles to the east.  
Steepest part of hike to un-named peak 
The trail to the top of Mt. Sniktau is approx 4 miles round trip and took me about 2.5 hours to complete.  Continue east on the trail to the top of an unamed peak, then turn left or north and hike to a false summit before loosing elevation and then re-gaining it in the final push to the top.  A relatively easy hike, Class 1.  

The Journey:  As I drove west on I-70 to the hike, I pondered the differences between men and women and how they approach things like camping and hiking.  I recently did a solo camping trip and heard plenty of "be careful" warnings from my family including father and husband.  Would there be such concern if a guy was going camping alone?  Our friend David backpacks solo, without a dog, and it doesn't seem to worry his wife much; he does this regularly during the summer months and I never hear Laura utter words of worry.  Mt. Sniktau is ths tallest peak I have climbed alone, and there is a lot to be mindful of when hiking at high altitude; altitude sickness, wild animal encounters and the solo worry of falling and being in need of help with no-one around.  Additionally, I am always concerned about having car troubles or getting stuck on a mountain road and needing to rely on strangers to help me out.  However, I don't think these are reasons not to hike alone if you use caution and come prepared.  
Turn North and continue to Sniktau peak
I started the trail hiking to the east and immediately noticed there was smoke and a fire in the valley below near A-Basin.  I am not sure the source of the fire, but the smoke continued as I came down the mountain as well.  The trail continues uphill to the top of an unnamed peak, this portion of the trail is very steep and I thought it was the hardest part of the entire hike.  It took me about 45 minutes to reach the top of the un-named peak, there are large cairns and incredible views of the front range mountains to the east.  From here the trail splits; the trail to Mt. Sniktau continues north or left; the trail to the right continues to Grizzly  Peak.  I continued north and left the small crowd of people behind to toward the summit of Mt. Sniktau.  The trail levels off for a while before climbing up a steep but fairly easy rock outcropping; then continue through a field of sunflowers (in the summertime) to a false peak that provides great views before descending into a small valley and then regaining that elevation to the top of the peak.  I would consider the trail a Class 1 hike, there is a tiny bit of Class 2 (using your hands) but it's very minimal.  
I had the pleasure to be the only person on the peak for the entire time I stayed on the peak and I really soaked in the sun and views on the top!  There is a beautiful pond below that sparkled a turquoise color in the sun and with the green mountainside below contrasting with the bright blue sky, it was a great moment to capture the beauty of Colorado.  It took me an hour an a half to reach the top and less than 45 minutes to descend back to my car.  
Me on the summit with great views! 
I was able to leave my house at just after 9am and returned home before 1:30 in time to get some work done before my husband returned home from work.  
After living and hiking in Colorado for 7 years, the high elevation of the trail didn't bother me and I had no problem doing this hike alone.  I look forward to hiking a few more 13ers alone this summer!  
Click on map below to get your own personal directions.  

View Larger Map


  1. I think as long as you are prepared for the level of the hike and someone knows where you are going, a solo hike (man or woman) is nothing to worry about. Bad things can happen hiking alone. They can also happen just about anywhere. I'm glad you chose not to live your life from a position of fear!

    I've often hiked alone, but I wouldn't feel comfortable yet doing a 14-er, or possibly a 13-er alone. This is me just being smart about by own level of hiking competence.

    Nice article.


  2. I'm happy you did this! I worry about you because I worry about everything and I've had some REALLY creepy encounters when camping/hiking alone. My greatest fear since leaving a big/ish city has been the wildlife more than people though.

    You are a smart hiker and that goes a long way :)

    Love your blog! Happiness and hope you had a great bday!

  3. Thanks for the input ladies! Laura, it has taken me several years to feel comfortable hiking a 13er; and I still am hesitant to do a 14er alone.
    I find such inner peace when solo hiking and love challenging myself with more difficult hikes. Although, I am very careful no matter where I hike!

  4. Just did this hike - heard about it by running across your blog. Thanks for all the tips!

  5. Glad you found it Jill ~ there are several more in the area I hope to get back to this fall :)