Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wetterhorn Peak and Uncompahgre Peak 10/16/2011

Total Mileage: ~14 miles
Total Elevation Gained: ~5500 feet
Party: solo
Total Time: 12.5 hours
Start Location: Nellie Creek TH

We were getting the interior of our house painted and my wife decided she didn't want to be around for it. So she left to visit her parents in Las Vegas with my 2 year old daughter. Wanting to make the most of my bachelor status I planned to get a few 14ers checked off my list while the wife was away. So after work (in Pueblo, CO) I drove to the town of Lake City, CO and enjoyed a quiet meal at a quiet restaurant. From there, the trailhead was about 12 miles away and that's where I spent the night while laying inside my wife's Toyota Highlander. I awoke at around 4:30 am and was on the trail by 5 sharp.

There was light snow. I didn't wear gaiters or microspikes and certainly didn't bring or use snowshoes. Gaiters and spikes could have been useful but weren't necessary. As I started out it was dark and it was cold. I had underestimated how long I would hiking in the dark. The sun didn't show up until about 7:30 am and by then I had made it to about 13K feet already. My hands were so cold I had to stop hiking and use my secret hand-warming method before continuing. It was a beautiful sight when the sun finally came over the distant range. It began to get warmer immediately.

From my limited research, these two peaks are not always done together. It seems that, more often than not, there are hiked individually. I was very glad to find trip reports from those who have gone before me from My first goal was reaching the summit of Wetterhorn Peak via the standard route. The hike up this route is very scenic and I would have taken more pictures if there would have been  more light available.

Wetterhorn Peak taken from about 13K feet just as the sun had risen. 

Uncompahgre Peak from essentially the same spot as above. This would be my second goal that day. 

The remaining 1000 vertical feet to the top of Wetterhorn was a lot of fun. I left my poles at 13K feet because I felt like gripping my poles was preventing my hands from staying warm. There is a prominent feature of Wetterhorn Peak that is commonly referred to as "The Prow" or "The Ship's Prow". It is visible in the first picture above as a small notch just left of the obvious summit. The route to the top passes right at the base of this impressive rock feature.

Passing below the Ship's Prow with the summit dead ahead.

The last couple hundred feet offers some fun Class 3 scrambling before topping off on the summit.

Standing on the summit (14,015 feet) with Matterhorn Peak and Uncompahgre Peak in the distance. 

More summit shots

The San Juan mountain range.

Proof that I was there.
From the top of Wetterhorn my next goal was the top of Uncompahgre Peak. When the sun came out the snow that was on the ground became a bit softer. I had to descend to about 12,400 feet before beginning to ascend again. I would be aiming for a notch that is very visible in the above pictures on Uncompahgre.

Same picture as above with the notch labeled that I'm referring to. 
There was a lot of meandering in the snow meadows below this notch. In fact, I had not originally planned to ascend that way but I was so sick of sinking in the snow that I felt justified in making a detour up the long scree slide just below that notch.

Finally made it to the base of the notch.
 It was a lot of hard work at this point in the day to climb that scree field. It was preferable however to walking in snow. It took about an hour and I was at the top of that notch which put me at about 13,300 feet if I remember right. Just another 1000 vertical feet to the top of Uncompahgre. It went by quick and before I knew it I was there.
Matterhorn peak is the one that is closest and Wetterhorn is behind it. Weird to think I was just there about 4 hours earlier. 

If there's one thing I'm good at, it's posing for pictures.

Summit shots

More summit shots.
 I was not looking forward to slogging through all that snow again. But I went down the way I came and I was fortunate enough to have my own footsteps to walk into to minimize the postholing.

Heading home.

This is Matterhorn peak from about 11K feet. About 2 miles from the trailhead. 
About 3 hours would pass before I found myself back at the car.My plan was to bag these two peaks and drive to Ouray, CO where I would climb Mt. Sneffels the following day. Truth is, I was too tired from this adventure and I really just wanted a bed to sleep in that night. So I started my car and made the trip back to Colorado Springs that night stopping to pig out at least twice at fast food joints along the way. In an unfortunate twist of fate, I arrived home and my bed had been plastic wrapped by the painters along with all my furniture and belongings. I had to sleep in the spare bedroom downstairs that wasn't being painted. Waking up the next morning I was quite content to be lounging around doing nothing instead of hiking another 14,000 foot mountain. Mt. Sneffels isn't going anywhere.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy reading your blog. The pics from the summit of Wetterhorn are great!