Peak(s):  Uncompahgre Peak  -  14,309 feet
Post Date:  09/06/2011
Date Climbed:   09/04/2011
Posted By:  talusman

 A Route Among the Cliffs   

The agenda for Day 2 in the San Juans was to climb Uncompahgre Peak. I have to admit I saw this peak was class 2, so I briefly reviewed the route and put little effort into learning what it entailed. It seemed straightforward enough. The first challenge which I was already partially prepared for was called Nellie Creek Road. 4 miles, 2 creek crossings, 2000 ft of narrow, rough 4WD road. We have a 1998 Jeep Cherokee that handles this terrain fine, but I still don’t like it. All in all, the Jeep handled it fine, but I can’t help but continuously thinking: What if I break down? What if another car comes around the corner of one these steep, narrow sections? No problems, but still, for me I would rather climb and descend “the Staircase” of Wetterhorn 100 times than drive on that road. I’m just saying, it’s not my cup of tea.

This Sign Just Makes Me Nervous

Nonetheless, we made it to Nellie Creek Trailhead by 7:30 and set out on our next 14er adventure. Uncompahgre Peak.

Not far into the hike on Nellie Creek, Uncompahgre soon comes into view. It looks like a fortress with cliffs on every side. I kept asking myself how this trail could take us to the summit without encountering those cliffs. As we soon found out, it really doesn’t. You just take the easiest route through the cliffs. This was where I completely underestimated this mountain.

First Peak At Uncompahgre

Wild Strawberries

A Fortress of Cliffs

Karren Excited About This Climb

Wetterhorn and Matterhorn from Above the West Facing Cliffs

The Trail Above the West Facing Cliffs

If you’ve read my previous reports, you know that my wife and my hiking partner, Karren, has been faced with Class 3 terrain twice and had decided that she didn’t like it. Uncompahgre was supposed to be the easier class 2 hike that we could summit together. As it turns out, after you have climbed an easy trail above the cliffs on the west and then the south, you turn north to skirt the cliffs above on the southeast face. There are two routes up this. One is very steep, but the rock looks more stable. One is less steep (but still steep), but the rock is looser. After doing the second option, I would agree that the difficulty did not exceed difficult class 2. However, after taking a wrong path through some very loose rock, Karren quickly got scared and decided to bail on this peak also. She was pretty upset about not summiting Uncompahgre. I really blame myself for not studying the route better and taking her up the easiest, safest route. There’s nothing I can do about that now.

Um...This Isn't Looking Easy

That's Steep

But Karren's Still Positive

This Route Isn't Easy Either

I walked Karren down to a place where she could rest and quickly finished the ascent and got back down to her before we headed out.

The Summit Is Within Sight

Precipice and Dunsinane From the Summit

Wetterhorn From the Summit

Another Great View From the Summit

Me on the Summit

Did This Rock Just Fall Out of the Air

After a long drive down Nellie Creek Road, we headed back to Lake City and feasted at the SmoQue BBQ shack. Not the best BBQ I’ve ever had, but pretty good after a long day’s hike. Add a few Coronas and fried okra and it soon became my Lake City favorite. We spent the last night at the Matterhorn Motel and headed back to C Springs Monday morning.

In summary, I loved our trip to the San Juans. I feel bad that Karren did not summit either peak, but we both had a great time. I expect that next time we make it back here for Redcloud, Sunshine, and Handies, she’ll do just fine. In the meantime, I’m looking for a climbing partner to ascend the class 3 and eventually class 4 14ers. I’ll also be looking for some adventures up class 3 13ers or other summits. I’m loving the climbing at this point .

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

rock     09/07/2011 03:09
yeah it probably did fall out of the air. When I hiked it I ran into a guy who seemed fairly intelligent and said that it was an older volcano which is why you have the volcanic rock on that trail (swish cheese rock formations) and the weird half of earth looking shots like pic 7. If it is right or not, it made sense to me at the time.


A Route Among the Cliffs     09/08/2011 18:09
I think we saw you two on the trail. I was up there with my 9-yr-old daughter on Sunday. Great road, isn't it? One of the worst approach roads I've been on so far. Glad you made it. Joe


A Route Among the Cliffs     09/09/2011 03:20
Joe, I love to see kids getting out on these trails. Hope you guys had a great day. What a beautiful peak this one was. It almost made up for the road .

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