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
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
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 .