We stayed at Alpine Moose Lodge in Lake City. We have to give 2 huge thumbs up for the fine dining at Bruno’s restaurant right there on the property. Our dinner the night before the climb was one of the best we have ever had – and we don’t say that lightly. If you have the time, we would certainly recommend a visit there. They have a ‘grill’ side too which I think is a little lighter.
We left at about 5 am and reached the trailhead and were on our way at 5:40. The Henson Creek road is no big deal. The North Henson Creek road isn’t too bad but the last mile is tough. 4X4 and good clearance are needed there. That is a fair amount of extra elevation to climb if you can’t get to the Matterhorn Creek trailhead.
It was a beautiful morning and minimal wind early on. It was about 40 degrees when we started. It was quite a sight seeing the tip of Wetterhorn in the sunlight at the beginning of the climb. Pretty soon there is a trail junction and we really didn’t think it was very clear which way to go. Luckily someone scratched in Wetterhorn on the right side of the sign. We can’t remember completely what the sign says, but the wrong way says Matterhorn. That is why it is confusing. So take a right and go up the hill. We still can’t believe how little snow there was. There were already wildflowers – mostly small ones like forget-me-nots. I don’t know the names, but there were a lot of different small ones. It is a scary thought of what this lack of snow is going to do later in the season. But for now, it made for a great summer like climb.
I brought along a pulse oximeter just for fun. I have often wondered why I feel like I just have to stop for 20 seconds or so and then can go again for another 50 or 100 feet before stopping again. I always assumed it was just that my heart was going too fast. As I am sure you all know, air pressure decreases as altitude increases. My normal oxygen level where we live at 4500 ft is 97%. At the trailhead, (10, 800) was 93%. Somewhere around 11500-12000 my oxygen level was going down to 77% with a heart rate around 140’s. At the 13000 foot level, the lowest level I was getting was 72%! It would come right back up to 85 pretty quickly. Guess that explains why I have to stop for 20 seconds or so, more frequently. I don't get dizzy or nauseated or any other signs of altitude sickness. My husband had a harder time getting his reading to pick up, but I think his lowest was 83%. I am just really surprised, because I consider myself really fit – I exercise a lot. I can climb lots of local strenuous hikes without stopping. I am not sure if I can improve this somehow. Has anyone heard of the elevation training mask 2.0? It looks like it comes out July 1st. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
The class 3 section is really fun. There are a lot of cairns marking the way and the route description is helpful. This made it still challenging but not nerve-racking. It did get a little windy but wasn’t a factor for us. Well it was for me some on the way back down. Somehow I let my hands get too cooled off on top and so they were a bit cold and numb for a while. As soon as we came down a few hundred feet, the air temp was better and they warmed up easily.
We reached the summit at 9:15 and hung out with a marmot and a squirrel and a chipmunk. Again, we couldn’t believe how little snow there was. I looked back at our pictures of Uncompahgre this time last year – I’ll include one of them here just for comparison. The battery on our camera crapped out right before the obligatory summit picture with Uncompahgre in the background, so we had to try getting it with our cellphone. Whatever works!
We hung out for 20 to 30 minutes on the summit and then also took another 20 minutes or so for lunch lower down in the basin. We reached the trailhead at about 12:40.
This is from the summit of Uncompahgre looking over to Wetterhorn on the 18th of June last year.