| Wetterhorn - Persistence Pays off!
This was my third time trying to get up Wetterhorn. The first was four years ago, when a massive rain storm put a halt to any climbing plans.
I was itching to get back to Wetterhorn after having had to turn around last month on the peak at about 12,000ft due to weather moving in early.
This time, the weather finally looked good and things seemed to fall in place better, I was ready to go!
The rental car was able to get up to the upper trailhead (less the last 0.7 mile, but better than adding four miles of road walking on top of the hike). At 5:00AM boots hit the trail. A headlamp was really not needed by this time, but I kept it on nonetheless in case it might thwart a hungry mountain lion to consider me for breakfast. They're all taught when kittens to avoid those dayhikers with headlamps.
The hike up above treeline was pretty uneventful but much more pleasant this time around under blue skies and calm winds! Marmots were out in force running across the alpine meadows. The greens in the basin were especially vibrant today and the look back to the mountains behind was great.
There are also some nice wildflowers on display which were very popular with the local bees and butterflies. Columbines were also in bloom along the trail lower down.
Would be climbers take note: One should make a mental note that at the junction as soon as you get to the meadow there is a decision you must make at the signed fork, to either go straight or turn sharp right. Turn right here. Many others were continuing straight and either getting lost or having to backtrack all the way to this point to ascend again.
I ran into a group of guys that passed me early one, that mistakenly had taken the wrong trail and had to circumnavigate the mountain, then finally met them again as
I was descending the final summit pitch. They weren't very happy.
Topping out after climbing out of the meadow
The scene as you approach the Wetterhorn-Matterhorn basin is awesome, in a sublime, relaxing way. Great place to spend the day and just chill with water trickling down in the background and ground squirrels running about. Wetterhorn is the sharp summit to the left in the photo.
The Wetterhorn-Matterhorn summit ridge gets closer and frames the basin nicely above you like a natural amphitheater.
The basin under Wetterhorn and the Matterhorn is really beautiful, with many streams running down, with deer, chipmunks, marmot and pika sighted throughout the day.
A lot of bighorn sheep tracks were on the trail too. Patches of snow and wildflowers round out the meadows. Perfect place to see a bear I was thinking, though I didn't see one or any signs of one.
Undoubtedly this fellow caught a sent of my Powerbar...
Above 12,000ft, the route traverses over and through more rocky terrain and in some spots the trail is a bit hard to follow exactly, but as you can see the yellow dirt
higher above, it is pretty easy to figure out where to go by dead reckoning and careful route selection. Marmots abound here. Great views along this route.
Wetterhorn's summit increasingly dominates the view as you climb up providing proper motivation to push on!
The Wetterhorn summit beckons...
Once the yellow sands are reached, the route becomes more steep as it climbs a pretty well defined trail up to the final pitches to climber's right. I imagine this section would make a nice snow climb given the right conditions.
Nice views looking back at the route and the connecting ridge to the Matterhorn
Fellow Fourteener, Uncompahgre lurks beyond the Matterhorn...
Closer view at the Wetterhorn-Matterhorn Ridge
The next portion, which is class 2/3 is a bit confusing and there seems to be a couple different ways up, all traversing a bit to the climbers left as you ascend.
There are some well placed cairns you'd do well to follow. Take care here to make sure you can come down a safe route once you pick a line up and across to the top.
Once on top of these boulders, you'll see the notch, though looking at the route photos on here, I may have taken a different route up to get here as I don't recall seeing what others have shown in some of their shots. This is a shot looking back at the route right in frong of the wall which comes next. Some climbers are in the photo here for scale.
I got to the spot where a few climbers had fixed a rope to ascend the final portion above the previous flat area. The photo below shows the rope (purple) that was in place. I opted not to use the rope and after going down the ramp, climbed the rock directly heading to the top.
I found the rock pretty solid and footholds pretty straightforward to use, though I wouldn't try and speed climb this section and would be careful if doing it when wet or icy.
Rope is to the left in photo, climber above to the right for scale.
This class 3 section was pretty fun going up. Yes, there is some exposure, but I didn't find it too bad and the strong rock made it enjoyable.
There is some very exposed near-vertical rock right at the end and to the sides of this section, but avoidable on the route proper. Make sure you exit at the right spot and stay in a straight line here heading up and try and remember your exit point as you reach the top.
It will help ensure you hit the cairn and descend the correct area for safety reasons. You don't want to head down too far to the right coming off the summit. Also be careful not to dislodge any rocks on climbers below you.
This last pitch went pretty quickly and soon, I was on the summit!! Finally!!! This mountain has a great dramatic finish to the top.
Climbing this last portion felt a bit like the Homestretch on Longs, where you really feel you "reach" the summit in comparison to a walk up where you're just walking over to the high point. This might have been a bit steeper than the Homestretch though.
The summit is pretty small but visually packed with wonderful views of the San Juans in all directions.
Uncompahgre and the Matterhorn dominate the view to the east
A lone climber tops out below (to the right in the photo).
I met some good folks on this climb and made for good company and conversation heading up.
Wetterhorn was worth the wait and I look forward to when I can come out again soon!
A lone bighorn sheep was also making itself known lower down as it was literally running up and down the hill, seemingly posing for a photo. So, I obliged and snapped a few. This sheep was a ham, as you can see in its pose.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):