| The Uncomparable Peak (+Wetterhorn)
Peaks Climbed: Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn via 2WD Matterhorn Creek TH
Start Time: 4:20am
End Time: 1:20pm
Total Mileage: 17.50 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 5700
Peaks Climbed: Redcloud, Sunshine, Sun Dog, Handies, Uncompaghre, Wetterhorn, Kit Carson, Columbia Point, Katty Kit Carson, the Prow, Challenger Point, Yale, and Mascot Peak
Trip Length: 4 Days
Total Mileage: ~60 miles
Total Elevation Gain: ~25600ft
Day 1 Trip Report: http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=12420
Trail Beta: After spending the evening as a "loner" in Lake City - seriously, have you ever went to a restaurant by yourself? It's weird - I drove to the TH and car camped for tomorrow's long day. The road to the 2WD parking lot for Matterhorn Creek is passable and I had little problem in getting their in my Honda Accord. If you don't have a 4WD vehicle, don't force it! The hike to the 4WD lot is short (.6 miles) and easy - save your car! Again, a 70% chance of storms were expected after 2pm thus requiring me to get an early start. I talked to RJansen about this route as he had just done it 2 weeks earlier. He and dillionsarnelli decided to do Wetterhorn first then continue to Uncompaghre. I decided in my situation it would be better to do the opposite given the weather. If a storm were to move in, I would prefer to do the peak closer to my car and MUCH closer to the relative safety of treeline; getting caught in a t-storm near Uncompaghre would require a long, multi-mile hike to get to treeline.
The trail is very easy to follow. The biggest thing you need to know is where to turn off so you can reach the approach for either peak. Missing the turnoff will put you in the wrong basin, but with this appropriate sign it's easy to follow - go right and switchback up the hill.
The second junction marked with a posted sign in the trail is the part where you must decide which peak you're going for. Continuing to the right on the Ridge Stock trail will take you around the alpine tundra basin to Uncompaghre and the left will take you to Wetterhorn. Playing the weather odds, I went right to nab Uncompaghre first.
First light on Wetterhorn and Matterhorn
The area, being all above treeline, is very beautiful. It's a great place to see the native wildflowers in their full bloom if you plan your hike at the right point in the summer. It's not long into the the second junction that Uncompaghre comes into view and the route becomes apparent. The views of Matterhorn are also astounding and tempted me to make a go for it's summit, but I decided if that would happen it should wait after achieving both 14er summits.
Colorado's signature flower
Matterhorn with Uncompaghre in the background. Taken en route to Wetterhorn saddle.
The ridge stock trail to reach the standard route on Uncompaghre provides a great hike through the alpine tundra as it goes over some rolling hills crossing a few streams. When nearing Uncompaghre, there are two options available; if you continue on the normal trail it will veer to the right (away from your intended destination) and loose a fair amount of elevation. The other option, covered in Roach's book is to take a direct route to the ridge leading up Uncompaghre. I HATE loosing elevation if I don't have to, so I was more than willing to do the required hopping to gain the ridge. Once on the ridge, it was a class one trail up to the saddle between Uncompaghre and "Big Blue Peak." From this point your destination is very apparent and the trail is easy to follow. Until you reach the fortress-like cliff bands of the peak, it's a class 1 hike.
View of Uncompaghre from near the saddle. Route through the cliff bands is on the left.
The final portion provides a quick Class 2+ move to get above the cliff band and a class 2 hike to the brief remaining portion of the trail. The views from the summit are astounding. The peak itself is so unique to see from the summit with it's wide open expanse above 14,200ft. Near the summit proper, you get a true feeling of the stoic nature of the peak with a sheer drop of the west face. Time to summit - 3hours 30 mimutes
The hike back to Wetterhorn was uneventful as it entailed retracing my footsteps on the ridge stock trail. Once I was at the beginning of the alpine tundra slopes leading to Matterhorn's summit, I left the trail and contoured around Matterhorn to reach the Wetterhorn trail. This involved 30 minutes of side-hilling and talus hopping, so if that isn't of interest to you then continue making your way towards the TH on the ridge stock trail to that second trail junction where you can take the defined trail towards Wetterhorn. Again, knowing time was of the essence with possible storms this afternoon, I was willing to deal with side-hilling and jumping boulders to shave a few minutes off my time as clouds were starting to move into the area. Once I regained the standard trail, it was nothing more than a weaving trail through the boulder field to gain the Wetterhorn ridge.
I met two climbing parties descending on the saddle. One group made the summit and estimated that it would take between 30-45minutes to gain the summit. The other group turned around since someone told them it would take an hour from the rock rib which they didn't think was worth it given the building clouds. Being my stubborn self who never wants to turn around, I kept going at haste. The initial portion of the remaining trail is on a defined trail before it turns to some fun Class 3 climbing. There are cairns marking the route, and for the most part, the trail is on the left side a little below the ridgeline. For a little more "adventure" you can take the ridge which will lead to more sustained Class 3 climbing. The summit massif of Wetterhorn offers a 30-40ft, continuous Class 3 climb. The rock is solid, but I still recommend testing your holds as I did find a few loose rocks. The summit of Wetterhorn is the antithesis of Uncompaghre - if Uncompaghre could fit a gold course on it's summit, Wetterhorn would fit one hole of minigolf. Time to summit - 2 hours 6 minutes
Summit shot from Wetterhorn
A look down the ascending ridgeline (switchback of trail can be seen to the left of ridge). Ridge Stock Trail ascends through these trees.
Nearby 13ers. Someday... Someday...
View of the Western San Juans. From Left to Right: Wilson Group, Teakettle, and Sneffles
It took me 35 minutes to ascending from the saddle and 25 minutes to descend it. From here, it was just a matter of booking it out on a defined trail. Nothing of note other than my feet were feeling my 17+ mile day when I reached the parking lot. I briefly contemplated a run at Matterhorn, but the weather was building and I knew that making an attempt could leave me in a bad situation. Plus, I still had two more days to go and I wanted to spare my feet so I would be able to walk when I finished my 4 day excursion.
The uniqueness of this area was captivating. I thoroughly enjoyed my climb of both peaks and can guarantee I'll be back in this area at some point. And, Matterhorn, you're on the list.
Day 3 Trip Report by Tyler Prince (Mountain Medic): http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=12391
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):