| Wetterhorn Fall Climb
Living in Fort Collins, an 8-hour drive away, I'd been frustrated by the relatively wet summer. But a reasonable window opened up, so we took a chance on Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre. Wetterhorn summited Saturday, Sunday rained pretty heavily (and snowed) so we bagged that.
I'll use this report to fill in some gaps and offer my impressions, not repeating (trying anyway) what others have said.
A word about the 4WD roads to both peaks: no big deal (in fact, pretty fun) for my unmodified 4-Runner. The only hitch was Saturday afternoon going up the Uncompahgre road. We stopped three times for on-coming vehicles on the one-lane road. Two nervous newbies and one guy who just threw his truck into reverse and jammed it back up to a wide spot. Nice driving! One woman driving a fairly wide truck was almost in a panic, convinced it was game over. We just got out and directed her to a wide spot where my car could get way off the road (like 40 degree tilt) and she made it by. Sunday, coming down, I'd made note of the wide spots since it would be my turn to back up, but lucked out...no cars to pass.
5AM start time. Very dark, but moon was up and trail is good until a stream crossing maybe a couple of miles in, where it's easy to lose the trail in the dark. Point is, the trail is almost always nicely distinct until you get into a short section up in the rocks, so backtrack if you're on something indistinct. There are some social trails and disturbed tundra that look like they could be trails. We made the first low ridge that exposes the main ridge and peak by sunrise, so around 2 hours including a stop to answer nature's call (note photo-1, which is from the trailhead sign...yeah, he's eating toilet paper. There's my PSA for this report). After the sun hit the mountain, the area lit up nicely, bouncing off the peak.
The rest of the way up was easy and pretty obvious until the class-2 area, where you should pay attention and have read Middlebrook's route description. I always make a cheat sheet for 14ers with non-trail sections, so no big deal.
Once in the rocks it gets more fun. While waiting for a companion (we're in our early 60s or close to it, BTW) I watched a group of 20-30-somethings descend the crux. Maybe they looked so casual since I was shooting them coming down? I was thinking that this was going to be easier than I'd thought (and hoped). Sure, the exposure is high. But the hand and foot-holds are so obvious, and the rock so solid, that I was surprised to top out in what seemed no time. Disappointed that section wasn't longer!
Excellent day though. Clouds built but never swallowed the whole sky, so there were always shafts of light to make the surrounding views exceptional. Can't think of too many other views that I've liked better; the San Juans are superb.
We figured that since lots of clouds had built by the time we came off the peak and the sky wasn't getting any darker, (we spent quite a bit of time up there since the weather looked OK and pictures were begging to be shot) we'd take a chance on doing Matterhorn too. We figured we could always run off it if we needed to, and there's an easy tundra slope almost all the way up. So we descended to below the rocky part of the little valley and huffed it up. Easy going until a very short bit of pretty solid talus at the end. A fine, if foreshortened, view of the jagged ridge that connects Wetterhorn with Matterhorn, and even closer views of Uncompahgre. Well worth the effort.
We took our sweet time wandering down, as the sky just wasn't getting any darker. A no-poncho day. Woo-hoo.
SUNDAY was very different. It rained on and off all Saturday night, snowing on the peaks. At 5am it was drizzling, so we decided to go for Uncompahgre (having driven to the main TH on Saturday afternoon). A mile up or so, steady rain and a view of the mountain partially hiding in a low cloud ceiling made us say "no fun." Done too much of that kind of thing, I guess.
The drive out was pretty, some nice aspens lining the road and a cool little waterfall.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):