| The Untamed Beauty of Wetterhorn!
June 14, 2008
Route: Southeast Ridge
Round Trip: 7.6 miles, 6 hours
Elevation Gain: 3280ft.
Hikers: KirkT, and ScottN
After unsuccessfully getting a group together for the San Juans, myself and my trusty partner ScottN departed Friday afternoon around 4:45 for another great anticipated weekend in the San Juans. The plan was to climb Wetterhorn on Saturday and drive to San Luis and camp for a climb on Sunday. The weather was supposed to be excellent with no high winds (amazing), no precipitation and sunny skies, with temps supposed to be in the 50's! We would not be disappointed.
We arrived at the 4wd trailhead around 9:45. We set up our camp and were quickly off to bed with a scheduled 5 am start. It was kind of chilly while setting up camp. When the alarm went off at 4:30 it was very obvious that it was cold outside. Ice crystals had formed on the inside of my tent. After getting dressed and getting outside I checked the thermometer on the outside of my tent. It was reading 15 degrees! Man, that's a hard feeze. This gave us good feelings on the snow conditions with such a hard freeze. Neither one of us were totally prepared for our hike, so after alot of rutting around we were finally off to the trail at 5:25. Just in time to start without headlamps.
There was very little snow up through the forest to treeline. After reaching treeline the snow became much more prominent. Infact the trail was almost 85% snow covered. However, after such a freeze, we were walking on top of it like nothing. We both had snowshoes strapped to our packs but never needed to unstrap them. When you reach the Basin of these mountains it is literally breathtaking. There is an imense area between Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn with Matterhorn tucked in the center. It truly has to be seen to understand its beauty. We continued up to the ridge of Wetterhorn making great time.
After a short snack break, we ditched our trekking poles and started up the "main" climb of the route. I have read that this peak is a good introduction for people wanting to get the feel of "class 3" climbing. After climbing it, I would say that it can cause some pretty anxious moments for the inexperienced hiker. Scott and myself have had some great climbs with much more intensity than this but for the beginner with no class 3 experience, this could be a heart beater. There was one tricky cross section that was snow covered that we brought out our axes to cross. After that however, the snow was almost totally melted out on the upper sections up to the prow with a small area of snow to cross before the last 150 ft. to the summit. This area is pretty steep straight up to the summit. We reached the summit at 8:35, taking us 3 hours and 10 minutes to summit. The weather as predicted was freaking incredible. Wind was blowing around 5 mph, with a cloudless sky. It was one of the clearest days I have ever been able to experience on a summit. You could see as far as the Wilson's to the West and as far as the Sawatch to the East. Incredible!! We spent 40 minutes on the summit soaking up the views for our rewards of such a long drive and a fantastic climb.
The descent went fairly straight forward. Care must be taken while downclimbing this peak, especially with some snow present. A misstep or bad hold could send you down a few 100 feet to end in a bad day for sure. We actually made pretty good time back down to the Prow. Where the second downclimb was required. Again we brought out the axes for the cross back to the ridge. This is one great climb in every sense of the word. Excellent scramble to the summit. We had decided to glissade as many times as we could to help our descent time. Also.. it's just plain fun! We had picked several lines on our way up, so we decided on one and took off with axes in hand down the SouthEast face. We were able to glissade 3 times for about 1500 ft. of elevation loss. We made very quick time back into the basin with the help of the glissades. The time was around 10ish and the sun was beating down pretty hard. The snow however was still firm enough for us to walk straight across without any postholing to speak of. The snowshoes were never used... ascent or descent. We made it back to the trailhead at 11:25. Round trip of 6 hours with 40 minutes of that coming on the summit basting like a couple of hams in the beautiful weather.
Wetterhorn is a beautiful mountain and climb. The basin in this area is really incredible. This was 14'er #42 for me personally, and like #40 for Scott. We both agreed it was one of our most memorable climbs so far. Short distance... incredible, breathtaking scenery, and a great scramble to an incredble summit with views that make the angels jealous. What else is there to be expected from a San Juan 14'er?? Expect to be impressed and awed at the beauty of this area.
After packing up camp, we headed down to Lake City for some relaxation and lunch before our drive over to San Luis. There were Harley riders everywhere. Must of been some convention close cause they were definitely out in droves. After getting some gas at $4.50 a gallon, we were off to San Luis for the second trek of our weekend plan, and what a drive it would be. Thanks for reading.
First sun looking to the South.
First sun looking up on our target, Wetterhorn!
Uncompahgre peaking out above the basin.
Admiring the beauty of Wetterhorn.
Basin under Wetterhorn and Matterhorn.
The beauty of Uncompahgre.
Close-up view of Uncompahgre with ski tracks being seen in colour.
Southeast face of Wetterhorn.
Looking up at the snow around the Prow.
Nice view of Scott's butt climbing the final pitch.
Reward for our labor! Redcloud, Sunshine and Handies to the South.
Matterhorn and Uncompahgre.
Summit mug shot with Sneffels and the Wilson‘s in background.
Scott's classic summit shot!
Scott downclimbing crux to the Prow. Looks easy eeh??
Love this time of year, especially the glissading!
Scott's 400 ft. glissade!
Unique shot of the range from Slumgullion pass on the way to San Luis!
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