| Relaxing for fall break
Wetterhorn Peak – October 18, 2008
It's fall break and the weather forecast was perfect, so what better to do than climb a 14er? Matt and I left Gunnison at about 0430 to head down to climb Wetterhorn Peak, and arrived at the Matterhorn Creek trailhead at about 0630. The 4wd road (last mile and a half or so) is intense. You absolutely need a high-clearance 4wd vehicle to get here. There are tons of rocks in the road that will gut your vehicle if you don't clear them or move around them. My Rav4 made it but bottomed out once – it only has 8.5 or so inches of clearance but is maneuverable enough to dodge some of the bigger rocks.
Anyway, it was still dark enough to need headlamps when we started up the trail. The air was cold and quiet in a very peaceful way, but it wasn't long before we were stopping momentarily to remove hats and outer layers.
We reached a trail junction about half a mile in, where someone had conveniently written in "Wetterhorn Peak" with an arrow indicating the trail on the right.
At this trail junction, follow the right trail up the hill
We followed this up and reached treeline just as the sun was thinking about rising. At this point, Matterhorn Peak came into view dead ahead, so we knew we were in the right place.
First light in the east. I don't know what mountain this is, but I thought the light in the pic looked cool.
We continued up the trail into the basin, where the trail loops around some hummocky terrain leading up to the ridge. As we hiked up, we crossed a couple of partially-frozen runoff streams, which had some pretty cool looking ice.
I thought this looked cool too.
The trail crosses through a boulder field, and there was a bit of snow on this part, though there were trail segments easily visible between the snowfields and it wasn't hard to follow at all. We gained the ridge and took a short break for water and some photos.
Matt on the ridge with the summit in the background
We hiked up the ridge over a couple lumps that involved steep hiking sections followed by flat sections (almost like giant stairs), before getting to the class 3 section.
The first part of the class 3 section consists of really easy moves up towards a notch near some giant pillar-shaped rocks, and the cairns are plentiful (there are also cairns marking the notch where you go through, to the left of the giant pillar rocks). At this notch, the Prow came into clear view, and we down-climbed a bit and crossed over towards the prow.
Looking at the Prow as we ascended the ridge. The summit is on the right with the snow on it.
The notch where you go through here for the final section to the summit is easily identifiable, though I don't recall there being a cairn marking it. We went through this and down-climbed a little bit to a huge slab that we walked along to get to some ledges that led to the gully that leads to the summit. This part is like a giant staircase, it's pretty straightforward; though care should be exercised when descending (falling here would be a really bad idea). There was a little snow on the last few steps to the summit, but it was pretty easy to just kick our boots into it and walk up.
We summited at 0939; it took us just a little over three hours from the trailhead. We ate some brownies, took the obligatory summit photos, and signed the register. The weather was perfect; the sky was bright blue with a few wispy white clouds and jet trails cutting across its massive expanse. There was no wind to speak of, the absolute silence while looking across the vast expanses of mountains and valleys.
Matt and I on the summit
Uncompaghre Peak from the Wetterhorn summit
Looking west from the summit towards Mt. Sneffels and the Wilson Group ... pretty snowy!
After a few minutes up top, we headed down. Going down the class 3 section is pretty straightforward, but I was careful all the same. Once back at the notch near the prow, we took a short break for some water. At this point, the descent is barely technical at all except for a few random moves and it didn't take us long to reach the point on the ridge where we turned north back into the basin. The sun was warm and had softened the snowfields that we crossed here, which resulted in a little bit of postholing, but it wasn't that bad. At one point, Matt tried to glissade down a short ways just to avoid walking, but the snow was too soft and I think sliding down took him as much effort as walking took me. We walked back through the field and soon reached treeline, where I stopped once to take a picture of some ice on the creek that runs alongside the trail here.
Ice on the creek
We were back at the car at 1250, making our total RT time about 6 hours and 20 minutes. We were the only ones on the mountain that day, which was rather nice.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):