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 Peak(s):  Wetterhorn Peak  -  14,015 feet
 Post Date:  08/02/2009 Modified: 02/21/2010
 Date Climbed:   07/31/2009
 Posted By:  dcbates80911

 San Juan Day 1 - BOOM   

I know some people don't care for a lot of pictures, but there are just too many to leave out. The San Juan Range is amazing. Also, this report is broken into two sections for obvious reasons when you read.

Team: Eatinhardtack (Zach) and COMedic04 (Ryan)
Distance ~ 11 miles
Route: Matterhorn

This was Zach's and my first class three. It was fun. Zach did well. It took me a little longer to adapt.

Memorable quotes of the day:
"I wonder if those clouds mean the same thing as they did on Holy Cross?" …Ryan – Starting out the day

"Ryan, you are about at the limits of my comfort level!!!" …Dave – Ryan trying to find the route on the far East side.

"Don't worry, my butt is so puckered right now I am suction cupped to the rock!!!" …Dave – Coming down the top 100 feet back to the notch.

"You know, I felt like I could die at any moment!" …Zach – Talking to his dad about the lightning.

This was a right of passage for Zach and I. We are now in the Class 3 category. I was and still remain timid about the exposure, however; the class 3 part wasn't bad at all.

The day started at 5:00 as we packed up to leave the Matterhorn 4WD Trail Head. Zach and I trusted Ryan's leadership as he had all the experience. About 0.6 mile up the road, we came to a sign and junction. Ryan said we were to go to the left (really it was to the right). We followed Ryan. Not a good sign, dude.

Please don't get me wrong, this was actually a beautiful route, but added about 3.5 miles. The views in the valley were pretty spectacular with the rock bands and different water falls. We were able to follow a trail most of the way and Zach completed the first summit of the day.

Loop Route


Dave and Ryan
Photo by Zach

Photo by Zach

Photo by Zach

Our Target
Photo by Zach

Photo by Zach

Photo by Ryan









Sun briefly lights up a nearby peak


Zach's First Summit of the Day
Photo by Ryan



At the Valley's far end, we picked up a trail that took us above the rock bands. The views to the east were beautiful and the hills were soooooo green. During this time, it became pretty cloudy with rain forming to the west. We watched each storm and saw no lightning, never heard thunder, and they all skirted past us to the south.

Ryan heading up
Image by Zach

Zach and our Goal
Image by Zach











Ryan located the standard trail on the ridge, while Zach and I began to follow as a party of three joined our group. As we headed up, Ryan became the designated route finder. There were a couple times he had me on at the edge of my limit. One time was when he descended about a six-foot drop to a ledge with a 600-foot fall below. I followed one of the other guys on a less exposed route. We scrambled around until we reached the prow.

Uncompahgre and Ryan
Image by Zach

Matterhorn and Uncompahgre
Image by Ryan

Zach
Image by Ryan

The old guy in the group slowly makes his way up
Image by Ryan

Image by Ryan

Image by Zach

My thought….Ryan, I am working here…save your pictures
Image by Ryan

Image by Zach

Upon reaching the prow, we started to examine the notch. Here you enter the last 100+ foot scramble. All the pictures I have seen and even these make it look very intimidating, but they are very solid steps with good had holds. Regardless, I took my time and my heart did race. Weather did come in for a brief moment and dumped some wet snow.







Entering the last part
Image by Ryan

Good look at the last sectionImage by Ryan

Zach and Ryan


Making my way up
Image by Zach

We reached the summit around 9:15, about 4 hours after leaving. We spent about 30 minutes on top taking pictures and watching the weather. Ryan took a great one, but lets just say he is no Canyongoddess.

I made it
Image by Zach

Zach Rests
Image by Zach





Image by Zach

The three Amigos










Another area of weather development had formed to our North West and we felt it was time to get down. Our concern was the potential for wet rock. There was nothing else of concern at this point.

Descent was the hardest part for me as I slooooowly and methodically moved down the mountain. All was good, but as you descend you are looking dowwwwwn. Zach went first and Ryan waited around to help me. I must tell you, these are two great guys.

I start the descent
Image by Zach

Ryan watching me
mage by Zach



Exiting the notch
Image by Zach

Descending to safe ground about 12 feet below
Image by Zach



Storm starts to move in with some grauple
Image by Zach

Image by Zach

At this point, the pictures stop for a few. We had all reached the end of any scrambling and to the main trail. Ryan was in front of me when out of nowhere we heard an extended thunder burst. It started quietly with some crackling and ended with an enormous boom. We were at 13,400 feet. I thought Ryan was going to jump out of his pants has he started running. There really was no place to go.

Within five minutes, I heard buzzing on my trekking poles. I could not get my pack off fast enough and threw it quite a ways. Another crack was heard above us and I picked up my pack, took off the poles and was ready to leave them. Zach had the same idea, but we kept them in our hands. We descended the standard route very quickly. I was amazed at how a little adrenaline helped cure my tired and shaky legs.

We continued down until I heard a lot of screaming (and a few 4 letter words) from behind. I turned around and Zach was on the ground in pain. He had turned his ankle. I watched him as he got up and continued to move. Overall, there may have been 8 strikes, but at that altitude it was very scary. I had only experienced something similar one time before, but this experience was much worse.

The storm moved out and we stopped along the trail to take some pictures and our partner/paramedic (Ryan) looked at Zach. No long term damage and did fine after wrapping.

A rather POed Zach after turning his ankle


Uncompahgre
Image by Ryan

Looking up after the ankle assessment




We returned to the TH to three cold beers. These were necessary after this trip.

Image by Zach

Image by Zach

Day one was interesting to say the least. It was fun and we have some good stories. An awesome climb and I was glad to have completed my first class three. Not sure how many more I will do. Never had it in my mind to finish the 14ers, but you just never know. Of all the things that could be scary today, the lightning was the worst. I am glad we got to do it as this trip has been well over a year in the making. Moreover, I was glad to have spent it with these two guys.

Now on to Uncompahgre

 


  • Comments or Questions (15)
dcbates80911


Hey CO Native...     2011-02-04 17:22:15
I have met you and think you are a pretty good guy so I will clarify. If you focus on most of the pictures, they were not dark clouds until the later summit shots when we left. Also, the one incident of snow on the way up was less then 30 seconds. You had to be there. Finally, we were on top when it was decided to go lower because the clouds were building. We and the other group were paying close attention to the weather. Please save your scolding for the others who continued up as we were on our way down. I tend to ignore criticism, but I take offense to your assumptions based on the limited knowledge from this TR. I know you and others have made mistakes on different climbs. Our pictures prior to our early decent decision look very much like the ones you took on Windom. There are plenty of people who make bad decisions who are not called out. I believe our decisions were made based on the circumstances at the time and request that you call out everyone or don't call out at all.


Gueza


Awesome report!     2012-03-04 11:31:45
Good writing and great pictures. Lightning is a scary thing. Overall, congrats on Wetterhorn!


Brian C


Yikes!     2010-08-23 08:48:42
Glad to hear you guys made it down ok. We were below the ridge when the lightning started and were wondering about you guys.
Congrats on the summit and it was nice to meet you up there!


Brian C


Yikes!     2010-08-23 08:48:42
Glad to hear you guys made it down ok. We were below the ridge when the lightning started and were wondering about you guys.
Congrats on the summit and it was nice to meet you up there!


Bogart


Good Work     2009-08-02 17:05:14
Good job Dave! I am glad you survived the class 3.


CO Native


What?     2009-08-02 20:37:24
”out of nowhere we heard an extended thunder burst.”

Dark clouds, rain, and snow and the thunder comes out of nowhere?

How much warning do you guys need to reconsider going higher?

You guys are lucky your decision making and haste only resulted in a turned ankle.


cftbq


Thanks for a good TR     2009-08-03 00:18:00
...and pics. Yeah--you definitely added some unnecessary distance and time to your ascent by going left instead of right at that trail junction. But props for persevering, and I‘m glad you made it down all right, in spite of the weather. FWIW, we had to abandon our plan to bag Uncompahgre on the same day as Wetterhorn last year because the weather moved in on us, despite a gloriously sunny morning, so it‘s not just you! Wetterhorn is a great intro to the serious climbing in the San Juans and, if you got through that, there‘s a whole galaxy of technical and semi-technical peaks out there that you can now reasonably aspire to. Climb on!


COmedic04


Hmmm...     2010-11-30 10:28:48
Dave, AWESOME TR! You really captured all the good (and bad) points of this climb, and it made me even more excited to climb with you guys again! I had a fantastic time, and look forward to another adventure with you two!

CO Native...what gives? Sure, we knew that the presence of clouds and graupel/snow made even worse weather/static discharges possible, but it's not as if we charged ahead, unawares or ignorant of impending weather. Several times we discussed as a group the weather, surveyed the passing clouds, and made a group decision to continue. We are hardly professional climbers, but the three of us aren't beginners or novices, either. Had the conditions deteriorated as quickly on our way up as they did on the way down, I can say without a moment's hesitation that myself and my two partners (both of whom I trust implicitly, having climbed with and spent quite a bit of time with them both) would have quickly agreed to turn around, regardless of how close or far we were from the summit. While we did find ourselves in potentially dangerous and hazardous conditions on the way down, I would argue those are conditions that come as an "occupational hazard" for our hobby.
I have had some near-misses in my climbing "career", and have made some poor decisions in the past. I welcome criticism, whether it be constructive or downright rude and "snarky", but agree with my partner: either save your scolding for other, far less experienced climbers who make MUCH more careless decisions, or apply your guardianship and expertise to criticize everyone who has found themselves in a unexpected situation in an alpine setting. Otherwise, thank you for your insight, albeit abrupt and curt.

Ok, now that the unpleasantness is out of the way, how about something to lighten the situation:

http://hphotos-snc1.fbcdn.net/hs188.snc1/6288_526906698321_73003459_31299013_3838692_n.jpg

(Slightly embarrassing/near NSFW, so I‘m leaving it in link form to avoid flashing my helmet-protected birthday suit to those who might not care to see it...)


dcbates80911


Dude...     2009-08-03 07:18:40


KeithK


Umm, yeah, dude...     2009-08-03 07:24:21
Ryan, remind me to not hike with you anytime soon. Eeeek!
Dave, nice job, great report! Ignore the armchair QB-ing; most of us know how the weather can be unpredictable. We spent about 7 hours under clouds like that last week on Holy Cross, and barely got rained on at all, with no electricity. You just never know what‘s gonna happen. Congrats on your first ”big” mountain experience, isn‘t Wetterhorn an absolute blast! (No pun intended!)


Bogart


Echoing Keith‘s Comments     2009-08-03 08:02:01
Like Keith said ignore the armchair QB-ing. If you wait for perfect weather on every hike you would never make it up any mountain. You know that I typically spend my time on 14ers alone. I am solo by choice because I do not trust others decision making. You and a couple of others on here are an exception to that rule. I know that you are keenly aware of the changing weather conditions, your physical abilities, and your ability to adapt to changing conditions. Keep up the good work.

Since you have some class 3 under your belt now we should go finish up Crestone‘s before the road is closed. What do you think?


CO Native


Oh come on guys     2010-11-30 10:28:48
You deserve a razzing after that trip. What did you expect me to just say, just the platitudes of the first 4 comments. It's not meant in anger or to pretend I've never made stupid decisions (I've made worse than what you did on this trip), just got to give you crap for it. I literally laughed outloud when I read the comment that the thunder came out of nowhere. I think it's great you posted the report, but to me it's a testimony to how the results of small errors combined with some decisions to push your luck can put you in very dangerous situations. Even your own party members agree the trip was dangerous:
""You know, I felt like I could die at any moment!" …Zach – Talking to his dad about the lightning. "

I'm sick of this "don't armchair QB" crap too. What's the point, if we can't discuss. It makes us better, safer, smarter mountaineers to discuss what went right and what didn't. DCbates and COMedic made some good counter points that are good to hear. Why leave it unspoken?

Yours isn't the first TR I've "called out", and likely won't be the last. It's not disrespect. Rather the contrary. I tend to be on the conservative side, I know it. People make different decisions based on different comfort levels. I'd rather hear your response to my call out than a newbs.


dcbates80911


Thanks...     2009-08-03 08:16:28
Keith and Chad, thanks for the support. I can write all day and show all the pictures, but it doesn‘t represent the conditions that led to our decisions.

As for the Crestone‘s I think they still maybe out of my comfort level at this time, but thanks for asking. Right now, I am looking at Longs and the Challenger/Kit Carson sometime before calendar summer ends (if you are interested).


dcbates80911


CO Native     2009-08-03 08:23:58
Hey Josh, fair enough.

Your points are well taken from your second post. It was the curt and blunt delivery on the first post that hit a nerve. Unfortunately, a bad delivery can mask any good and helpful message trying to be conveyed. That‘s all, because I do respect your advise you have given over the last 2+ years I have been on this site.


COmedic04


It‘s all good...     2009-08-03 18:05:55
Thanks for the clarifying remarks, Josh. I‘m ALL for learning/discussing mistakes, especially by relatively experienced site members/climbers, but agree with Dave: it was the delivery of your comments that kinda left a sour taste in my mouth. I‘m very self-deprecating with regards to my climbing mistakes and amateur status (as evidenced by my frequent documentation of them in the forum and my TR‘s), so I welcome comments, even ”calling out”, just don‘t think there‘s a need to be accusatory or degrading with which the way it‘s done!



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