Peak(s):  Uncompahgre Peak  -  14,309 feet
Post Date:  04/16/2010
Modified:  08/11/2015
Date Climbed:   04/15/2010
Posted By:  BillMiddlebrook
Additional Members:   comin2getcha, USAKeller

 Uncompahgre and a Perfect Day    


Route: South Ridge from Nellie Creek (standard)
Date: 4-15-2010
Skiers: USAKeller, comin2getcha, BillMiddlebrook
Updated Trailhead Info: Nellie Creek
Elevation Gain: 3,800'
RT Mileage: 10 miles

Snow Coverage: Continuous snow from 10,500' to 13,900' on the south ridge. Dry sections between 13,900' and 14,000' and patchy snow to the summit.

Topo of the route (yellow=snowmobiles, blue=hike, red=ski):
The day before the climb, I took some time to preview the area from southeast of Lake City:
Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre from Slumgullion Pass

After reaching the trailhead, I rode the mountain sled up the 4WD road to see how far I could get and if it was "doable" for my 2nd two-person sled. After some on-and-off snow, there was a long, dry patch below the first stream crossing and plenty of rock-fall in the road. I rode up to the 2nd stream crossing near 2.5 miles and built snow ramps on each side of the open water. Continued up to almost 3 miles where passage was blocked by rocks and small mud slides running across the road. Once I returned, I figured we could get both sleds about 2.5 miles up the road without risking an afternoon shovel fest.

The Climb

Also taken from Slumgullion Pass, here's a closer look at the upper terrain. With this preview, I was hopeful there would be enough snow for a continuous, summit ski descent. Well, that didn't happen but it was close enough.
An overview of the climb (blue) and ski

After the sled ride, we began skinning just after 6:00am and made the upper trailhead at 7:30am.

On a 14er, some mornings are better than others and this one seemed special. Everything seemed perfect - the temps, snow cover, light cloud cover and, of course, this view. For me, this was the first real day of the 2010 spring 14er skiing season. Absolutely gorgeous.
Uncompahgre from tree line

Look at all of that snow!

What could be better than skinning on firm, grippy snow? Answer in "ski" section, below
The snow was ideal for ski travel

Once we reached the slope where the summer trail switchbacks up to 13,800' it became clear we were going to have good ski conditions from at least that high.
The terrain to 13,800'

Looking down from 13,700'

For those of you that have climbed this route (south ridge), you're probably familiar with the steep, scree section between 13,900' and 14,000'. This was where we realized the continuous ski was out for today. We booted this loose section in hopes of seeing more snow up higher.
Uh oh, this could be hard to ski later

USAKeller near 14k, Wetterhorn in the distance

When we got to this point, I realized we were running about an hour and a half later than we had hoped, but it didn't matter. Light clouds were helping to keep the mountain cool as we took our time reaching the summit. I'm not kidding, this was turning out to be a perfect day. Throughout our climb, I kept thinking of a possible post-holing nightmare if we came down too late, but once we got to the summit, I was convinced we had enough time.
Approaching the summit plateau

The summit, with snow along the east edge

Uncompagre's familiar summit

The east face of Wetterhorn is in, but the road up to Capitol City was closed! This was our possible goal for the next day but it wasn't in the cards this time.
Wetterhorn has lots of snow

The Ski

USAKeller demanded that I include these shots

Off we go

Making the upper terrain work

The big dry spot

Continuous from here to the bottom

As if someone hit a switch, the cloud-cover vanished and it was time for some excellent spring skiing. From 13,900' we enjoyed creamy snow on top of a mostly-firm, stable base. I'll let the remaining photos do the talking...
Near 13,800'

I think comin2getcha may have been enjoying the ski conditions!


Endless creamy skiing

Heading out of the drainage, with Unnamed 13,106' to the east

The upper (4WD) trailhead and skiing out on the road...

A mellow ski on a great mountain.


Wetterhorn conditions:


And the drive home wasn't a snoozer either! From Buena Vista to Fairplay there was lightning, heavy rain, hail, and some heavy snow.

An interesting end to a perfect day...

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Looks like an awesome day     02/05/2011 00:22
Thanks for putting this up - not sure when i‘ll get up there but it looks like things were perfect for you guys.


Hmm...     04/16/2010 21:57
Somehow I can hear Caroline demanding that you include those summit shots...

I think you‘ve just provided a very general, but strong candidate for a Fall Gathering... Lake City, anyone?


Looks fun!     04/16/2010 22:02
Amazing that almost nothing has changed in terms of snow coverage since mid-January. It‘s surely not due to lack of precipitation; wind just kills this ski route! Good work nonetheless, those turns lower down look awesome.


No Doubt Benners     04/16/2010 22:24
It‘s amazing that there might actually be less snow now, Especially on the last steep pitch before heading for the notch on the way up, viewers right of the switchbacks.

Fun looking trip. Nice to see you‘re back at it Caroline.


lightning     04/17/2010 00:27
Huh. We were driving up the San Luis valley on our way back from Little Bear wondering where all that lightning was at. Crazy for mid-april


Little Bear     04/17/2010 00:36
how was LB?


Cheatmobiles...     11/30/2010 17:28
put me in a much better mood! I think your words "On a 14er, some mornings are better than others and this one seemed special. Everything seemed perfect - the temps, snow cover, light cloud cover and, of course, this view. For me, this was the first real day of the 2010 spring 14er skiing season. Absolutely gorgeous" are spot on and describe the day perfectly. The lightning storm around BV was so cool! Great photos and write-up!

Fritz and Ben - we, too, were shocked at how dry the summit and upper south ridge was; especially for a heavy San Juan snow year.

Keith - funny you said that! I never said that to Bill nor would I ever demand such a thing!


Enjoyed the TR     04/17/2010 02:46
What a great team for a great day! Thanks for sharing the fun. Looks like stellar conditions.

Bill, some nice photos, and beautifully documented report.

Nice turns, all of you!



Just the goods     11/30/2010 17:28
no fluff in that report. Nicely done everyone. Great to see you back at it. You picked a fine day. Uncompahgre is another mountain I can't wait to see up close. This report reminds me it should be near the top of my list.


Jealous     04/17/2010 12:29
Jealous that‘s all.


LB     04/17/2010 19:19
Bill, now is a great time to do Little Bear. Excellent shape, and perhaps best of all the Lake Como road is about 98% snow covered once you drop into the canyon (Holbrook Creek), so if you drive as far as the first big snow patches you won‘t need to walk on that awful baby head road much at all. Hurry, though, the S side of the road is melting fast. Hourglass will be in for a while.


LB     04/17/2010 19:52
Excellent info. The approach is what keeps me from skiing those peaks and I just have to suck it up and get in there. Thanks again


Posible winter hike.     09/30/2011 16:11
Thank you for the trip report. This looks like a posible winter hike.

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