Team: Nolan (ngoodnight), Joe (josephg) and myself
Roughly 11 miles and 4000+ ft
We've been talking about heading down to climb Uncompahgre for a while but between a few spring storms, schedules, and an opportunity to climb Culebra we've kept having to bail. Early in the week it looked liked we were going to be rewarded for our patience with a picture perfect Sunday in the San Juans. Despite some tinkering to the weather forecast Friday calling for up to 8 new inches on the ground Saturday and a cloudy day Sunday we were still determined to give it a go.
We left Denver Saturday a little after 12 for a leisurely drive down to Lake City. This gave us more than enough time for the drive - including roughly 2 miles up the Nellie Creek road (it was dry for another mile or so) - and allowed us to set up camp before sunset. After camp was set up we had a Sunshine Wheat in the hopes that we'd get to enjoy the real thing tomorrow. We went to bed with a heavy and low cloud covering and some snow falling.
The weather Saturday Night at our Camp just short of 2 miles up the Nellie Creek Road
A bathroom trip at 1 am revealed a cloudless sky filled with stars. There was no longer any doubt that the climb would happen with great conditions.
Awake at 4:30 and on the trail shortly after 5 am. There was a coating of an inch or 2 of fresh snow on the road (and a bit more higher up).
We had a fresh set of prints to follow for a few miles- coyote
The snow covered road as the sun was rising
I've seen Uncompahgre from quite a few summits but this was the day's first view of the upper mountain.
The trail was pretty straightforward and easy to follow. The snow was still hard and our snowshoes stayed fastened to our packs as we advanced towards the upper basin.
This shot capture the day for me - a brilliant blue sky, some pristine snow, and a lumbering giant
Skirting some low, corniced covered ridges we had our first real break of the day so we could put on some sun tan lotion and enjoy the views.
Our shadows making some upward progress
Snow Ptrarmigan chilling a little short of the ridge
Our goal was to ascend the upper basin to the south ridge and follow that towards the summit. The only tricky part of the day would involve ascending a small gully to gain access to the summit plateau.
Looking back at our trail
Joe and Nolan gaining the ridge
One of many dramatic cliffs along the ridge
First view of Wetterhorn
Looking at both the face of Wetterhorn and the steep gullies coming off Uncompahgre's North face you could see quite a bit of slide activity caused by the new snow and warm temps.
Joe traversing high on the ridge
Nolan with an 'ok' backdrop
me giving the old man fist to my planned finisher
The ridge leading to the upper mountain
The upper mountain
Joe and Nolan in the Gully
Final summit push
And now for the summit shots and views - from the summit we had expansive views in every direction. We spent a good half hour or so relaxing and enjoying our vantage atop the San Juans. We were able to identify all the 14ers in the San Juans and could even glimpse the Elks to the North. The group that caught my attention the most was the Wilsons. I have some unfinished business there that will hopefully be resolved in the next few weeks.
It's a long ways down
Me checking out the exposure
An attempt at glissading
The hike out was uneventful. We shaved over a mile off of our ascent line as we heeled stepped down terrain we didn't feel like climbing. The biggest surprise of the day was that the snow despite being warmed and wet was solid enough to avoid us from postholing. I had anticipated a long day slogging through deep snow. Truth be told we never even thought about donning snowshoes despite carrying them as high as the ridge. Needless to say this made us all pretty happy.
When Joe first climbed Uncompahgre he did it at night during the summer (and had a pretty hairy lion scare to boot). He was able to have a relaxed hike up today and was able to enjoy the views Uncompahgre had to offer.
Joe and Uncompahgre - he enjoyed the views this time
All told it was a great day hiking in near perfect conditions. Despite the snow (which again thankfully didn't force us to suffer through a postholing nightmare) it seemed like a full on summer hike. Guys it was great climbing with ya - Joe thanks for the pics - there were really too many nice ones to choose from for this report.
Parting shot of Uncompahgre