Team: Kathleen and jf32 (me)
Route - Southeast Ridge - 3300 ft over 7 miles
Quick Disclaimer: this isn't going to be a useful conditions report as Wetterhorn is in full on summer condition and the hike is very straightforward .
I'm not sure where to start writing this report so if you choose to read it bear with me. I stumbled into the world of hiking/climbing mountains when I lived in NYC and went on vacation to Peru and found myself hiking up to a high mountain pass. I remember feeling completely exhausted and frustrated that all that energy was spent and I didn't even get to enjoy the satisfaction of reaching a summit- but man were the views great. That trip was shortly followed by one to Colorado which was originally planned to be an American wildlife safari. The original goal was to digitally hunt animals in a National Park but airfare to Yellowstone and Glacier was too steep so Denver and RMNP became the objective. Once RMNP was the destination I flipped through a book I had as a relic from a past relationship (Roach's guidebook) and came across Longs. It quickly became a no brainer to give it an honest try. I was the quintessential noob struggling with altitude on an August Saturday up the mountain (and yes - i was wearing cotton) - but I was successful and hooked. And that guidebook has been more than well used since. It's slightly water logged, been carried up a few mountains (before I found this site) and read and reread to an almost unhealthy degree. Page xxvii is now fully highlighted and will be hanging on my wall in the near future.
How I wound up in Colorado is a longer story and doesn't need to be included in this 'report' but since that ascent on Longs in August of 2007 I have gone 72-5 on 14ers (a distinction that excludes all non 14er hikes) covering roughly 582 miles and 252,000 vertical.
A quick look at the 5 unsuccessful summit bids (not unsuccessful days)
1) Conundrum - my 1st (and still scariest) experience with lightning (castle/con saddle)
2) El Diente - fresh snow and low clouds coupled with a skittish partner forced a turn around high on the buttress (13800-13900 or so)
3) Lindsey - Wind in the 30 mph range and low clouds allowed us to make a prudent decision to turn back at 13600
4) Quandary - Winter repeat attempt - was unsuccessful due to extreme hangover - roughly 14000
5) Princeton - Winter repeat attempt - we turned back to avoid hiking in the dark
Last summer I hiked the majority of the 14ers and was flirting with the idea of finishing them. When I was turned back on El Diente in September I made the decision that I would not finish that year as I had no interest in repeating the car ride back to re-attempt that group. That left me with roughly 7 or 8 peaks left. Kathleen, my sister-in-law, has been very supportive and interested in my mountain climbing hobby (obsession may be a better word) and has been a big part of my experience even though up until this week she has never been to Colorado or hiked on any mountain. She and her family were planning a trip out here for this summer (with the time frame of 4th of July weekend) and she said that she wanted to hike one with me. I told her that the easiest option would be doing an easier one close to Denver and she laughed and said she'd like to do a 'new' one with me. I sent her the list of my remaining peaks and thought that it'd be pretty fun do one with her and I quickly realized it'd most likely be my finisher as it probably wouldn't be too hard to get the rest done before her arrival. My list had mountains in the class 1-4 range and in my head Handies was the obvious choice - short and scenic. She had other ideas. After thoroughly looking over the route description and pictures she selected Wetterhorn because it offered her a mountain that required more than hiking and looked imposing (and it had a cool name - something very important in her decision making). As of last September I kind of knew I'd be finishing on Wetterhorn. This set up a winter of jokes making fun of Quandary and Bross (class 1ish mountains in general) as well as providing a bit of added incentive to get the last few peaks I needed in before her arrival.
This spring/early summer all the peaks I needed lined up pretty well. A once off trip up Culebra in April following a heavy storm allowed for that peak and it's scheduling difficulties to no longer be an issue. That was followed by a perfect day on Uncompahgre (which offered pristine views of Wetterhorn). After Uncompahgre there was only one obstacle remaning: El Diente and Mt Wilson. I have a tr up of my memorial weekend trip down there - long story short those mountains are formidable but the trip was a success. I was really happy to finally get these two mountains off my mind.
Everything was now set for Wetterhorn. All we had to do was climb it - something that was definitely on Kathleen's mind as she had no real hiking experience - never mind handling exposed class 3 terrain. The date was set for July 8th. The forecast called for a 50% chance of t-storms (my comfort level is usually around 30% but we figured we'd try anyway as she was only here for a week). We arrived at Matterhorn Creek at 1 am Thursday morning and car camped under a sky filled with stars and the white band of the milky way and set our 4:45 alarm. I had planned on starting earlier but the cloudless sky suggested a later start time would work. Yea - 4:45 is a later start time - still can't believe I'm writing that.
Some details on the actual climb
Once hiking our progress was slow and steady. Kathleen struggled a bit with altitude and exertion but kept her head down and remained focused on the summit. Once we got high on the ridge (on the Class 3 terrain) she came to life -climbing faster than she did all day. Needless to say we were both pretty pumped to gain the summit. We didn't stay long as clouds were building. We heard a bit of thunder on the way back to the car - we also enjoyed a nice, brief July snowstorm. Some of Kathleen's take aways: Class 1/2 is really Class 6. Class 3 climbing on solid rock is fun - she described the scramble to the summit as a playground (I happen to agree). She is not bothered by exposure and was surprised by how many flowers there were on the way down but not the way up (even though we used the same route) and how fat marmots are.
First glimpse of Wetterhorn
Kathleen and the upper mountain
an ocean of mountains as a back drop
a quick side trip up the prow
extra credit on the prow
exposure - what exposure?
screw hiking I want to climb
atop wetterhorn with my pack, the only piece of gear to join me on all of em
All told it was a great day to climb and an even better one to share both a 14er finish and start. Thanks Kathleen for being a part of the journey and being there for the finish (and great job getting up that mountain).
Speaking of thanks - a big shout out to Bill M for the site - I don't have a ride and have used this site extensively both for information and to find climbing partners (to phrase it selfishly drivers). I owe a big thanks to both my climbing partners - especially the guys I've done a few with - and all those on the site who have helped by providing conditions updates and general info - a few short years ago i knew nothing about hiking or climbing at elevation and I greatly appreciate you sharing your knowledge - hopefully some of it stuck.
see ya wetterhorn
As far as what's next - the answer's simple: just enjoy being outside. This 14er list is the only list I plan on intentionally completing. Thanks for reading.