July 11-16 Uncompahgre Wilderness
Peaks Climbed CO Rank CO steepness
Uncompahgre 14309 6
Wetterhorn 14015 49 24
Coxcomb 13656 171 14
Matterhorn 13590 193 100
"Heisshorn" 13411 311 32
"El Punto" 13300 402
Broken Hill 13256 436
27 miles and 5300 feet Backpacking
36 miles and 13000 feet hiking/scrambling
July 11: Backpack up East Fork
Ben G, Ben R, Chris and I left late Sunday afternoon up the East Fork trail into the Uncompahgre Wilderness, I had low hopes for this day with a 70 % of showers. We had one five minute shower while hiking up. The rest of the 8.4 mile hike our first campsite was uneventful, as soon as we set up camp and ate supper it started to rain again. Our first campsite had an excellent view of the Matterhorn.
Ben R admiring our first view on Uncompahgre
A waterfall in the East Fork
July 12: "Heisshorn", "El Punto" and a Backpack to the Middle Fork
I was excited for this day because we were going to climb two of the scrambles described in Cooper's book. The echoing of sheep baaing greeted us in the upper east fork valley. Soon after we heard the baaing we saw the hundreds of sheep which inhabit the valley during the summer. By the end of the trip we were quite annoyed by the incessant noise. At the 12,595 foot pass between the east and middle fork we dropped our backs and donned our helmets. The "Heisshorn" holds a lot of loose rock. However once you get past the initial class 2 portion of the ridge the rock is more solid on the upper ridge. The summit register had an entry from John Kirk and Tim Worth who had climbed 13377 before traversing to "Heisshorn." I would like to know how this traverse was done, the ridge looks impossible. My hats off to you guys any way you traversed between the peaks, because any direct way looked pretty nasty. "Heisshorn" was one of my favorite climbs of the trip. "El Punto" was not. To climb "El Punto" you have to ascend a steep loose scree gully. The only enjoyable portions of the climb were the 20 foot climb up the summit block and reaching grass after descending the scree.
Scrambling on "Heisshorn"
Chilling on "Heisshorn"
Ben G downclimbing "Heisshorn"
The loose summit block of "El Punto"
Notice the scree by the snow, that's the ascent route
July 13: Coxcomb, 13377, 13206
This was the day I had been waiting for since I planned this trip, my first class 5 alpine peak. It was a scary and exhilarating day. Coxcomb is a true Colorado classic climb. The climb up to the chimney was pleasant, mainly due to a convenient climber's trail through the worst of the scree. The chimney was fairly straight forward with some easy class 5 moves. Once on top of the ridge the famous notch greets you fairly quickly. Ben R and Chris set up the top rope and we repelled the notch. A quick scramble to the top of the ridge and an exposed walk brings you to the summit. During the summit walk I had some weird vertigo, this was the most exposed ridge I had ever done and the different speeds that the ridges and valleys moved made for an odd visual experience. The downclimb was uneventful until we exited the alcove and were greeted with the sight of a large storm cloud. We hunkered down for 20 minutes while the storm passed. This was the worst weather of the trip. 13206 is a really nice add on after Coxcomb, as is 13377. From 13377 we descended into the upper basin of the Middle Fork and down to camp.
Coxcomb from our campsite
Waterfall on Coxcomb trail
Summit ridge of Coxcomb
Approaching the summit
Messing around on the summit
If any summit deserves a hero shot this is it
Is it exposed?
Reclimbing the notch
The small cave at the notch
July 14: Moved Camp to 12,400 below Matterhorn, Wetterhorn, Matterhorn, Broken Hill
If I were to do this trip again I would move camp back to the East Fork to break up the climb, as it was we climbed over two 12,500 foot passes in less than 5 miles. It was a miserable slog. Our reward was a climb of Wetterhorn Peak. I was disappointed that I was so tired that I could not fully enjoy an great peak. After a long break we made the climb up the Matterhorn, another excellent peak, it is the perfect add on to the Wetterhorn. After refueling with supper, Ben G and I made the quick ridge walk over to Broken Hill. We slept well that night.
Our third campsite
July 15: Uncompahgre, 13158, 13106, 13091
This was to be our last day of climbing peaks. I do not recommend climbing these peaks like we did. If you do this traverse start from Nellie Creek and climb Crystal Peak first then 13091 and so on. It will save a few thousand feet of climbing. As it was we climbed 13158 first. The north ridge holds some surprises. The summit register holds some interesting entries from many of the 13ers finishers. We descended into the Nellie Creek valley and circled it to hit the Ridge Stock Driveway trail. 13106 was short and steep, it has one of the coolest summit ridges I have been on. Ben G and I decided we had the energy to make the 1.9 mile traverse to 13091 while Ben R and Chris headed over to Uncompahgre. 13091 had the most remote feel to it on the entire trip. On the summit ridge we found some large cairns, I thought they were to mark the boundary of the Uncompahgre Wilderness. On the return trip we scared a heard of over 100 elk who all ran down into the Big Blue Creek valley. I was glad to have the Ridge Stock Driveway trail to follow back around 13106 however primitive it may be. Once back at the saddle of 13106 and Uncompahgre we set off up the ridge and to my surprise found another primitive trail which led us past some students digging for artifacts and taking soil samples before leading us to the Uncompahgre Peak trail. Only 1700 feet of climbing left. We met back up with Ben R and Chris at about 13,700. They had stayed on the summit for over an hour and watched us make most of the traverse. Near the summit we saw some fox pups lounging in the rocks. What a hard life it must be to live near the summit of a 14er. Finally at 5:00 we made it to the summit. From this summit we could see all the peak we had climbed. Two hours later we were back at camp. We had hiked from when the sun rose over Uncompahgre to when it set over the Matterhorn.
North ridge on 13158
Summit ridge on 13106
13091, it's a long walk to Uncompahgre
Remote lake at 13106 and 13091 saddle
We came a long way from 13091
July 16: The long hike out
It was long, the sheep dog led us through the sheep herd, the end.