What a way to spend Labor Day weekend! This was our 2nd attempt at these two peaks, and we would not be let down this time. Last year weather stopped us after much planning, preparation, and anticipation. This trip would prove to be a truly sensational experience. I would also say that mountain climbing has a way of working as good marriage counseling. Hopefully, I can clarify this throughout this report; although, I fear I'm already treading on dangerous ground.
Day 1: 09/05/2010 Uncompahgre Peak
What a difference a year makes. This mountain is very engaging once Uncompahgre comes into view. The massive peak remains in sight most of the journey up, keeping us inspired as we moved along.
Approaching the saddle, we reached the point where we made it to last year before lightning would send us packing at 8 am!! You hear people say, "the peak will be always be there," but being turned back is tough. It was very gratifying to have the chance once again to climb this peak.
After gaining the ridge, we came around to the other side of the peak and to the gully. Here is my wife working her way up. It really isn't all that bad of a climb; our dog was able to cruise right up it. My wife did dislodge one rock, so definitely be careful.
Once atop the gully, we were able to get this awesome photo of Wetterhorn. It was always on my mind once in view.
Ok! Here is our first bit of marriage counseling. I convinced my wife that we should stash our poles at the top of the gully. She has become somewhat reliant on them. As we reached the easier terrain above the gully, she of course wanted them. So I said in frustration, "Then go back and get them." Whoops! It was kind of quiet the rest of the way to the peak.
Hey! Our dog copper made it up. He has bagged six summits this summer. This was only my fifth mountain of the summer. While I was working out of town, my wife was able to do a few peaks with the dog.
Back to the poles. Here comes my bride up the mountain, still without poles.
After giving her a big hug and congratulating her for making the summit, we were able to get this shot. I think the joy of the summit helped her forget my dumb comment or at least forgive me. We have more counseling to come on Wetterhorn as it stands ever so majestic in the background.
My wife really liked this photo of Copper and me coming down the gully. I knew after she took it I was in the clear. Notice though who was carrying both sets of poles.
Below is a great shot of the gully as climbers ascend.
After you're past the gully, the rest of the trail is a nice hike down. It is very easy on the legs. Once you get to the trees, you're very close to the trailhead.
The 4WD road down has beautiful views. A week or two later and all of these aspens will be changing.
We were running very low on propane. Since we had some time before we needed to set up camp at Wetterhorn, we decided to go into town. We couldn't find anyone who sold fuel for our Jet Boil, so I talked my wife into a restaurant call Southern Vittles. We had been here before. My only complaint is that they don't have sweet tea. What! How can they call themselves Southern Vittles and not have sweet tea? The Country Fried Steak is their specialty.
Now that we were fueled up on some fatty food, it was time to head up to Wetterhorn and set up camp. I tried to warn this deer that hunting season had started, and it might be a good idea to get out of sight.
Day 2: Labor Day 2010! Wetterhorn Peak!
First, let's go back to July 2009. This is what Wetterhorn looked like before weather would chase us all the way back to Denver with our tails between our legs. She was veiled and seemed to be telling us personally, "Not today!" I look back now and believe that was for our good. I am convinced that my wife needed more experience before taking on this peak.
Back to our journey…As we started our morning, it was windy; but there was not a cloud in the sky. We got our first glimpse of Wetterhorn. Today she was inviting us to her peak.
Reaching the saddle takes some work, but to this point it was a class 1 hike. A picture perfect day. Although it was windy; it was still very manageable.
Now the fun began!
At the top of this gully, we chose option 1 on Bill's route description. The "V" notch to the left.
Ok, marriage-counseling lesson number two. As much as I had studied this route over the last two years, I thought I could climb this blind folded. After leaving the "V" notch and climbing up to the ridge, I was led away by cairns to the right. We followed them out onto the east face of Wetterhorn. There is a trail, but it is very loose and steep. This is when I found out how much my wife does not like steep, loose terrain. She became very uncomfortable, so we turned back in search of more stable rock. After some back tracking and climbing up the ridge, we got back on track as you can see below. Now my wife had lost confidence in my route finding skills. She said she should have followed the couple with whom we had gone through the notch earlier. Ouch! But she was right.
After getting back on route, we came to the 2nd notch after the prow. This would lead us to the west side of the mountain, down the slab, and to my most anticipated section of the route. Although my wife was still a little distraught, I asked her if she was ready for what was next. She assured me she was and that her head was now clear.
This section up to the peak demanded our complete focus. She didn't even blink, but immediately started right up. The pictures make it look more dramatic then it is, but it is definitely heart pounding.
I heard a lot of "yahoos" and other yells coming from the peak as we approached the summit. We climbed straight up until we reached a ledge just below the peak. We took the ledge to the left, and then up to the peak. My heart was still pounding; all I could do was exhale with a big "YAHOO!"
We made it!
Here is a look down from the peak. You can see a climber in the center of the picture working his way up.
Here is my wife heading down. Notice she is following this couple and not me. They, of course, are the ones who went the right way and didn't put her on the steep loose stuff.
But hey, she did wait for me! Really we were good at this point; I just wanted to throw in one more dramatic shot.
As many of you know, there was not a cloud to be found in Colorado this Labor Day. This photo of Matterhorn and Uncompahgre says it all. Being able to come back here and succeed where we once failed was awesome. On my 30th peak, I gained a deeper love for this sport and a healthier respect for 14ers. I read many reports about Wetterhorn becoming someone's favorite peak after climbing it. To me it is now my second favorite. The discouragement of my first attempt on Wetterhorn made my successful trip up Mt. of the Holy Cross last summer a treasured memory. I'd have to say that Holy Cross remains my favorite. My Holy Cross trip report fits right into this story and is linked below if you would like to read it.
My wife and I learned a lot on this trip. When we first started hiking early in our marriage, we had so much to work through as a couple. I can remember one of our early climbs on the side of Mt. Massive where we couldn't resolve a conflict as quickly. But even on that day, the struggle of the climb would bring us back together.
She did a lot of planning to make this trip possible; and for that, I'm very grateful. Kim, I added the link below as a reminder of how much I love you. This was one of our favorite trips: Handies, Redcloud and Sunshine. Thank you, Kim, for sharing this weekend with me and for planning to make it all happen.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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