Graduated Regis, wife survives thyroid cancer, I gained 20 pounds this summer, and wanted to salvage getting some lofty perch in addition to Loveland Mountain. With snow reports earlier this month, would the mountain gods smile upon me and grant me reasonable passage through a tiny weather window?
With a good weather forecast this past week, it was looking good. Driving to the 4WD trailhead of Nellie Creek was BONE DRY. Certainly there must be 6"+ of snow above treeline.
So up to treeline we went scouting out for a campsite.
Treeline approaching our Campsite
After camping just above 12000' for the first time (usually we crash at 11 something) we were treated to this view of Uncompahgre. I don't care what anyone says, this is a big friggin mountain that seems to rise out of nowhere!
Good morning your Bulkness!
We made some quick work to the ridge proper only encountering some light sporadic snow on the trail (maybe ankle deep and a strip of trail snow 200' long), but for the most part Nellie Creek Basin was unbelievably dry. We were expecting an all out winter wonderland.
Hiking Partner Extrordinaire on south ridge.
From this point up the flat shoulder at 13800' is where our lack of fitness showed through the 4 switchbacks leading to the west face. Once we saw the western section from 13800 to 14000' even we felt a 2nd wind kick in and had a blast up the Class 2ish/2+ rock leading to the rib before the summit plateau.
Don't Look Down...
...Must look up
The last 300' seemed to drag on a bit and for some reason we slowed down again. The views of the San Juan range from this vantage point were astounding! Wetterhorn, Coxcomb, and Precipice all looked fairly dry, but to the south we saw the rest of the range stretched out before us covered in a healthy amount of snow. Winter is coming, but thank you oh great mountain gods for granting a merciful passage.
A Dry Wetterhorn?!?!
Lichen, snow, and 13er Precipice Peak
Pano to the south.
The decent was uneventful. My friend who brought an extra hydration bladder for me, left it down in the car due to poor communication on both our parts. He offered a pint of water once down to the ridge and again and the campsite before packing out that afternoon. I may have had a slight case of heat stroke as I was dressed in full winter regalia.
We planned on doing something like Sunshine or Handies on Saturday, but we decided to count our blessing and head home stopping in Gunnison for a light dinner.
I highly endorse paying Uncompahgre a visit before winter gets here. There's still time for this one. Gaiters not quite needed, but bring 'em just in case.
This day certainly made up for the lack of our summer activity.