From Lake City, turn west onto Second street. Drive 0.1 mile and turn left onto Henson Creek Road (Alpine Loop Scenic Byway) and begin measuring mileage from here. Near 5 miles, pass the Nellie Creek trailhead sign. Near 9 miles, turn right onto the North Henson Road which is more rough than the Henson Creek road but can still be driven by most good-clearance vehicles. Near 11 miles, there is another junction with a sign indicating the Matterhorn Creek trailhead is ahead. Park here if you don’t have a 4WD vehicle or turn right and continue 0.7 mile to the trailhead and parking area.
As seen in Photo #1, Wetterhorn's east face is fairly steep and provides a straightforward snow climb. Use the standard approach from Matterhorn Creek (Photo #2, Photo #3) to reach the basin, southeast of Wetterhorn - Photo #4. Pick your line and continue north/northwest (Photo #5) to reach 12,900', near the base of the east face - Photo #6. Since the face is prone to avalanches and gets an early sun-hit, this is a good place to pause and study the potential dangers of the face. Photo #7, Photo #8 and Photo #9 show the face from various angles.
If it's a go, continue to the base of the 900-foot face and begin your climb - Photo #10. Above 13,200', the slope angle climbs above 35 degrees (Photo #11 and Photo #12) and over 40 degrees between 13,300' and 13,600' - Photo #13, Photo #14 and Photo #15. As you near 13,700' on the narrowing face, the angle reaches 45-48 degrees (depending on your line) and you may need to navigate through some small rock bands - Photo #16. Climb another 150' to reach easier terrain below the summit block (Photo #17 and Photo #18), joining the standard, southeast ridge route.
Just left of the summit block, locate a small notch which provides access to the final pitch - Photo #19. Climb through the notch and briefly down an angled slab. Immediately turn right to find the final pitch - 100' of Class 3 rock below the summit. The most direct way is to climb the gully that leads straight up to the summit. Another way is to climb this gully for a bit, traverse left, and follow some cairns up through the rocks to reach the northwest end of the summit. Either way, the rock is steep but relatively stable. Photo #20 looks down on the route but shows almost all of the final pitch. Taken near 13,940', Photo #21 shows the upper half of the pitch. From the summit, Photo #22 looks over the area of the notch leading to the final pitch.
With good, continuous snow conditions, the east face provides an exciting ski with sweeping views of Matterhorn Creek. Unfortunately, a ski from the summit is rarely possible and most skiers start at the top of the east face, just below the summit block.
The last 0.6 miles to the trailhead requires 4WD - don't take a passenger car up this road. The east face is prone to avalanches so proper planning is a must. Start early. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Uncompahgre Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Uncompahgre Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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