Peak(s):  Uncompahgre Peak  -  14,309 feet
Date Posted:  09/10/2011
Date Climbed:   09/06/2011
Author:  ChrisM
 Uncompahgre--Normal Route  

Elevation Gain: 3031'
Distance: 7.43 miles
Summit time: 3 hrs 3 min
Total time: 5 hrs 43 min

I took several days off in order to get some class 3 seasoning in before winter conditions set in. My first goal was the WU pair (Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre). I also put some thought in how to tackle the pair ie from which TH do I begin, etc. Having looked at camping near Matterhorn and climb both from the same campsite. I decided to just climb each from their individual TH. Except for driving up two really bad TH roads, this turned out to be an acceptable approach. I didn't want to climb solo this trip, but I was unable to find a partner so I went anyway, figuring I would run into someone. I left the Springs in time to arrive in Lake City around 5pm and traveled the Scenic Alpine Bypass until getting to the turn off for the rocky TH road. It had begun to rain.

About half way up the road, I found a hiker with a huge backpack trekking uphill. I naturally stopped to offer a ride, assuming he was headed for the U trailhead. The hiker accepted and put his pack in the back seat and we continued the bumpy ride to the TH. On the way, we introduced ourselves and compared plans. Andy was going to climb U, then Matterhorn (M) and then W in the next couple of days. He was traveling via a mo-ped and had parked it at the intersection down below. We agreed to climb U together. I warned him that I was not speedy and he replied that that was okay since this was his 2nd 14er and would like the company; Handies was his first. Imagine my thoughts about my new partner's capability. We arrived at the TH, the rain had subsided, and Andy set up his camp while I tried to level the Pilot so I would slide out the back during the night. We established a 6am start time. Not as early as I am accustomed to, but the days are shorter and the nights are longer and colder. I thought 45 min before sunrise would be reasonable.

We started hiking around 6:10am, partly cloudy skies and no rain. Vegetation was still wet from the rain the day before and the ground was damp, but not muddy. The trail was well established.

One our first views of U with cloud cover. I thought: keep going, don't go back now, it will be okay.

As we got closer, so did the sky. I wasn't feeling optimistic, I must admit.

As usual, I was constantly scanning the landscape for trails or people and didn't see either. The trail took us to the left to gain the ridge and I was still wondering where the trail would take us next.

Nearing a ridge with a cloudy backdrop and gloved left index finger for good measure.

W in back, M in the middle and part of U. Clouds are letting up. Hopes are rising.

Again, following a great trail, it significantly steepens until reaching the point where you go over the ridge and turn right to climb the west face. It seems like many routes up a mountain have you staring at the "ugly," but picturesque view, and no hint of upward mobility. Then, a slight of hand, and the route appears out of nowhere on another side.

This northern shot shows the trail going up the southeast face which switches back and forth to ease the high angle.

Looking back at whence we came as we are resting at the south ridge.

When you get up to the top of the ridge next to the big steep crux, go around to the right and you will come nose to nose with a steep gully. It is made up of mostly good solid rock, it appears, but steeply intimidating. If you look carefully at the segmented path, it goes up there, but also, it goes left, as well. Around and below a rib, you come to a 2nd gully that is not quite so steep, probably longer. I believe this is the one Bill mentions in his route description. At the time, the paths were somewhat consolidated due to the moisture but not muddy. The rocks were dry. Navigating up took some thinking and careful evaluation to make sure we didn't put ourselves in a "tougher than we already are" situation. It seemed an awful lot like Lindsey or Sneffels to me.

Image #7 (not yet uploaded)

Right after getting to the top of the gully, I looked behind me to get this shot.

Looking forward after just finishing the gully, we were greeted by clouds rolling across the peak. Oh, wait, we're not there yet.

This mountain has quite a large, sloping summit which was an enjoyable twist compared to most summit pushes. Although, the gully made us work just the same.

Andy's summit poise.

My summit pic. Note that I have to be holding onto a rock! No standard photo op for us this day.

The register was in the worst shape I've ever seen. I would recommend that whoever changes them out, to put a request in the forum to have someone take a fresh one up and change it out.

It was clear by the cloud cover, that we were not going to see sunlight on top and that we'd better be thinking about heading down. We found a rock shelter a few yards from the register an had a snack there while watching the weather. It began to sprinkle a little and thankfully it did not persist. We were able to down climb the gully without a problem and begin the gradually descending trail back to the campsite.

We made it back to the TH in record time. As my climbing partner and I got to know each other, we discussed plans for W. I had originally planned to rest a day in between the two peaks, but I was feeling pretty good and I was pretty sure the weather would be even better the next day. So, Andy packed up his campsite and I drove him down to his moped where he started it up and drove to the intersection for the Matterhorn Creek TH. He parked his moped there and then we went into town and had chicken sandwiches at Poker Alice's. It was raining quite steady by now and we headed back to the TH for the next day's climb. It did stop raining after getting to the TH so Andy could put up his tent. We set the start time, again, at 6am. It didn't rain for the rest of the evening.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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