Peak(s):  Wetterhorn Peak  -  14,015 feet
Date Posted:  09/09/2012
Date Climbed:   09/08/2012
 Wetterhorn's amazing ascent  

So after weeks and weeks and months and months of delaying, I finally got the urge last minute to make the 4 hour trek over to the San Juans to climb Wetterhorn. I departed Pueblo around 2pm Friday (Sept 7) and got to the upper 2WD parking area with plenty of daylight to spare to set up camp and wait patiently while it got dark so I could attempt some astrophotography. went alright, but on to the fun part.

Wetterhorn, Matterhorn, and the connecting ridge.

I departed camp around 6:30 or so Saturday morning. To my delight the trek up the .7 mile 4WD road wasn't bad at all. Though in the past I've done some long grueling 4WD road hiking such as the Castle Peak approach....never again without a 4WD.

Matterhorn, with Uncompahgre in the distance.

Somewhat better look at the route up Wetterhorn

On the trail I met two ladies who had done Matterhorn that Thursday and were now doing Wetterhorn Friday. We wound up leap frogging each other the entire way up to the saddle because of how we timed our breaks. Eventually we started to stick together once the scrambling and route finding began.

Starting the main scramble

The official route goes left here I think. We went right.

I don't know how most people ascend to the Prow, but we wound up taking the wrong gully (wrong maybe the wrong word, the less used gully, and there were cairns) that led off to the right and wound up making our journey twice as hard as it should have been. Going right essentially skirts you around the mountain via some very exposed, very loose ledges and slopes.

Here's where we got stuck because we're in the wrong gully according to the route desc.

Skirting the mountain

A look back at the path we took.

When we finally topped out we were directly across from and facing the Prow, unlike the route description on here which says you should be walking up alongside it when you top out. Needless to say, we were all glad when it was over, yet after doing it, I'd totally go that way again.

Facing the Prow head-on

After that it was a breeze with just a quick walk across the slope to reach the cairned notch, then up and over. Quite interesting after that. You top out on a flat downsloping rock that you walk down and wind up coming to a halt on a simple ledge with nowhere to go except up, which is the famous 100' final wall.

After the notch, the sloped rock on the other side.

The 100' slab of wall to reach the summit.

Looking down from part way up.

I gotta say, this final wall was a blast to climb. Bomber hand holds and ledges to step on. There's a shelf about 2/3 of the way up, then after that the remainder 1/3 gets slightly trickier to ascend. I say that strictly relative to the lower portion because it still wasn't all that difficult. I think I reached the summit a little before 11:30.


I met a few people on the summit (shout out to Mike Spalding, Dave, Kate) who were actually below us before we got offroute and wound up beating me to the summit. They mentioned they decided on taking the left (correct) gully route up and it wasn't too bad.

I tagged along with them on the descent, taking their same ascent path which was good because I was truly not looking forward to returning the same way I came up, down those loose ledges.

Hopefully I can return with some friends to climb this again. They were all busy and couldn't go but I know they'd love Wetterhorn.

Uncompaghre. Just a great shot. Had to share it.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

09/10/2012 12:23
is a great mountain. It (along with Uncompahgre) are my 2 favorites and on the top of my list as well to return to.

You're pictures are great! I made them large and the detail you can see is absolutely incredible.

Looks like you had a good time... and it's hard not to in the San Juans!


09/10/2012 15:18
I hear you about route finding. A few folks were way off route when I climbed it in the summer and had to backtrack after getting sketched out. I had to stop they and think for a few minutes which way was best to head up before reaching the final pitch as there seemed to be a few ways and cairns leading in different directions.


Very incredible.
09/10/2012 17:47
I wish I could have done Uncompahgre also, unfortunately just wasn't able to stay longer. I do want to go back and do it though, it looks like a great mountain. And thanks about the photos! Its definitely worth it to haul up a DSLR even on scrambles such as this, lol.

And you're right nyker, it seemed like there were cairns everywhere going in all sorts of directions, lol. Which from one point of view is fine because it means someone obviously made it from that direction, no matter how sketchy


Great day on Wetterhorn..
09/11/2012 00:18
I climbed it last Thursday on a bluebird day similar to yours. While the scenery in the San Juans is awesome, this hike didn't really do it for me. I was expecting so much much from the class 3 climbing. I didn't feel challenged, on edge, or even concerned with the exposure and route.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great, short easy hike in some beautiful country but the class 3 terrain needed to be about 500' more of vert to make my top all around climbs. But the scenery made it well worth climbing.

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