Peak(s):  Uncompahgre Peak  -  14,318 feet
Wetterhorn Peak  -  14,021 feet
Date Posted:  08/04/2018
Date Climbed:   08/04/2018
Author:  Tnesper
 (Hopefully) Helpful Matterhorn Creek Loop Info   

I don't like to write trip reports unless I think there is something new to add that hasn't been addressed in other reports. There are plenty of great reports about this route, but since this isn't a common way to tackle these peaks there was some information I wish I had.


I was able to make it to the 4WD Matterhorn Creek TH in my Subaru Outback, but I'm not sure if I would do that again. I only scraped once, and I was driving up the road in the dark, but I was sweating the entire time. With the length of the hike already long, I didn't want to add another 1.4 miles RT. If you have the skills, something like a Subaru can make it. I like to think of myself as better at driving off-road than the average Jeep owner, but probably not better than someone who uses their Jeep for what it's for.

Start Time

I started at 315am, which was maybe 15-30 minutes late for the pace I went. My GPS says I logged 16.8 miles (the trax I downloaded were 18.5... so that's odd), with an average pace of 2.1mph and a total time of 9 hours 26 minutes (which mathematically is pretty close to 18.5 miles... ugh... GPS), including time on summits. I was very happy with that pace, but I was hauling as clouds started to roll in at about 10am. If it helps estimate your time, for comparison, last week I did Kit/Challenger from the TH in 11.5 hours.

Even with that start time, I did get rained on once I got back into the basin after Wetterhorn.


I used the GPS tracks from another trip report that I now can't find to link... sorry. One thing to note is that these trails are narrow and easy to lose, which I did a few times in the dark and was glad to have my GPS. Once the sun was up, it was much easier except for the point at which you begin to cut off-route to meet up with Wetterhorn trail.

There is some discussion on trip reports about how best to tackle Uncompahgre from that side. Some go up the gully to avoid the mileage of walking all the way around to join the Nellie Creek trail before the ridge. I chose to walk all of the way around and would recommend doing so. I looked down the gully from the top and it looked awful. Although walking around to meet up with the trail from Nellie creek adds distance compared to walking up the gully, I'm not convinced that it adds any time.

Which Should You Do First?

This is a popular debate when hitting this route, and I thought about it for a while. There are pros and cons to both, but I chose to start with Uncompahgre and I think that was a good decision.

Uncompahgre First Pros

  • If weather turns on you, you are likely to be closer to the trailhead to duck down and get to cover.
  • You need to start early enough to be off both summits in time for storms, and that early start time would result in hiking Wetterhorn in the dark. The hike up reminded me a lot of Pyramid, albeit less sustained. I wouldn't want to do either one with only a headlamp.
  • Roach says to do it this way. You don't want to disobey Roach do you?

Matterhorn First Pros

  • You get to do the harder peak first

Honestly, if you are worried about your stamina meter to the point where you need to be picking which peak to hit first, it may be wise to split these up. You could do both in one day from their respective trailheads and cover 4ish shorter miles.

Comments or Questions
Deja Vu
08/05/2018 09:55
Your report is timely, thanks, in that I'm planning to do this loop for a second time and your comments are ringing true in my mind.

The first time, three years ago, I climbed Wetterhorn, Materhorn and Uncompahgre (in that order) with my son. My GPS logged 15.9 miles and 7,551' gain but we cut some distance going up Uncompahgre gully (which was a bear). On that day, we started at the 2wd Matterhorn Creek TH at 3:35am and finished at 3:20pm for just short of 12 hours. We were at the crux of Wetterhorn in enough light to turn off the headlamps AND see the sunrise over Uncompahgre; pretty special.

I'm planning on doing the loop with my daughter in the coming weeks and trying to decide whether to reverse the order and do Uncompahgre first. I don't think we'll go up/down the Uncompahgre gully again - I don't think it really saves time if you cut down at the end of the ridge. I do like the idea of the sunrise over Uncompahgre but see the Roach advantages as well. We'll see.

Thanks for your post.

Re: Deja Vu
08/05/2018 11:37
The sunrise is a good point. Seeing it rise over Uncompahgre is an advantage of Wetterhorn first. But you€„˘ve got to time that perfectly to have enough light to turn off headlamps (unless full moon) and catch the sunrise since you are climbing up the west side of Wetterhorn. Sounds like you did, which is awesome.

Not sure how in the world you could hit Matterhorn in that distance. Even if you cut up and down the gully on Uncompahgre, I wouldn€„˘t think it would shave that much. I would also say, for most people thinking about this, finishing at 3:20 could easily get you caught in rain or worse.

08/06/2018 08:27
Thanks for the timely report. I'm planning on a similar circuit in a few weeks and plan on camping high, perhaps near where the wetterhorn/matterhorn split is. Does the creek up that high have any decent water in it?

Re: Water
08/06/2018 10:57
I honestly don€„˘t remember. The creek splits off that direction, but when I split it was dark and coming down I was paying attention to the weather. I don€„˘t know that it€„˘s worth it though. It€„˘s like 3.5 miles one way to Wetterhorn summit. That split is probably somewhere around 2? Not sure the point of packing all of the gear for just 2 miles.

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