Peak(s):  Uncompahgre Peak  -  14,309 feet
Wetterhorn Peak  -  14,015 feet
Date Posted:  06/29/2020
Date Climbed:   06/23/2020
Author:  mnsebourn
 Wetterhorn & Uncompahgre   

After the Princeton Slog (see my previous trip report), I decided to move into a new part of the state. I wanted to experience the San Juans.

I’ve had a combo climb of Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre in the back of my mind for years. Getting my first taste of Colorado class 3 last year on Longs only fueled my desire to do Wetterhorn.

“So I’ll climb Wetterhorn,” I told myself, “and if I feel good when I’m at the top, and if the weather looks good, I’ll go for Uncompahgre.”

My alarm went off in the North Face Lodge in Lake City at 2am on June 23. I was at the 2WD Matterhorn Creek TH by 3:30, and I was on the trail by ten till four.

My dad drove my truck down and said he’d be as far up the Nellie Creek Road as he could get by early afternoon.

As usual, I found the pre-dawn hiking to be pleasant and rewarding. Most don’t start as early as I do, so it’s just me, myself, and the stars.

I hit the yellow dirt area in time to get a photo of the sunrise through Matterhorn and Uncompahgre. I hit the rock rib shortly after that, and feeling confident and well-studied, I hiked practically all the way up to the rib before turning right.

Wise decision. Just a few minutes later I was through the first V-notch and all was... not well?

In all my and Roach research, I guess I didn’t study this part of the trail closely enough. The prow was still in the distance; the terrain ahead of me looked like a maze; and all I knew to do was find the path of least resistance.

So I followed a sparsely-cairned route to the right... and eventually found myself all but dangling off the east face of this mountain (okay, that’s dramatic) and trudging up very loose scree (accurate).

Thankfully, no serious harm done.

A few minutes later I’d rejoined the main route at the base of the prow.

Through the second V I went.

The exposure on the ramp, I thought, was not all that jarring. Just watch yourself and don’t get cocky. Likewise with the final push to the summit: this was fun, solid scrambling that was over in minutes.

I hit the top of Wetterhorn by seven, satisfied that I’d made good time even with a twenty or so minute delay by getting off-route.

After some water, fruit snacks, and brief conversation with some new and very kind climbing partners, I was off to Uncompahgre... shamelessly down climbing much of Wetterhorn’s upper reaches on my butt, and taking notes from fellow climbers so that I stayed on route for the descent.

A note about the shortcut that avoids descending all the way to the Stock Driveway intersection:

There isn’t much of a trail here. What trail there is, you can see pretty clearly as you descend through the boulders. Basically, just leave the Wetterhorn trail before the creek between Wetterhorn and Matterhorn becomes a small canyon, and cut across the grass below Matterhorn. You’ll follow a faint trail for a while, and by the time it fades, the main ridge stock trail is obvious ahead of you.

The trek across this vast meadow below Matterhorn and Broken Hill was pleasant and beautiful. It only gets steep as you begin your ascent of Uncompahgre.

Uncompahgre. The final push to this beast’s fun class 2 summit kicked my butt like it hadn’t been kicked since Mount Whitney in (I think) 2008.

I think I’m in shape. I mean, I hike mountains and run marathons for fun. I jog twenty to thirty miles a week... on hilly terrain. But Lord was I tired by the time I hit the summit of Uncompahgre. For that last mile up the switchbacks and rocks, it was “go twenty feet, breathe; go twenty feet, lean on the hiking pole; go twenty feet, stop for a drink...”

I hit the top of this behemoth at about 11:30.

The top of Uncompahgre is as huge and epic as the views it offers, and looking over at Wetterhorn, knowing I’d just been on top of that one, too... I nearly went full-fledged Titanic, and only because I was exhausted, not alone, and fairly shy did I not.

Final thoughts: The trek down to the Nellie Creek TH wasn’t bad at all, even considering how tired I was. Bagging both of these peaks in a day, if you’re confident in your legs and lungs, is a very doable and enjoyable day in the Rockies. And much respect to anybody who throws in Matterhorn. I did not, though I hope to see the top of that peak in the not too distant future.

Thanks a ton for all those whom I climbed with, talked to, and got help from. Over the years, you Colorado folks make this Arkansan feel like he has two homes.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Nice job
06/29/2020 21:50
That€„˘s an impressive day for sure! Hope you had some sunglasses though haha I couldn€„˘t do it without

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