Peak(s):  Uncompahgre Peak  -  14,309 feet
Date Posted:  08/18/2020
Date Climbed:   08/17/2020
Author:  PeterEBG
 Uncompahgre from the 2wd rd   

I arrived at the base of Nellie Creek Rd at 6:45 AM in my wife's Prius. Obviously, that's where the driving ended. FWIW, I wouldn't trust my Forester on Nellie Creek either. Even this late in the season under drought conditions, the creek was running strong, and crossing looked challenging. For those who are averse to a longer hike, I would probably recommend renting an ATV in Lake City.

The climb from the 2wd th is a pretty long effort (15.5 mi rt). According to my watch, I took more steps than I did running a marathon. That said, the route is not particularly steep until near the crux, which was kind of nice. With some 14ers, hiking up the service road before the trailhead is an unrewarding grind. I did not find this to be the case with Nellie Creek Rd. There were beautiful views of waterfalls and aspen groves.

You won't see Wetterhorn or Uncompahgre Peaks until you arrive at the trailhead, or even a little bit after. They'll be obscured by a ridge on your left much of the time. About a quarter of a mile into your ascent from the trailhead, you'll get your first good view. Uncompahgre is an awesome, prominent edifice. The pictures don't do it justice. You'll spend the next three miles trekking through alpine fields on well-marked and well-maintained trails. The pitch gets a bit steep after you make it to the saddle, but it's all very manageable.

The rock tower section is the only technical section of the hike, and it's short, but don't sleep on it. This was among the more difficult class 2's I've hiked, probably just a half notch below Blanca. When scrambling, I like to use my hands as much as possible. This is difficult around the rock tower as much of what you can grab is loose. Make sure you're testing each step before trusting it with your weight. Also keep in mind that due to the lack of hand holds, the descent will be more difficult than the ascent. I recommend your grippiest pair of shoes.

Everything above the rock tower is ostensibly a victory lap. The summit is wide with plenty of room for folks to spread out and enjoy the view. That said, I had the luxury of climbing on a Monday, and had the summit all to myself. Uncompahgre's summit views are outstanding; you're treated to views of other majestic peaks in all directions. There was a strange moaning sound atop the mountain. As I peered into the valley below facing north, I saw this sound was coming from a herd of several hundred mountain goats.

Going down, everything below the rock rower is a trail runner's dream. The terrain on the descent is varied enough to keep things interesting, but smooth enough to build some speed. I was able to make quick work of the last seven miles of this excursion.

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

Nice Report
08/18/2020 12:02
Well described. Unc was my first 14er back in the 70s. Nice to relive it thanks to your effort here!

Nice report
08/18/2020 14:36
That is a wonderful photograph of Wetterhorn.

4WD road
09/04/2020 22:16
The hike itself seems quite easy; just the scrambling up (and down) loose rock seems to be the only troubling part. What do you think about a newer Ford Explorer being able to make it all the way to the trailhead? I really do not feel like putting in 15 1/2 miles round trip on foot to avoid a stretch of road.

Seemed like you had a great day on this peak! Thanks for the well-detailed report!

Re: 4WD road
09/05/2020 09:49
@mkdenver1 I would probably only give it a go in something like a jeep or a truck. SUVs can make it, but it's dicey. FWIW I definitely lean conservative with these roads nowadays.

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