Peak(s):  Uncompahgre Peak  -  14,309 feet
Date Posted:  08/02/2009
Modified:  09/29/2009
Date Climbed:   08/01/2009
Author:  dcbates80911

 San Juan Day 2 - A long Trek  

Team: Eatinhardtack (Zach)
Distance ~ 16 miles
Route: Matterhorn

This was day two of our San Juan Trip and couldn't have been more different than Day 1.

Ryan had left and it was up to Zach and I. We originally planned to backpack in a ways to shorten the trip. However, the storms that kept rolling through and Zach's ankle kept us at the Matterhorn TH for another night. Figured we should not press our luck with the lightning and rest Zach's ankle.

At 4:40, my alarm went off, but I was not ready to get out of bed. Looking over at Zach's tent, neither was he. We got started an hour later then planned. The route per Roache's book is 12.8 Mile. I challenge this one and so did a couple people on the trail. I calculated 15.95 miles. Even when I loaded the route from my GPS, it said 16 miles. And a third confirmation came from a lady who had 8 miles up from the Matterhorn TH. I am going with 16 miles.

The first part of the climb went very quickly where we reached the pass just below Matterhorn. Unlike the day before, today was very sunny and warming quickly.

Wetterhorn in the Sun

Zach heading up to the Pass – Matterhorn on the left

We reached the pass and immediately began to hear a sound. At first, it sounded like someone yelling in the distance, but we quickly realized it was multiple somethings. In the valley below Uncompahgre was a large heard of sheep (regular) grazing. There had to have been a couple hundred at least with one shepherd and two dogs.

All those dots are sheep

The valley between Matterhorn and Uncompahgre was gorgeous. Zach and I were still feeling pretty good at this point, but doubts began to rise that our day 3 would not happen. As the sun hit us, it got warm very quick. We stripped to the base layer.

L – R Wetterhorn and Matterhorn
Image by Zach

Image by Zach

Wetterhorn and Matterhorn as we drop down prior to ascending Uncompahgre

There were several ups and downs between the pass and where we began to ascend Uncompahgre. Not too bad at this point, but I was dreading this part on the way back. We reached the ridge and began to ascend. The route took us on a relatively gentle slop to the east until we turn north and met with the trail coming out of Nellie Creek (Standard Route). There were quite a few people heading up and a couple researchers studying the endangered Uncompahgre Butterfly.

Zach's legs were in better shape for the up hill so he went ahead as I slowly made my way looking at the amazing views.

First good shot of Uncompahgre – not in the shadow
Image by Zach

I am slowly heading up
Image by Zach

Image by Zach

Image by Zach

Zach reached 13,800 feet and waited for me. This stretch was a little more exposed and the wind chilled us quickly. We doned another layer and made our way out together. As Zach rounded the corner, I heard him say "who said this was class 3 climbing?". WHAT???. There was about a 100 ft section that went up on some loose rock and gravel. It was definitely a steep hand and foot climb. Zach thought there was another route just to the north, but it was just as exposed and on some loose grave. We chose the earlier and began to climb what is undoubtedly the Crux of this climb.

Approaching the Crux
Image by Zach

We reached the top and began to walk the last 300 feet to the summit. As expected, the views were amazing. I have wanted to summit this one for a long time. Moreover, I wanted to look over the north face down the 2-3K feet. WOW!!! We ate and took our pictures. Also, we decided that this was it for summits this weekend.

I am about to reach the summit
Image by Zach

Finally, I am here
Image by Zach

Summit Reference Marker, not the summit disk

Image by Zach

Image by Zach

Image by Zach

West: Dallas on the left and Sneffels on the right

Summit Shot

Wetterhorn and Matterhorn

Shot I wanted of me

After about 45 minutes, we headed down. Between Zach's ankle and my feet, we would head home a day early. Our goal was to reach the TH by 3:00 for the 5+ hour drive home. On the way down, some views that were shadowed on the ascent were present in the sunlight.

I descend the Crux
Image by Zach

Zach taking care of the Ankle

Zach and I returned to the TH and packed up quickly. On our way back, we stopped in Gunnison for a quick bite and was on our way home to a warm shower and a nice soft bed.

In every trip report, I say it was fun. This is always true, however, this trip was the best. The San Juan's are just the best range in Colorado. I look forward to returning and hitting a few more with these two partners and possibly a couple more.


 Comments or Questions

08/02/2009 21:45
We did this route last summer and I would agree that the round trip is closer to 16 miles. It‘s a beautiful hike! I enjoyed looking at your pictures!!


Great job!
08/03/2009 07:41
Another great TR and great summit, Dave! I really wish I could‘ve finished out this one with you guys, but was very glad to see/hear it was slightly less ”exciting” than the day before, but no less beautiful and fun! I‘m sure that extra distance was rough on the legs/ankles, but it is an absolutely gorgeous, pastoral setting! I‘d heard of the sheep herds, but never have gotten to see them up close and personal. I agree about that ”crux-y” section below the top; purplepaddler and I were a little surprised by it last fall when we climbed it with a dusting of snow up top!


Guard dogs...
08/03/2009 22:50
Looks like you had a little different adventure then my group had on sunday with those sheep. The sheep were a little farther up the valley near the trail and although we were a good distance away, the two dogs guarding the flock came up and very unpolitely let us know we were unwelcome. Although they look all friendly, these dogs are definitely not and will not let you pass if they feel you are too close to the flock. We ended up having to detour all the way around the sheep.

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