Peak(s):  Uncompahgre Peak  -  14,309 feet
Date Posted:  06/10/2010
Date Climbed:   06/07/2010
Author:  Kevin8020

 Uncompahgre - Southwest Slopes  


• Route: Southwest Slopes
• Total Distance: 13mi
• Elevation Gain: 4,200ft

The Hike

After years of working on the 14ers, I had yet to visit the San Juan range, so the hike became a priority for the first half of the summer season. What a better way to start than with Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre! As usual, Travis was up for the challenge, and so on Sunday the 6th, we drove in to Matterhorn Creek. The road was blocked not far from the 2WD trailhead by a downed tree, so we loaded up the backpacks and started in. We picked a campsite in the last grove of trees prior to the wilderness entry and turned in for the night.

Step 1: Hike up to 12,500ft.
The first thing to accomplish for the day was hiking from our camp at 11,600ft up to the pass between Matterhorn and Uncompahgre at 12,500ft. We left camp at 5:45am. The weather was going to be interesting; I could tell that from the time the sun started to rise. The sky was completely covered in patchy clouds. Not far from camp, we started the posthole fest through the snow that had not frozen in the night with the cloud layer. We also had our first wildlife encounter – what was likely a fox – playing around in the snow. Thankfully, he scampered off as we reached the summit of the pass around 6:30am.

Uncompahgre at first light

Matterhorn Peak

Wetterhorn Peak

Step 2: Annoy hiking partners by descending back to 12,000ft.
Unfortunately, despite the great view of Uncompahgre, the route immediately descends back to 12,000ft into the wide valley southwest of Uncompahgre. Nothing like the promise of altitude gain on the return trip to boost moral! We spotted some elk in the area, hopefully not heading towards our friend the fox!

Step 3: Circumvent the mountain.
Thanks to the snow, it was difficult to determine the exact path over to Uncompahgre, but we angled southeast and followed segments of trail until we regained the actual trail not far off and worked up to the standard route at 13,000ft on Uncompahgre's south ridge. Almost 180 degrees around the mountain from where we started, we finally started our ascent of the actual mountain.

Step 4: Climb the mountain
The final segments to the summit were uneventful – we followed switchbacks up to the ridge and then followed trail and cairns through the rock up to the summit, topping out just after 10am. We enjoyed the calm winds on the top and spent almost a half an hour at the top, taking pictures, peering down the cliffs, and simply enjoying the view!

One of the summit pointers

Travis above the cliffs

Travis avoiding the edge...

Me and the San Juans

Drop off

Handies and the Needle Mountains

Wetterhorn and Sneffels

The weather throughout the morning had been unusual. Clouds seemed to be forming directly overhead but immediately moving off. I had been continually reevaluating weather throughout the day, but to my surprise and relief, upon reaching the summit, the clouds were still unable to build beyond their basic form, and had actually cleared out significantly as the day had rolled on.

Step 5: Reverse
The climb back to camp went quickly and without all that much excitement, though the snow and warm temperatures created an exceptionally miserable posthole fest, likely adding a good 30 minutes to our descent… and reascent of the pass… and descent again.

I wish the excitement would have ended there, but after hitting camp, I allowed Travis to hit the hay while I took a nice hike back to the car, picked up an extra 9 liters of water, and then made the death march back to camp, where I quickly proceeded to collapse completely. Who knew water was so heavy. I'm looking forward to having a filter along on the next trip already.

The sky eventually darkened, and following a nice dinner, we headed to bed, anxiously awaiting the part of the trip we were really excited for – Wetterhorn! Here's the trip report!


Sunset on Matterhorn Peak

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

06/10/2010 22:57
Great and accurate Trip Report Kevin. Thanks for letting me tag along!

I thought for sure you‘d mention my amazing tea making skills!


06/10/2010 22:59
Yeah, you‘ve got some skills at making pine tea... sorry for that omission. At least I DID omit other details


06/11/2010 03:13
Looks like you guys had a good time out in the San Juans...some of the best scenery in the state. Glad you got to finally get over there. Thanks for sharing your TR & photos.

Now...come on, don‘t omit the gooey details!


Great Trip
06/12/2010 20:25
Sounds like a great trip, you guys!

And way to go getting Unca from Matterhorn Cr, especially in snow.

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