Peak(s):  Uncompahgre Peak  -  14,309 feet
Date Posted:  06/22/2010
Modified:  10/15/2011
Date Climbed:   06/18/2010
Author:  unclegar
 Uncompahgre - South Ridge Whoa Nellie!  

Uncompahgre: 14309 - South Ridge from Nellie Creek (std rt) June 18, 2010 - unclegar

I drove down to Lake City on Thursday evening after leaving later than expected as usual. You'd think by now I would expect it, since it is usual, but it seems to surprise me again each time. I had decided to attempt Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn from the Nellie Creek side, thinking the road would be better than Matterhorn Creek. I was hurriedly scanning trip reports and trying to find the answer about which road might be better suited for a CRV, all the while knowing I should have driven away hours earlier. With 2 speeding tickets in the last 3 months, driving the speed limit was a given. So was a long, slow trip. When I arrived at Lake City, the town looked dark but familiar and reminded me of the two weeks in a row that I traveled there last year and climbed Redcloud, Sunshine and half the route to Handies from American Basin before turning back with frozen feet. I returned the following week to climb Handies in all its glory and snow from Grizzly Gulch. Good times. Good memories. After going where no CRV should ever go in the dark for 4 miles of narrow rough 4WD terrain that included 2 river crossings, I arrived at the TH about midnight. To my surprise there were 2 other vehicles parked there. When you hike during the week, like I do, you get used to empty trailheads and trails. As quietly as possible I tried to find a spot to park and car camp. As it turned out, I parked on too much of a slant and woke up all night long due to sliding down to the tailgate. I tried turning around but it kind of felt like I was hanging upside down. Anyway, my estimation is that I may have gotten 2 hours of sleep max. I had planned on leaving at 4am and trying to get both peaks in a day, but when my alarm went off, I ducked back into my sleeping bag and didn't appear until more like 5:30. I think that is the hour and a half of sleep I got. I started at the TH at about 6:50.

The Nellie Creek Trailhead.

The hike started into the woods on a good trail that was free of snow.

Trail through the woods.

Uncompahgre was almost immediately the center of attention.


The trail followed a stream and there was a junction at one of the switchbacks that had a trail heading down toward the small stream. This is not the junction at which you take a left turn. Instead turn right and continue to follow the larger trail uphill.

Don't turn here.

After walking in a direction that seemed counter-productive for a while and at the same time gaining some altitude, the trail turns back toward Uncompahgre and there is another junction. This is where you want to stay left.

Follow the trail Left here.

The trail was very obvious and clear of snow. The first snow field that had to be crossed is in the distance. I chose to put on microspikes for the crossing at 12380. There was another one at about 12525 and several others as the hike progressed. The microspikes did very well for me.

First snowfield in the distance.

Looking back at the trail and a snow field covering the trail.

There was a small stream but it was easily crossed.

Stream crossing.

I passed the junction for Matterhorn Creek. This is where you would turn if you were to include Wetterhorn and/or Matterhorn in the same day.

Matterhorn junction

After this, the trail turned toward the ridge to Uncompahgre.

Trail on the ridge.

There was a small class 3 section to reach the plateau. I stayed to the right to use the solid wall for handholds as much as practical. From there it was pretty much a walk up.

Small class 3 section.

Looking toward the summit.

Looking back down at the ridge and the trail

I reached the summit at 10:20. Hero shots abounded but there was no hero to be found! I did not find a register but I did locate the marker.

Classic hero shot ( - hero)

I ended up talking with several people on the way down, including one who thought his partner may have turned around at the class 3 section. He asked if I'd wait there and watch for his partner while he dropped his pack and made a sprint for the summit. His partner did show up after a while and I talked with him a bit too. Then I talked with a family that was going to turn around just before the last snow field. All the waiting and visiting added at least an hour to my trip and pretty much ensured that if having only 1-1/2 hours of sleep wasn't a good enough reason to wait until tomorrow for Wetterhorn, then getting back to negotiate the ridge around dark and then driving down the Nellie Creek Rd (again in the dark) in my CRV was. I decided to drive on down in daylight while there were still vehicles at the TH who would have to help me if I got stuck if they wanted out. I left the Nellie Crk TH at 1:30pm and made it down without a problem. I stopped on the road and took this picture of a waterfall.

Waterfall on Nellie Creek Rd

This was a beautiful area with a perfect weather day. I'm not sure a CRV should really be at the top of this road, but it worked. Hope this helps with current conditions on Uncompahgre.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Cool, Gar!
06/22/2010 14:44
Can‘t wait to see the Wetterhorn trip!

Too bad we didn‘t coordinate - I was there the day before. TR coming. (These TRs sure take a lot of time, don‘t they.)

Nice work, and I look forward to seeing Wetterhorn.


Great info
06/22/2010 16:01
Thanks for your report. I‘m hiking Unc on July 3. Glad to have info on current conditions. I‘ll have to watch for that left turn going down to the stream, and hang a right instead.


06/22/2010 18:51
Great report, I'm glad the conditions are improving. I'll try to do the Unc/Wett combo in 3 weeks.


06/22/2010 23:34
If I were to do the combo, I think it would be preferable to do it from the Matterhorn TH. The road is much better up until the last .6 mi. And the trail layout makes more sense to do both peaks from this TH. Wish I knew that before I went.

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