Peak(s):  Wetterhorn Peak  -  14,015 feet
Date Posted:  07/29/2010
Date Climbed:   07/26/2010
Author:  denvermikey
 San Juan Trio finale   

Up for the challenge...

Up to this point, my wife had pretty much put the idea of any peaks rated class 3 or higher or any with exposure rating of 3 or higher out of the conversation. Her first experience with exposure was Sneffels. Specifically the look down the 'alley' to the left when going through the 'V' notch. She is not a big fan of heights to begin with and this was probably too much too soon for her when we did it. That was 2 years ago and since then I have stuck with the easier climbs with her. This weekend, I told her we were going to try somethinga bit trickier, but she should only go as far as she was comfortable. At any time if she felt like it, she could stop. She was aprehensive but agreed to give it a try.
So, Monday morning, we awoke from our room at the Lake City Resort (for the last time) at 5:15. Drove up Engineer Pass to Matterhorn Creek. Got all the way to the top of the 4wd trail which is shorter (0.6 miles) but more difficult than Nellie Creek. At 6:45 we began our earliest and chilliest (39 degrees) final attempt of our trip from the trailhead. After hiking for about 20 minutes or so through the trees you come to a bit of a clearing. You can actually see the tip of Wetterhorn from here, but the sun was hitting it just right and my camera didn't adjust for the contrast.

If you have been looking at all of my reports for this trip, have you noticed that almost every picture that I have of the trail ahead has my wife pretty far ahead of me? Well, that's no accident. Every year my wife used to get upset that I would pretty much kick her butt up the trails. You see, this woman is a dedicated workout freak. Every day she is doing some sort of pilates, aerobices, step workout, etc. My workouts would usually consist of trying to not hurt myself running the bases in my rec softball league. She would always say that it is not fair! She works out like a crazy person and I, well, pretty much don't. Well this year is different. This year we got a treadmill. She runs/walks on that thing 3-4 times a week. Now I am the one bringing up the rear! Good job hun!

This next picture is a sign that you come to just after you get into the clearing. I took this shot because it causes some people some confusion. You need to turn right at this sign! Someone attempted to write on the sign, but it's not gonna last.

After this sign, you zig zag a bit before continuing north then eventually turning slightly to the east as you head out of the treeline. Follow the good trail up through the valley as Wetterhorn eventually comes back into view from behind another mountain.

Here is a shot looking back down the valley we just hiked.

Another shot of the upcoming challenge.

As you wrap back around toward the southwest side of the peak, you go through a marmot-filled boulder field which at this time, had plenty of columbine to check out.


You know that you are up high when you look down at an airplane!

Begin to ascend up the ridge and eventally work your way over to cross the off-colored area. Shortly after this, you begin to really start your climb. Route finding isn't as easy as it had been, but you can pretty much find your trail along the way. Keeping the 'prow' or 'fin' in sight, climb the fairly solid and stable rock toward your mark.


I did not get a chance to take too many more pictures along this portion of the route. My hands were kept busy either grabbing onto rocks or helping my wife find hand and/or footholds alond the way. There was one point where I thought she was going to freeze up, but she paused for a while, collected herself, and continued on!

Once you reach the top of the 'prow', there is a large flat area. Head toward the right-most notch you see of the two.

After climbing through the notch, there is a short down-climb on a ledge before your final scramble toward the summit.

At 10:10 it finally happened. Summit! This was my wife's toughest 14er, by far. She took her time and stuck with it. Good job babe!

Summit shot with a valley in the distance enveloped in low clouds.

Looking down at the route we just came up.

We did not spend much time at the summit, maybe 10 minutes. We wanted to get through the downclimb. My wife was not looking forward to this part either. It's tough looking down and thinking "We climbed this???"

Again taking time, we mostly crab-walked down the route until we got to the spot where the toughest areas were behind us. Phew! Got through it. .

On the way down through the boulder-field area, we saw a little guy that I had never seen before. Looks like a small weasel.

At just after 1:00, I was very happy to see my ol blue machine. She performed great all weekend getting us pretty much getting us anywhere we wanted to go without any trouble.

We then worked our way over to Ouray via Engineer Pass, but only to Las Animas. Then went south to Silverton and up 550, Didn't have the energy to take Engineer on the Ouray side. Checked into our 'reward' hotel in Ridgeway (Chipeta Lodge), showered, then back to Ouray to one of our favorite Mexican resaturants - Buen Tiempo - for a big Mexican meal complete with margaritas! After dinner, we went back to our room for a well-deserved hot tub soak .
What a great weekend! The weather held out, we got a variety of hikes/climbs in, and met several great people.
I have been wanting to climb Wetterhorn for awhile since seeing that it is consistantly rated as a top favorite mountain by users. Right now it is 5th. I did enjoy this climb, however, Needle, you don't have to worry - you are still my number 1!
Love hiking, and love this site - thanks again Bill!

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

Next year...
07/30/2010 11:52
Nicely done Mike... so now you have the serious San Juans ahead of you. I recommend paying someone to climb the Wilson Group for you, but Chicago Basin will blow you away. Congrats to you and the wife on this one, that mountain is such a great way to experience some class 3 climbing with less commitment, and of course the approach is one of the most enjoyable anywhere. And good call on avoiding the Engineer Mtn. road to Ouray. It's not fit for mountain goats.


Little Weasel
07/31/2010 06:33
That's a Pine Marten. I've only seen one up by the Bells. It was actually sitting in a tree. Wish I would've seen one when I was there last month. Good job!


First Junction
08/02/2010 02:34
Thanks for the info on the first junction. I got to the junction when it was really dark and probably would of made the wrong turnif not for reading your report. Could barly see the silver writing on the sign during the night.


good to see you again!
08/13/2010 03:35
Hi mike... we (my son and I) were at the top when you and your bride summitted... love the photos. I was not as disciplined with my camera becuase I hike with a ”personal trainer”( a/k/a 19 year old track star son!)... thanks for capturing this for us. I think this is my now my favorite peak. Great to share it with you guys. Enjoy the fall... rest up for next season.


08/27/2010 02:37
Actually that looks like a Short Tailed Weasel and not a Pine Marten (although Martens are a member of the weasel family). I can't quite see its underbelly in the picture but the Short Tail Weasel has a white underbelly. Both the Short Tail and Long Tail varieties turn white in the winter. I've seen weasels on many 14'ers but the most were on Humboldt and Belford.

Interestingly enough, one of the only two times that I have seen Pine Martens in Colorado was at the Matterhorn trailhead. Pine Martens are quite a bit bigger than weasels and have a bit of a feline look to their faces.

In any event they are both really cool critters.

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