Uncompahgre Peak - South Ridge from Nellie Creek
Climbing mountains is dangerous! Please read the Mountaineering Safety Page and make sure you have a map+compass and can use them effectively. A GPS or cell phone can be very helpful with navigation but you should still be able to use a map+compass in case your device stops working.
(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:|| Class 2 |
|Total Gain:||3,000 feet|
5,505 feet starting at 2WD TH (9,350)
|RT Length:||7.50 miles|
15.50 miles starting at 2WD TH (9,350)
|USGS Quad.:||Uncompahgre Peak|
|County Sheriff:||Hinsdale: 970-944-2291
From Lake City, turn west onto Second street. Drive 0.1 miles and turn left onto the Henson Creek road. This is the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. Drive 5 miles to the sign for the Nellie Creek trail (#877). The sign is on the right. There are a few pull-offs along the road in this area. If you do not have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, park on the Henson Creek road and hike up from here. Continue 4 miles up the Nellie Creek road to reach the trailhead. The road crosses a stream twice. 2.3 miles up this road there is a junction. Turn left and stay on the main road to reach the trailhead. The composting restroom which was provided by the US Forest Service has been CLOSED and is no longer functional. Please pack out human waste or bury it at least 200 feet away from any water source.
From the upper end of the parking area ( 38.06323° N, -107.42234° W), start up the trail and hike nearly 1/2 mile to tree line where the trail approaches Nellie Creek. Near 11,800', pass some large boulders as you parallel the stream - Photo #1. Ascend a hill ( 38.06807° N, -107.43303° W) to reach a trail junction near 11,950' and continue west into the large basin, south of the peak - Photo #2 and Photo #3. Follow the trail southwest as it crosses the basin - Photo #4. Above 12,600', turn left and hike toward Uncompahgre's south ridge - Photo #5 and Photo #6. Photo #7 is another look at the peak from approximately 12,800'.
Near 12,900', turn right (west) and hike along the east side of the south ridge ( 38.06248° N, -107.45189° W). Near 13,200', the trail angles more to the north as it continues along the ridge - Photo #8. Continue to Uncompahgre's southeast face (Photo #9) and climb a few switchbacks (Photo #10) to reach the crest ( 38.06717° N, -107.46199° W) of the ridge, near 13,800' - Photo #11. Follow the trail left (northwest) around to the west face where you're faced with the crux of the route - 150' of steep, loose rock below the upper slopes - Photo #12.
From here, your goal is to regain the ridge but you must first ascend some loose, Class 2 terrain. Walk toward the tower seen in Photo #12 where you'll have a couple of options: 1) Pass the tower (Photo #13) before turning right to regain the ridge or 2) take a slightly steeper line just before the tower. Both options involve a short ascent to the ridge, on loose rock - Photo #14. Once the terrain eases, you'll find a more-defined trail (Photo #15 and Photo #16) which heads northeast. Photo #17 looks down on much of the route. Walk up the remaining route (Photo #18 and Photo #19) to reach summit ( 38.071507° N, -107.462166° W) - Photo #20, Photo #21 and Photo #22.
The Nellie Creek 4WD road is rough and narrow and, in Spring, the stream crossings can be a bit tricky. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Uncompahgre Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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