Trip Report
Cutting it close on Wetterhorn
Wednesday July 23, 2014 3:41pm
Wetterhorn Peak, one of the 14ers in the SanJuans. Route follows left ...
Wetterhorn Peak, one of the 14ers in the SanJuans. Route follows left skyline. (Class III/IV)
Credit: Reeotch

I was in need of a little high altitude training, so I did a three day stint in the Uncomphagre Wilderness, exploring and peak bagging.
Not knowing what the Alpine Loop 4x4 road was like I opted for a long drive from Telluride around to the north through Montrose and back south to Lake City on Hwy 149. Then, I hopped on the Alpine Loop from the east side.Next time, with better tires, I'll go for the 4x4 road and cut off about 3 hours drive time.

Day 1:
After my long drive I left the truck about a mile short of the trailhead (chickened out)
Not bad for a 2WD automatic
Not bad for a 2WD automatic
Credit: Reeotch
Before long you can see the peaks, ahhhhhhh!
Before long you can see the peaks, ahhhhhhh!
Credit: Reeotch

When I got up about 3 miles to where I wanted to camp, Thor cut loose with a wicked thunderstorm. Scared me back down the trail to a less exposed position. I was freaking out. There were a couple of strikes very close to me - flash-boom! almost simultaneous, Yikes! I ended up setting up in a line of trees that is flush to a ridge up higher. You really couldn't ask for a more secure spot in lightning.
I'm glad I brought a tent and not an ultralight tarp, as I usually do....
I'm glad I brought a tent and not an ultralight tarp, as I usually do. It rained a lot!
Credit: Reeotch
Credit: Reeotch
I turned in early in preparation for an "alpine start".

I hate "alpine starts". I'm an aging rock climber, I need time to wake up properly ;).
When I finally did wake up, I realized my alarm didn't go off and it was already getting light. Damn! Brew a quick cup of coffee with the acrid sulfurous water found in the stream by my campsite. Way to ruin some perfectly good french roast!
This frantic start pretty much set the tone for my run up Wetterhorn. No brilliant sunrise today. As the light grew the dark clouds continued to swirl around the peaks.
Wetterhorn catches a few moments of sunlight.
Wetterhorn catches a few moments of sunlight.
Credit: Reeotch
Of course the weather was coming from the other side of the mountain which blocked the view of what was comming. When I got to the shoulder of the peak proper, I would be totally exposed to lightning the rest of the way. It would take an hour to get up and down this section.
When I saw my shadow, I took it as a sign, and went for the summit!
When I saw my shadow, I took it as a sign, and went for the summit!
Credit: Reeotch
The climbing gets interesting here. You can make it solid class III with good route finding. Or, class IV if you take a more direct line.
The upper reaches of Wetterhorn.
The upper reaches of Wetterhorn.
Credit: Reeotch
You wish this terrain went on forever . . .
You wish this terrain went on forever . . .
Credit: Reeotch
I reached the summit at 8:10, the weather appeared to be holding.
Credit: Reeotch
Precipice Peak from the summit of Wetterhorn
Precipice Peak from the summit of Wetterhorn
Credit: Reeotch
I didn't hang out too long on the summit. Even though I hadn't heard any lightning yet, the clouds were still making me nervous.
At about 9:30, I had just gotten off the exposed ridgeline it began to hail. Then, Thor dropped the hammer again - HARD!
Flash-Boom!!! Crack-Pow!!! Holy Sh!t that strike triggered rockslide on Matterhorn Peak, Woah!!!
I was happy to pretty much jog the rest of the way back to my sheltered campsite and spend the rest of the day reading Edward Abbey, sleeping and exploring the little valley.
L to R - Wetterhorn (14,017'), Matterhorn(~13,550') Un...
L to R - Wetterhorn (14,017'), Matterhorn(~13,550') Uncomphagre (~14,300') from an overlook on Hwy 149.
Credit: Reeotch

  Trip Report Views: 658
Reeotch
About the Author
Rich Ludwig is a climber, biker and adventurer currently residing in Kayenta AZ on the Navajo Nation where he teaches high school biology.

Comments
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Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
  Jul 23, 2014 - 03:45pm PT
Nice!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jul 23, 2014 - 03:46pm PT
Nice....I love that peak! We could use some monsoonal moisture now, it's friggin hot.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jul 23, 2014 - 04:18pm PT
Photo of Precipice Peak from the summit of Wetterhorn is really pretty. TYFP!
SC seagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, or In What Time Zone Am I?
  Jul 23, 2014 - 04:40pm PT
That was beautiful. Those rainy events just make me shudder.
Thanks for taking the time to do this report.
Drop dead beautiful scenery.

Susan
goatboy smellz

climber
लघिमा
  Jul 23, 2014 - 05:29pm PT
schweet! san juan's always deliver.
klk

Trad climber
cali
  Jul 23, 2014 - 05:28pm PT
awesome
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Jul 23, 2014 - 05:54pm PT
Looks beautiful up there.
thebravecowboy

climber
hold on tight boys
  Jul 23, 2014 - 05:58pm PT
Werd. Deferred lovemaking on a recent San Juans summit for a cottony billow atop a small nearby summitcloud, just barely got to safer terrain before the tstormage struck with vigor. Cheers to your success!
drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Jul 23, 2014 - 06:01pm PT
Nice one Rich.
Weather always makes a solo mish even more memorable.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 23, 2014 - 06:16pm PT
Beautiful country Rich, thanks!!,
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Jul 23, 2014 - 07:00pm PT
Whew, those clouds had me worried too--
there's been a few lightning casualties in Colorado
already this year. Glad you made it safely!
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Jul 23, 2014 - 08:35pm PT
San Juan stylee . . . thanks!
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Jul 23, 2014 - 08:38pm PT
A potentially shocking TR
TFPU
Tad
Reeotch

climber
4 Corners Area
Author's Reply  Jul 24, 2014 - 07:20am PT
Shocking for sure. A couple of strikes on the first day were close enough to daze me a bit. It took a few seconds for me to come to my senses, then the terror came back . . .
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Jul 24, 2014 - 08:12am PT
Top of Wetterhorn, fall of 1972.

Credit: ydpl8s
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Jul 24, 2014 - 08:34am PT
Nice Teener on a not-so-great day.

Thanks for sharing your fun with us!

Which Abbey title did you have for dessert?

Cheers!
Roots

Mountain climber
Tustin, CA
  Jul 24, 2014 - 12:43pm PT
Looks good - thanks!
TwistedCrank

climber
Released into general population, Idaho
  Jul 24, 2014 - 02:21pm PT
We did Wetterhorn -> Matterhorn -> Uncompahgre in a day, way back when. I guess they call it car-2-car nowadays.

I recall that we took a nap on Uncompahgre's football field-sized summit.

That's a fun part of the world!
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