Two Outta Three Ain't Bad
(Solitude Near Wetterhorn)

9 Jun 2007 - by T Colorado

Michael had asked that we go somewhere a little further away from town than we had been going. So, we left Denver on Friday afternoon, avoiding the traffic jam on Hwy. 285, and took I-70 to the Copper Mountain turnoff, over Fremont Pass, through Leadville, through Buena Vista to Poncha Springs; then, up and over Monarch Pass, through Gunnison and to the turnoff for Lake City. The drive to Lake City was beautiful, and right about deer-thirty on the roadway. We turned off on the Alpine Loop road, and pulled off to sleep in the back of the truck at the North Henson Creek Road turnoff.

Saturday morning brought a clear day, and we drove the remaining way up the road and parked in a spot right near the Matterhorn Creek 4WD turnoff. We loaded our packs and hiked up the North Henson Creek Road to the unmarked turnoff for the Mary Alice Creek Trail (take a right on the jeep road just after crossing Mary Alice Creek). The trailhead sign confirmed that we were indeed on the trail to Wetterhorn Basin. Our plan of the day was to climb Unnamed 13,201 from that valley, make a descending traverse, and then ascending Unnamed 13,300C at the head of the next drainage, descending slightly and climbing over the shoulder of Wetterhorn, descending into the Matterhorn Creek valley and ascending Broken Hill, and then descending the ridge hitting the Matterhorn Creek 4WD road and eventually making it back to our truck. We were familiar with some of the terrain already (see trip report entitled Dogsh*t and Rockslides), and looking to cross a few more 13'ers off our list.

We followed the trail for the most part, crossing the creek, avoiding snow here and there, and eventually getting to treeline (stick near to Mary Alice Creek and you'll run right up to this peak). We made a direct ascent of the east facing slopes on a mix of tundra, talus and snow. We hit the summit ridge about 90 feet away from the summit and strolled to the top of Unnamed 13,201. The views are incredible. I know I said this about last week's climb, but I highly recommend this climb for the views (and they just got better all day). Wetterhorn's summit pyramid, including the big slanting slab rock just before the final summit pitch, were very visible and it all looked ... well, let's just say it ... intimidating, but snow free. That's one summit I guess I'll just end up doing over and over again (already been up there twice).

We could see our next objective (Unnamed 13,300C), but getting to it would be interesting. We walked the entire summit area looking down cliffs on all sides, and not wanting to waste time retracing our ascent route. Eventually, we found a possibility ... a break in the cliffs down a steep, loose rock/scree slope that met up with some steep snow descending on a northwest slope from a small, high saddle. After carefully downclimbing, we tried out the snow. It was pretty good ... you had to face in and the ice axe, for the most part, planted well. We descended about 80 feet and then started traversing (still staying high on steep snow not wanting to lose too much elevation) towards a saddle we could see between Unnamed 13,201 and Pt. 13,217. We eventually made it, with Michael taking a bit of a video break to tape me coming across some of the steep snow slopes. I had ridiculous visions of losing my footing, sliding down the slope, unable to self-arrest and crashing into the rocks below ... all on video with the backdrop of my husband doing play-by-play commentary to our flatland relatives who would view this at a later date. Crampons would have made this all so much faster and easier (and less stressful), but you go with what you got and we made the best of it. At the saddle, we descended a bit of scree and then put on our fast pants and glissaded down further to a point where we could make a right turn and head up to the saddle that separated Unnamed 13,201 from the rounded ridge of Unnamed 13,300C.

Once at the saddle, we ascended grassy slopes interspersed with snow and some talus to the top of 13,300C. What incredible views of Coxcomb, Redcliff, Heisshorn, Silver Mountain, the Sneffels range, the Wilsons, and the area of Redcloud and Sunshine! The weather was holding, and if we thought the views of Wetterhorn were great from Unnamed 13,201, the views from Unnamed 13,300C were beyond believable. Wetterhorn's northwest ridge was a spiny, pinnacled display of work for sure. Coxcomb and Redcliff have a lot of snow on them still. We stayed at the top for quite a while, taking photos, shooting video and enjoying the nice day.

Soon, we were off trying to find a descending traverse off of Unnamed 13,300C and aiming for a little nubbin that we knew would give us access high on Wetterhorn's southeast ridge. That descent offered more of a challenge than expected being caked with sculpted snow. We made our way down some grassy ramps, zigzagging back and forth, but eventually had to succumb to getting back on the snow (yep, with our fast pants on) and glissaded down a bit until we could make our way around the head of the drainage. We crossed much snow on this traverse, but all of it was pretty consolidated for the most part. We eventually reached our nubbin and ascended on sheepsh*t covered tundra until we intersected the Wetterhorn ridge at about 13,200'. It's amazing how high sheep will graze! There's a lot of snow still in the Matterhorn Creek basin. We were able to avoid quite a bit of it as we descended Wetterhorn's standard route, and soon came to a nice spot to take a break and assess the situation. We were entertained for a bit by a daring (probably young male) marmot who was rather full of himself and ready for a fight. As we stood there trying to look as large as possible to scare the marmot, the weather was turning on us; and to be honest, we realized we were getting tired. That's a lot of up and down in a day for sort of old people. hahaha. As we gazed at Broken Hill, we came to the conclusion that it could wait until another time. You know that old saying, those mountains aren't going anywhere. So, we worked our way down the tundra, coming to the actual trail, and pulling out the beer from the pack. It snowed lightly off and on, and some thunder rumbled in the background. We passed a large group (at least three tents) on our way down to the 4WD parking area for the Matterhorn Creek road. They had a nice camping spot and a healthy fire going.

We got back to the truck after a 12-hour day with lots of breaks and spending most of the time above treeline. What a wonderful day! Two outta three ain't bad. Happy Trails!

To file a trip report, please fill in the Report Entry form or contact the webmaster.