Via Matterhorn TH
Friday July 11, 2008
I had climbed Conundrum and Castle Peaks the day before and drove the 5 hours from Aspen to Lake City via a somewhat convoluted route; 82 to 131 over McClure Pass to 92 to 50 to Blue Mesa cut-off to 149……….quite a haul. I then got on the dirt road out of Lake City towards Engineer Pass and on to the 4-wd, bumpy/dusty road up to the Matterhorn TH. The weather was clear and dry the entire way.
There were a few people camping along the dirt road to the trailhead and another couple of people camping just below the TH. I pulled into the trailhead parking lot where there was only one small pickup truck but no one around. It was just after 6:00PM, the mosquitoes were lousy and I applied a good dose of bug juice, made ready my camp and fixed a nice dinner before turning-in just before dark at about 8:20………I was way pooped.
I awoke to my watch alarm at 5:00AM and languished in my sleeping bag for a while as I wasn’t quite ready to face the day yet. After a little while I pulled myself together and made my normal breakfast fare of instant oatmeal, black coffee and a quart of Gatorade. I saw two girls head up the trail that I had seen the night before camping down the road. Three guys then headed-up who had just arrived and had parked just below the TH. I made ready my pack and started up the trail at 6:25AM.
I soon came to the trail registry and signed-in, the trail looks much like a road for a short while and then as a single path along a rushing creek as it went rather straight through the forest and on up to a clearing with a sign where the trail forked. Someone had scrawled on the Matterhorn Trail sign that Wetterhorn Pk went to the right and thus the way I went. The trail began to climb gradually to the right and then way back to the left in a giant horseshoe turn gaining altitude and then back into a short section of trees. Here I took a rest and a long drink as the day was already getting quite warm.
The trail then advanced higher over a dusty/rooty section and then breaks-out into a green clearing where the trail can be seen advancing well ahead. The flowers were spectacular and the colors varied and beautiful; tiny yellow, white blue, purple, red, maroon blossoms on the green slope…………really nice and a welcomed sight. Wetterhorn Peak dominated the view to the west and the trail was well traveled and unmistakable even for my poor route finding skills.
I nearly “biffed-it” as a crossed a small creek and stepped on a slick stone while hiking in my dazzled state, but pulled out of it and advanced up into a very rocky almost “badlands” type trail section. Rocks were large and very dark in color and the trail zig-zagged through this section with no end in sight. However the Columbine flowers in this area were amazing, I could smell them before I could see them and the quantity of them was the most I’ve every seen anywhere before. Lots of Marmots through-out these rocks and they gathered in groups to check me out and seek a snack no doudt. The day was down-right hot and I stopped to trim down into shorts and short sleeves for the remainder of the hike. I layered on the sunscreen and took another long drink.
I took my time and rested as required and stayed hydrated as the day was pretty warm and the sun was brilliant. The trail broke-out of the “badlands” and I followed it up over a snowfield and up to the saddle that had a sandy appearance as the soil was very light in color. The trail advances across the saddle and up around to the left where it then begins to climb into the rocks. Here I passed the two girls I had seen at the TH and the trail then becomes a bit obscure in places. I went up the wrong gully section and had to perform a class 4 move to get myself over a large boulder and into the proper gully to my left.
The route became a bit better as I climbed this gully and came to a split “v” notch where I then went left and scrambled up to the right of a huge prow. I took my time and stayed hydrated as I was working harder and gained the section just right and beyond the prow. I heard voices and looked up high to the summit high overhead. The one guy on top told me to go through a notch to my left and I found a hand & foot hold and did so. Once through this notch there’s a large flat rock pitching downward that took me to the bottom of series of short ledges and cliffs. I asked the guys on top and they verified that this was the way to the top. After some rather exposed scrambling up through this “cliffy” section I clambered up and onto the summit at 9:25AM.
The three guys I’d seen at the trailhead were on top and I thanked them for their assistance in gaining the summit. The one guy was pretty friendly and we shared some pleasantries. The views were awesome with Matterhorn and Uncompahgre Peaks dominating the eastern view, Redcloud, Sunshine and Handies peaks to the south and Sneffels Peak in the distant west. I took several photos and took in some food, drink and took a long rest. The two girls arrived just as the three guys were leaving and we took each others photos and shared some experiences before I started down at 10:00 sharp.
The trip down the “cliffy” and rocky sections took nearly as long going down as they did coming up as taking my time and being very careful were the rule for a safe descent. Loose rocks had to be avoided and firm hand and foot holds were a must. Once I reached the saddle the trip down went much faster and smoother and the glory of this beautiful day made for a most pleasant descent. Even the “badlands” didn’t seem so tedious and I again met the three guys as they had apparently glissaded back down in a few spots and were taking a breather by the creek where I slipped earlier.
I made good time back down across the flowered slopes and back into the trees well below and along the creek where I dipped my hat in the cold water and placed it on my head for some instant relief from the hot sun. I was down and passed the registry and back to my truck at 12:20PM; a most enjoyable hike this fine day and my 39th 14’er…………sweet!!