OverviewWhitehouse Mountain forms the large northeast corner of the Sneffels range west of Ouray. It is most noticeable from US-550 just south of Ridgeway. Its large flat summit is protected with battlements of dramatic chalk-white cliffs and spires. Isolated by the area’s craggy canyons, the mountain is difficult to approach.
Photos below are taken from the north. Below described approach is from the south. This is the view you get when driving to Ouray. I looked at massive Whitehouse Mountain so many times, and finally I was able to stand on its top. The views down to Ouray and over surrounding peaks from the top are amazing.
Getting ThereFrom the downtown Ouray drive south out of Ouray and take the first main road going off to the right. This is County Road 361 and marked Camp Bird and Yankee Boy Basin. From the turn off drive 2.7 miles up the Camp Bird Road, over the Uncompaghgre Gorge Bridge (= Ice Park in the winter) and up past another bridge spanning Canyon Creek. Proceed another 0.7 mile and look for the Weehawken Trailhead on the right. It is well marked and there is ample room to park here. You don’t need a 4WD vehicle to reach this place.
Elevation at Trailhead: 8,700 feet
Elevation Gain: 4,792 feet
Round trip distance: 15 miles
From the Trailhead, hike up past a couple of switchbacks to the sign-in box and up through the open areas, onto trees. Almost immediately, great views open up across the valley to parts of Hayden Mountain. Continue for about 45 min, keeping on the main trail and ignoring offshoots until you can start to see towering cliffs, which form part of the south walls of Weehawken Creek. The trail then meanders up through a fine stand of aspen to a definite little pass and signpost. This is usually reached in about 1 hour. You continue on the main trail, posted as Weehawken Creek. The turn to the right lead to the Alpine Mine Overlook.
The next section starts fairly level and crosses small creeks. The trail is easy to follow.. If you look back, you should be able to see two 13,000 feet peaks of Hayden Mountain and its great ridgeline. Across the Weewhaken Creek the rock formations begin to assume their unusual shapes and compositions and you can see part of the drainage system from Potosi’s eastern flanks.
The trail now climbs again with a nice waterfall on the left. The spruce becomes dense and you have to cross a drainage coming in from the right. The trail starts to veer left a little as it exits the dense tree area and crosses an extended area of mostly dry wash. There are cairns at this section marking your way. Continue on a trail, which higher up will disappear, but you will start to get oriented with surrounding peaks. You will see a beautiful north face of Potosi, and the east face of Teakettle. Hike up on grassy slopes (sometimes seeing a faint trail) towards the saddle between Mount Ridgeway and Whitehouse Mountain.
At the pass, look to your right, you will see a couloir facing northwest. This is your way up the mountain. This is the most technical part of your climb, mostly class 2 , with some class 3 moves. Finally, you exit the couloir and have to continue up the scree and loose rock to reach a summit. No, this is not the main summit. If you will look east, you will see a long ridge leading to the main summit of Whitehouse Mountain. This walk along the ridge is 1 mile long! The summit is huge and flat, and there is a cairn with a summit log.
There were only about 6 climbers signed in this year (2011). Whitehouse is a beautiful mountain, but to reach its summit requires a long approach hike. It is among the top 300 peaks on Colorado, so no as popular as centennial or bicentennial peaks.
Distances to other peaks
Teakettle Mountain 1.86 miles
Coffeepot 1.94 miles
Mt. Ridgeway 0.93 miles
Corbett Peak 0.52 miles
Mt. Sneffels 3.16 miles
Images from the hike
CampingThere are two campgrounds near by.
Thistledown Campground, which is located right across from the Weehawken Trailhead.
2nd campground Angel Creek Campground is about 0.7 miles away.
There are plenty of lodging opportunities in Ouray.
Weehawken Trailhead is accessible year round. The trail is popular for snow shoeing and back country skiing. The back country skiing is relatively safe from avalanches, and is mostly between trees, pretty steep.
There are no fees for parking or hiking. Full services (dining, lodging) are available in Ouray. And if you have time, you can soak in hot springs after this long hike :).
External LinksThere is not much information on-line about this peak.
Whitehouse Mountain on 13ers.com