I decided to put this one under Uncompahgre's page since this is the highest peak we did on this trip.
Saturday we departed from Flagstaff at 5:00am. We went through Durango, Pagosa Springs, to South Fork, up through Creed and into Lake City. This area through the San Juan’s was very different, as it was very beautiful, but not impressive like going to Telluride or Silverton. The trees were just starting to change colors at this time. I've always wanted to see Colorado in the fall and now I had my chance.
Our trip started off at the Matterhorn Trailhead at about 11,000 feet. We put on our backpacks and hiked up to the 12,460-foot pass and then headed down to about 12,000 feet at the base of Uncompahgre Peak where we camped. In all it was about 4 miles, 2 of it was very steep and the elevation was killing me. I guess thats what I get for moving to 1,000 feet elevation.
Monday we went up Wetterhorn. It was a loose scramble up most the mountain. Then we reached the "Ships Prow" crossed over the small saddle and headed up the last 200 feet of the mountain. The exposure was intense, but I thought the climb was relatively easy and safe as long as I did not slip. The rock was very solid, and made for a fun ascent. It was not much different than climbing a ladder. Once on top we could see the Elk Mountains, All the San Juan Mountains, the Sawatch mountains, some of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and the La Sals in Utah. We could tell that all the San Juan Mountains got hit with a heavy snowstorm a couple weeks prior. We stayed over 1.5 hours on top, not a cloud in the sky. Coming down after we got on the loose scree my dad slipped and found a rock to cling on to which saved his life. That really scared me, he almost took me with him. But in all it was a safe day and we headed back to camp. We did not see one cloud the whole day, perfectly blue skies.
Tuesday we headed over to the Matterhorn. On our way we saw a young Bald Eagle swoop down and catch some prey and fly away with it.
Matterhorn sure was a steep booger to do. Took awhile to reach the rocky top. The last 200 foot scramble was a really fun climb. The rock was not really stable; we had to test the rock before using it as a handhold. We were on the peak before 11:00am. The peak was just a pile of rocks and looked like it could collapse at any moment.
After we came down Tom decided to go out by himself and maybe get a nap on the slopes of the mountains somewhere. My dad wanted to go back to camp and rest, I did not, so I decided since it was about 12:00 I would go and hike the unknown mountain to the south. I was not sure if I'd get to the top or not, but I gave it a go. About an hour later I got to a 60-foot cliff face, and decided the mountain will not be mine. I then saw a path below me that might take me beneath the cliffs and past them, so I gave it a try and sure enough, before I knew it I was ascending the peak again and worked myself up a scree slope and I was on the summit. The summit log only had one signature on it and it dated July 2003 and I found out the name of the mountain was Broken Hill and the elevation was 13,256. This is the first mountain in Colorado that I did solo. I took a few photos and headed back to camp which took me about 1.5 hours.
That night some elk came very close to our camp and we could hear them calling out loud and clear.
The next day we did Uncompahgre Peak. For the most part it was a walk up, never got harder than the Grand Canyon, but the elevation was killing me. We were stopping about every half a swichback to get a breath. Moving up that high was very slow. We than came onto an unexpected scramble to get to the summit plateau. From there it was a slight slant to the summit ridgecrest, there was no absolute peak, just had to touch every point along the ridgecrest to know I had it. The north face was spectacular. I got on my stomach to view over the dramatic edge.
We headed back to camp, packed up and headed 4 miles more back to the car. We drove to Lake City and picked up a few supplies before heading back into the mountains. Driving through the mountains we could see that the trees have changed color even more. That night Tom forgot to put his cooler back into the car. About midnight we heard some clunking outside. Tom got up to see what was going on and a brown bear had got into the cooler. The flashlight scared the bear away. The next morning we looked to see what he had taken; it managed to only bite into one of the one gallon jugs full of water and steal Toms pepper jack cheese.
The next day we headed to Silver Creek Trailhead to hike Redcloud and Sunshine. We hiked in about 1.5 miles and set up camp at about 11,200 feet.
The next day we headed up Redcloud Peak. It was a long steep climb and it only steepened as we reached the saddle at 13,000 feet. From there it dramatically got steeper. The mountain was the reddest rock I had ever seen. The paths across the snow looked like blood streaks. After we reached Redcloud we braked for awhile then headed to Sunshine Peak. We came across an area that had the intense red dirt with gray rocks on top, it was really strange. About an hour later we reached our last summit, Sunshine Peak. From the summit the contrast of the snow capped peaks to the golden aspens and green evergreens was just breathtaking. There was a mouse on top no bigger than my thumb. We think it got into somebody’s backpack and was let loose on the summit. We spent quite some time resting and taking photos on the summit. We could not of had a more beautiful day as it was sunny and not a cloud in the sky all day. Sometimes the wind would kick up and it would get a bit cold.
On our descent, we headed back down to the saddle between Redcloud and Sunshine. From there, there was a sign that read, “Dangerous decent, not a trail return back to Redcloud.” We decided to go down that “Dangerous Descent.” The climbers trail first took us over some cliffs then it swithcbacked left and suddenly got really steep. It started on solid rock with scree on it, which is a bad combination. Its like marbles on a tile surface. We held on the rocks and headed down it one by one, then it was all loose scree the rest of the way. We slid down, scree skiing all the way down this thing, using our sticks and poles to slow our descent. There were times that stopping was not an option, all I could do was slow my descent with my pole. I just crouched down and went for a ride. I really cannot say it was scary; it was more fun than anything, just exhausting. We descended down about 800 feet in about ½ an hour. From the bottom of the scree slopes we headed down the rock glacier and back into the forest and followed the trail back to our campsite.
Saturday we packed up camp and headed back to the vehicle and headed home.
It was good to get back to Colorado and do some 14ers with some 13ers thrown in. This trip marks my dads last backpacking trip. His knee did not do so well and it's over for him. I am glad that I was there on his last trip. Hopefully he will be able to hike the mountains from the car still.
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