Kim agreed to pick me up in Lake City so my family could have the car while I was gone. It was immediately apparent that she was a bit obsessed about the peak. She had turned back from the summit only a week before (her second attempt) so she was committed to a successful climb. It was her idea to start at 4:00 AM instead of the more civilized 5:00 AM suggested by someone else in the group.
After a fitful sleep by me we began hiking bright and early at 4:15, my earliest start ever. Kim pushed the pace extremely hard for about 45 minutes until asking if anyone else wanted to lead. Since I can't usually sustain a heart rate over 200 for very long I agreed to set the pace in order to get a break. The six of us slowly fragmented, though did finally gather together by dawn. It took us around 2 hours to get to the section that leads to the prow.
Onward to the Prow
The route can be divided into three parts: the approach, getting to the Prow and then the Summit pitch.
Keeping high on the ridge going to the Prow
Since Kim had been there a week before she led the way through the section that led toward the prow. I had prepared myself with directions and pictures with red lines and arrows but never had to pull them out. I felt that this was the most difficult section of the climb and a fall here would have been quite painful. There was good marking with cairns and we stayed fairly high on the left side of the ridge as Mr. Johnson recommends. We crossed over at the base of the Prow ( Later we saw a party that had gotten right of the ridge way too early. Another group showed them the way down so it all worked out.) STAY HIGH ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE RIDGE APPROACHING THE PROW. It's quite steep the whole time, but we paid attention to every step and were fine. Everyone got through this section safely and we relaxed for a bit in front of the Prow.
Taking a break in front of the Prow
Kim with her back to the notch, The slab is just over the notch
Halfway up the final pitch
The final pitch was really quite straight forward. The slanted slab was pretty simple, though I would not want to tackle it when wet. The pitch had plenty of good handholds. We moved a bit left near the top to follow Aaron Johnson's route on a nice wide ledge, but could have gone straight up.
We hung out on the summit for half an hour kicking back and taking photos. I needed a break after the 3 hour and fifteen minute hike. Kim finally relaxed and was actually at the back of the line for much of the descent.
Halfway down the final pitch
The ubiquitous Marmot
I was concerned about this mountain because of the steepness and exposure of the last pitch (I actually found the section leading up to the Prow more frought with peril). After reading Wetterhorn A Risk Review
where ronbco points out that you can't actually see the cliff to your left as you ascend the final pitch, but are in a small gully definitely helped my decision. The final pitch is indeed steep, so someone with vertigo probably does not belong anywhere near it. Another poster pointed out that they were able to descend the pitch facing outward (as did my whole group). At the summit I overheard two of the women in our group say that they found the climb much easier to do than they though it would be.
Bill Middlebrook put several excellent pictures in his description on 14ers.com
, Wetterhorn Peak
This was the first time I had done a hike with people I met on a forum and it worked out great. Nobody had any problems whatsoever on the hike. I didn't even see most of their faces until dawn.
I wore a pair of tennis shoes that I was just about to replace and as always they worked quite well. I also wear double layer Wright Socks which I purchase at a running store.
The Scary Part
Back at the car Kim agreed to bring me back to my camp on Lake San Cristobal even though it would put her behind for plans she had on the Front Range that night. Warning, do not get in an SUV on a 4-wheeler road when Kim is in a hurry. She drives like a maniac. The drive back to Lake City was much scarier that the hike itself. I feel fortunate to have survived. Kim, thanks for the ride.