Route StatsMountains: Uncompahgre Peak (14,309’)
Route: Started at the Nellie Creek 2WD trailhead (9350’), skinned up to the 4WD trailhead and followed the standard south ridge route to summit
Elevation Gain - 5100’ (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage ~ 16 miles
Sunday after Valentine’s Day brought a nice little weather window sandwiched between two systems. NOAA predicted a crapload of snow from the first system and CAIC rated the San Juans at considerable avalanche danger but snotel hadn’t recorded too much snowfall. After dabbling with a couple other alternatives I decided to join doumall, jcwhite and Derek on Uncompahgre. I picked doumall up at his place on Saturday evening and we entertained the usual inanity of conversation all the way to Lake City, punctuated only by a religious visit to the Taco Bell at Gunnison to ensure we had enough gaseous propulsion the next day. We reached Lake City at around 9PM and pulled into the driveway (after several attempts $h!%#& and much amusement) of jcwhite’s cabin which he’d kindly allowed us to use the night before the hike. We turned in at around 10PM with plans for an early start. I set my alarm for 3AM.
On the Trail
We were woken by ghastly tones emanating from an 8-track in the dark of night not four hours later! The crack of Jordan is a dark and scary place. Downstairs we oozed, half asleep, to pack and prepare for departure. We reached the trailhead a little before 4 and began skinning up the road at 4:15AM. There were two other cars at the trailhead and skin tracks had already set a trench for us. We made our way up at a reasonable pace. The wind was surprisingly reticent but we found no dearth of cold. The nose turned browner than usual and the Gatorade turned to slush by the time we reached the 4WD trailhead at 6:45AM. At the 4WD TH the old skin tracks stopped and Jordan began breaking trail to the basin above. When the trees thinned out we saw sun strike the peak…
Alpenglow on Uncompahgre
We stayed above and to the right of the creek quickly traversing the first avalanche path above the 4WD lot which seemed stable. However, we took necessary precautions, traversing the steeper sections one by one. It was a little tricky to keep from sliding down the frozen hard snow. We needed to hammer our edges in to maintain traction.
Traversing Snow Slopes near Timberline
Here’s looking back at our skin tracks across the slope.
Skintracks cut across the slope
Above the Timber
At about 7:30AM we experienced sunhit.
Doumall and I decided to take a short Ramen break while jcwhite and Derrick continued on up the basin.
Jetboils at Work
The winds picked up as soon as we stopped for food. The peak appeared unruffled by it…
After Ramen we began skinning up the hard packed snow in the basin…
Skinning up the Upper Basin
Skinning to the base of the SE Face (c) doumall
Here’s a closer look at the peak…
A closer look at Uncompahgre
Close to the beginning of the ridge we caught up with Jordan and Derek. We started heading up the trail to the ridge when skinning became difficult. I decided to leave my skis here and continue booting up the SE face.
Booting up the SE Face (c) doumall
The others carried their skis hoping for a summit ski descent. We followed the standard route around to the West face where snow covered much of the loose scree. The snow was slabby on this side and we frequently broke tiny slabs sending them off the side.
Base of the Crux Gully: the West Side of Uncompahgre
There was some fun 2+ climbing up the ‘crux’ gully that led to the gentle final run up to the summit. Here’s looking at doumall just above the gully.
Above the crux gully on Uncompahgre
Summit and Descent
The final stretch up to the summit was pretty flat. We made summit at around 11AM.
Are you guys in some sort of racing team...?
Are you guys in some sort of racing team...? (c) Derek
A view down the North Face…
Looking down the North Face Cliffs
We stayed on summit for a short while. Doumall and jcwhite decided to ski off the summit while Derek and I booted our way down to the top of the SE face. For more pics of the ski watch for doumall or jcwhite’s reports at http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=5660&cpgm=tripmain and ___.
I picked up my skis where I left them after talking to a couple snowshoers from Ouray who were making their way up the SE Face. We continued skiing together from the upper basin. Skis stayed on all the way back to the car. The others skied while I provided comic relief, amply aided by fantastic snow conditions. Doumall decided to stay back for the best seat in the house hoping to capture some of my more epic spills on our way down the road. A great deal of resort skiing is in order.
Skiing down the road (c) doumall
I reached the car at around 2PM, a little behind the others. We packed and headed back to jcwhite’s cabin. Doumall and I sampled some of the fine brews and nightlife provided by Lake City. It was a very agreeable old time, I tell hyou hwhat! We packed the next morning and headed back home… Uncompahgre showed itself one more time…
Uncompahgre from SH149
We made a stop at the Monarch ski area… You appreciate resort skiing that much more after wiping out a dozen times in the back country. A fine end to a fine weekend in the San Juans.