Winter in the San Juans - Uncompahgre 02/15/09

Winter in the San Juans - Uncompahgre 02/15/09

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Feb 15, 2009
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Skiing
Seasons Season: Winter

Route Stats

Mountains: 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…

004Alpenglow 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.

005Traversing Snow Slopes near Timberline

Here’s looking back at our skin tracks across the slope.

008Skintracks 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.

021Jetboils at Work

The winds picked up as soon as we stopped for food. The peak appeared unruffled by it…

022Uncompahgre: Closeup

After Ramen we began skinning up the hard packed snow in the basin…

025Skinning up the Upper Basin

BasinSkin5Skinning to the base of the SE Face (c) doumall

Here’s a closer look at the peak…

024A 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.

Boot1Booting 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.

026Base 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.

030Above 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...?

Group ShotAre you guys in some sort of racing team...? (c) Derek

A view down the North Face…

036Looking 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 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.

SouthFaceSkiPrakash3Skiing 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…

046Uncompahgre 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.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-6 of 6

maverick - Feb 18, 2009 5:41 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: cool man

Yeah, was a pretty fun day out. Thanks.


Deltaoperator17 - Feb 18, 2009 10:50 am - Voted 10/10

Very Nice!

Very nice Trip Report.


maverick - Feb 18, 2009 5:41 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Very Nice!

Thanks for the comment...


doumall - Feb 19, 2009 11:57 am - Hasn't voted


You feel I am inane do you? Perhaps you would like to eat a well salted T-bone steak that came out of my ass?


maverick - Feb 19, 2009 12:03 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: So?

:))... Did you look up 'inane' on right after you looked up expectorate...? or was it after colloquial?


doumall - Feb 19, 2009 12:12 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: So?

Whatever you snobby Brit, I know what colloquial means :)

Viewing: 1-6 of 6