Trip Report & Route Guide
By Danielle Steffens
Michael drove up from Denver on Wednesday. We are planning to hike Wetterhorn Peak, a 14er I’ve been looking forward to for years! The sky is fairly free of haze from the rain yesterday so hopefully that holds and there are some good views!
We plan to wake up at 3 am and leave at 3:30 am. This should get us to the trailhead at 6 am.
The Drive (this was an adventure in and of itself!)
We’re on the road at 3:45 am and not far out of town, a deer standing in the oncoming lane makes a 180° dash back to the shoulder. We’re sure awake now!
It’s a treat to have someone else’s music playing since the tragedy of mine deleting itself the first week I was up here. I’ve been listening to a handful of albums on repeat so I appreciate the variety.
Being the passenger, I enjoy the star views on this dark empty road. Orion’s Belt hangs in the windshield for most of the drive.
Before the turn for Lake City, we see 5 deer, a coyote, and countless mice make a run for it across the road. After the turn off for Lake City we see a fox and two more deer! The wildlife is out in full force this morning.
We pass through several patches of fog on the way. With the chill in the air, it feels like fall is fast approaching.
We reach the “2WD” trailhead at 6:30 am. The road is much tougher than anticipated. The Honda Civic struggles a little and we decide to park down in a grassy clearing.
Walking half a mile in, we hit the final 2WD parking area which has fairly limited parking. The road gets much rockier after this point.
The Ascent (via Southeast Ridge)
The remainder of the 4WD road is pretty steep and we continue hiking at a comfortable pace.
At 7:04 am, after 1.2 miles we’re at the 4WD trailhead. The only car here is a Jeep Wrangler.
We duck under the gate (Let’s be honest, Michael ducks. The gate is high and I’m short so I only have to tilt my head.) and start up the trail.
We follow the trail through the forest and take note of all the fallen trees. The river alongside the trail is a strange milky white.
Just before 2 miles we leave the trees and enter into the valley. At the junction with Matterhorn cutoff, we go right and start up the sweeping switchbacks.
As the sun works it’s way into the lower reaches of the valley, we work our way up and around the hillside.
We cross over into the sun’s territory a little after 8 am.
After the steady incline through the valley, we start up some steeper, rocky switchbacks.
The switchbacks morph into hilly rocky terrain that reminds me of the lord of the rings. We weave our way in and out, up and over before starting the ascent up to the ridge line.
Smeagol, the marmot
We’re on the southeast ridge at 9:30 am. The trail gets much steeper from here.
There are a couple steep loose scree sections. The second of which is very yellow. Reminding me of the summit approach on Cirque Peak in Alberta.
Up on the class 3 scramble, a flock of sheep make their presence known in the valley to the left. I pause to put my helmet on and listen to their symphony.
Colorado has sheep flocks?!
The class 3 gets more and more fun, requiring the use of our hands.
I send Michael ahead of me since he forgot his helmet.
This part of the climb gets real spicy and I love every minute of it! This just may be my favorite 14er yet! For sure top three.
I love the exposure. Michael, on the other hand, is not a fan.
Can you tell he's nervous?
We summit at 10:45 am! The skies are pretty clear today and we can see all the neighboring peaks.
Matterhorn & Uncompahgre Peak
The descent is pretty slow moving down the class 3 section. We face into the mountain at the tricky parts and slowly work our way down. At noon, we’re back to the first notch.
Once we’re down the class 3, our pace picks up. The views continue to be fantastic! Different perspectives than on the way up.
We cruise through the Lord of the Rings territory. No Orc spotted.
The trail turns smooth and it’s full steam ahead (minus my obsessive picture stops).
We slow our pace when we reach the trees and enjoy the river views. I’m still obsessed with the color of this water. It’s so unique. Many pictures where taken.
I whip out my persuasion methods and convince Michael to stop so I can put my feet in the river. He begrudgingly joins me but confesses it was worth it. My feet feel fantastic after. Getting out of the water there’s a yellow residue on our skin. Once dry, it brushes right off. Any idea what it might be?
At 2:20 pm we’re back at the 4WD trailhead. We reach the car at 2:45 pm. Maneuvering down this road I’m more surprised we made it up in a Honda Civic. There are some gnarly spots!
- Trailhead: Matterhorn Creek (below the 2WD trailhead)
- Car driven: Honda Civic
- Day of the week hiked: Thursday
- Trailhead arrival time: 6:30 am
- Parking: Plenty of room at 4WD, some room at 2WD, lots of room lower.
- Restroom at the trailhead? No, but there’s one along Henson Creek Road on your way to the trailhead.
- Crowd count: ~10
Trekking poles recommended? No, you’ll need your hands a lot for the class 3.
Shoe verdict: Hiking boots!
After the hike, we stop in Lake City and grab lunch at Packer Saloon. They have a spacious outdoor area. I order the Colorado Burger with guacamole on a bed of lettuce since they do not have GF buns. It starts to pour while we wait for our food which is great because Colorado needs it to put out those fires!
Curious to see what other adventures I’m getting into during my 5 weeks living in Montrose, CO? Check it out here!