Wetterhorn Peak
Colorado 14ers
14,015 feet, 4329 meter
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July 2008 was time for our San Juan climbs. Along with my 14er partners, Robert and Patrick and Jonathan we had climbed Uncompahgre the day before and today it was Wetterhorn. We camped at the Wetterhorn trailhead the night before. The road was incredibly rough and demanded a 4 wheel drive vehicle. In summary, this was the best of my five climbs that weekend including Redcloud, Sunshine and Handies Peaks and Uncompahgre.

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We left our camp at the Wetterhorn trailhead (11,400') about 5:00 Sunday morning. The night before it had rained and hailed quite a bit but the trial was dry this early morning. With headlamps guiding us we made swift time up the forested ravine but somehow missed the cutoff to the trial that would take us directly to the high basin walls. Instead we ended up in the Wetterhorn basin. This cost us 2 hours to get back on track. By then it was mid morning and the day was going strong.

The trail now was obvious as we kicked ourselves for such a rookie mistake. After all we had almost 100 14er climbs between the three of us. But thanks to Patrick's GPS and topo map we had recovered.

Once again I was blown away by the absolute beauty of the San Juan area. The valleys were filled with green grass and colorful wildflowers. Wetterhorn was visible the majority of the time above treeline. It was incredibly impressive jutting into the blue sky against the green grass. The trail soon came into a labyrinth of large rocks winding around the boulders. It was kind of a strange site in the middle of a grassy field. The trail switched back around a endangered species area for butterflies just like on Uncompahgre.

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Just below the saddle leading to the ridge, Patrick left to join up with Jonathan back at camp. Our 'wanderings' had cost too much time for him be alone back at camp - a good decision by the dad. Robert and I made our way up the snow covered hill to the saddle and on to the base of the rocky mountain top. The route was not obvious but another climber had given us some pointers as well our research prior to the climb we felt comfortable. We met up with another couple of climbers with two dogs. One of them decided the exposure was too much for her (and the dogs) so she was going to wait for her friend, Leza. She joined Robert and I as we header higher.

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The route soon became serious as it wandered in and out of rocky ledges, gulleys and chimneys. This was fun! We went around the back (west) of the ridge and crossed over to the front of the prominent Prow seen from afar. The route required some large moves and all fours but was relatively straight forward and well marked with solid carins. At this point it was just Leza and I just below the summit and we found the small notch to cross over and onto a sloping smooth slab of about 20 feet. Once down the slab we followed the rocky gully about 100' to the small summit. Once again the views were incredible but the feeling of satisfaction for a challenging climb was even greater.

I found Wetterhorn to be a great climb. It had just about everything but was not so difficult that anyone with some good experience can make it. The rock climbing does have some moderate exposure but with careful choice of handholds the danger is minimal. A nice way to top off my weekend in the San Juan!!



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