Frank Konsella, Scott Yost
Route Description: We were only able to get about a half mile up the Nellie Creek Jeep Road. We began there, followed the trail up the south ridge. Skied our ascent route.
Data: Began from car at 8:30 am. Car was parked around 9,400 ft. on the Nellie Creek Rd. Arrived at actual TH (11,390) at 11 am. Followed the valley to the south ridge and ascended that route. Reached summit at 2:45 pm (14,309), began skiing down around 3:15 pm, skiing our ascent route. We skied past the trailhead and for a long time on the road. Sections of the road required taking our skis off. But we only put them on our pack for the last mile. Reached car around 6 pm. Total vert: 4,900 ft. Total vert skied: over 3,000 ft. very possible it was close to 4000 ft. 3000 ft was done pretty reliably.
Relevant Links: TGR Trip Report
Uncompahgre is one of the most prominent peaks in the San Juans. Being the tallest peak in the San Juans, it stands out boldly from the rest and can be viewed from miles and miles away. The first surveyors to visit the peak found that Grizzly Bears frequented the peak often. The peak itself is named after the nearby river named Uncompahgre, which is a Ute word meaning hot water spring.
Having suffered a week of terrible sickness, I admit I wasn not totally in the mood to hit a fourteener. I was on my way to kicking the icky stuff away, but definitely was not anywhere near 100%. Unfortunately, this week is the week for the March storms. A window was opening on Monday, and we had to take it. So, we did.
Initially, we had hoped that we could take a sled through the road closure gates on Hensen Road to reach the Matterhorn TH. This would make for an easy 14er climb and descent. Just what we needed after a week of being sick. But we got there and found out that the gate was closed, and there was no snow to be seen anywhere near either side of the gate. The next plan was to drive as far as we could up Nellie Creek Rd to access that trailhead. We made it about half a mile up the road before a snow bank stopped us. Had we been able to get through this snow bank, we could have made it at least another mile up dry road. Instead, we parked the car and began our ascent at 9,400 ft instead of the 11,000+ feet we were initially hoping for.
Frank hiking on the road
The road was dry for about another half of a mile, and then slowly began to have intermittent snow. The snow had frozen well the night before so we were able to walk over the snow easily. At the fork in the road (2 miles from the beginning of the Nellie Creek Rd) there was enough snow to warrant putting on our skins.
Sign showing the entrance of the summer trailhead. Why Wilderness allows grazing of farm animals but no mountain biking will always puzzle me.
It is amazing how things always seem better once you get a view of the mountain you’re about to climb
Scott skinning with Uncompahgre in the background.
We approached Uncompahgre from the east, and then ascended the south ridge. We used skins most of the way except for a short rocky bit. Scott hiking with Wetterhorn (another 14er) in the background.
Nearing the ridge
At the summit I found Frank leaning over the edge of the thousand-foot cliff.
Why? He wanted to take pictures. Here are a couple from that.
Looking down the cliff.
And across the cliff.
The summit was beautiful! It was barely windy and we were hanging out quite comfortably in long-sleeve shirts! And, of course, being on top of a 14er you get some of the best views imaginable. The San Juans are some of the most amazing mountains in Colorado. :D
Looking toward Sunshine and Redcloud
Of course you have to take a summit shot!
Frank ready to ski
Skiing through the rock field off the summit.
It got even more rocky along the way.
Then it opened up into wonderful snow! A note about the snowpack- we were initially concerned about wet slides and our timing (due to the change of plans we were later than we wanted to be) because most of the approach was east-facing. However, we found the snowpack to be very stable. Despite blazing heat, we saw no hints of wet slide activity, not even snow balls rolling off of east aspects, or any other aspect for that matter. The day or two before it had snowed a couple of inches, leaving a nice layer of heavy cream on top of solid snow.
Scott tearing it up.
Scott blazing through the gully with Uncompahgre behind him.
On the hike down the road back to the car, it was impossible not to notice this beautiful mountain, beckoning with wonderful lines!
Another beautiful day, another great fourteener. We finished off the day with dinner in Lake City, where they evidently close the restaurants at 7 pm this time of year, so plan on eating dinner early!!! :)
Photos contributed by Frank Konsella.