4,000 meters is an unrecognized altitude threshold within the United States. However, it is as well known where the metric system is used, as 14,000 feet is known in the US. This page is dedicated to climbing those peaks in Colorado that rise above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fletcher Mountain - Better Because it's Concentrated

As Summer drew to a close good weather continued to hang around the region. I began thinking of another hike. Something logistically easy, hiking easy, and fun. Something to close this season out on a positive note. It was not going to be a 14er as I have nothing left to climb close by. So I began to have a look at near by 13ers. Something in Summit County perhaps. And there are plenty of 13ers. One must remember that while there are 54 "official" 14ers in Colorado, there are nearly seven hundred 13ers. That's quite a bit to choose from.

I started talking to fellow Platinum Team member Don Lochner to see what we could settle on both peak wise and schedule wise. As it turns out we were both available on Friday, October 3. After going over some 13er guide books and looking on Breckenridgeclimbing.com (thank you Bill Middlebrook) we settled on Fletcher Mountain.

Fletcher Mountain at 13,951 feet, is located immediately to the West North West of the 14er Quandary Peak and shares the Monte Cristo trail head at the Blue Lakes Spill Way. The dirt road to the spill way is in pretty good shape with just a few short rough spots. Any high-clearance vehicle would make this drive and probably most non-low rider cars.

Don obliged to drive to try out his new tires replaced after having the flat earlier in the season after we all climbed Wetterhorn. We started a bit later than normal as the weather looked decent.

So, at 7:15 we started out from the spillway and were immediately greeted by spectacular scenery, which would continue to be a theme for this hike.

Upper Blue Lake in Fall Color

We skirted around Upper Blue Lake looking for the trail junction where the hike turns North West up into the first basin. We did find the trail...but we didn't know it. We found the junction marked with cairns where it turned sharply North. We followed this trail for a few hundred yards steeply up hill. After a while Don and I stopped to take stock. We thought, wrongly, that this must be the trail for the steep ascent up Quandary's Southern face. If we had continued just a bit further we would have seen that this was indeed the correct trail. But we did not.

We headed back down to the lake and blazed our own trail over busted up rocks and boulders eventually catching the actual trail a few hundred feet up. The difference between the correct trail and the trail we blazed can be seen below on the mapped GPS route. We did take the actual trail back down on our descent.

After capturing the correct trail we cruised pretty fast over relatively level ground in the first basin. We made our way to the back of the lower basin along beautiful alpine tarns and willow where we got our first look at Fletcher's summit and the headwall we needed to negotiate to get there.

The Headwall at the back of the Lower Basin. Fletcher Mt. is in the distance barely visible

This is where the hike got "concentrated." It is only about 2 miles from trail head to summit. But there is a lot packed into those 2 miles. Climbing up from the lower basin to the upper basin involves nothing specifically technical. However, it is required that one climbs about 900 vertical feet up pretty rough, rocky, and steep terrain and requires one to take their time and do careful route finding and careful foot placement. There are only faint trail segments in this portion of the hike. There are cairns to mark the trail but you must keep an observant eye out to spot them.

The first part of this ascent involves climbing up and out of the alpine tundra of the lower basin and on to the more rocky upper portion. We chose to simply move up the rocky slope staying to the left of a snow field. We could have traversed right up the snow but this early in the day it was still quite solid. We did not have ice axes and the run out, if we were to slip, ended up in a field of talus.

The Lower Portion of the Basin-to-Basin Climb

We exited near the center at the top of the slope pictured above, which led us out and into the upper basin.

When just looking at the basin-to-basin climb, the trail actually travels through what looks like a rather improbable route. It looks as though there are easier routes, but if you follow the cairns you will be treated to a rather pleasant, scenic, and efficient hike up very rocky and steep slopes.

At the top of the slope you will be greeted with a vast high altitude terrace from which Fletcher Mountain rises. This basin sits at about 13,300 feet and allows a brief respite of relatively level hiking before the last 650 feet of steep, and yes, rocky climbing to the summit.

Don does some Eating and Pack Adjustments Before the Final Summit Push

Again, on this last push there were some cairns, faint trail segments, and even one crescent shaped rock shelter to guide you. But this portion of the hike is mostly easy route finding through rocks and boulders to the summit. Don pushed on ahead as I lallygagged behind taking pictures and breathing.

The Last Few Feet to the Summit

From the summit we were treated to spectacular scenery of surrounding 14ers, 13ers, and just generally magnificent stuff to look at. Fletcher is a great mountain and at 13,951 feet it is just 49 feet short of a 14er.

Drift Peak South West of Fletcher

Pacific, Atlantic, and Crystal Peaks with Grays and Torreys in the far Distance

Don Takes in the Scenery with Quandary Peak Looming in the Distance

We stayed on the summit for about 45 minutes and signed in at the register. The weather was still good but the clouds were building and we could see snow falling from some of the larger cumulus cells. So we took our summit shot and packed up to head on down.

Don and Me on Fletcher's Summit at 13,951 Feet

We headed on down into the upper basin where we ran into the only other hiker we saw that day. We talked to him for a while until the snow, graupel actually (snow pellets), started to fly. It continued to snow, at some times quite heavy, for most of our descent. There was one short period where the sun came out but it was soon replaced again by heavy clouds and snow pellets. The temp was comfortable so the hike back down was fine although the rocks, particularity in the basin-to-basin down climb, had become quite wet which added a distinct risk of slipping.

A Tarn in the now Quite Damp Upper Basin

A Great Trail through the Lower Basin

Don and I finally arrived back at his truck around 2ish. It was a great day. Fantastic scenery, challenge, and a great summit. There is a lot packed in to this relatively short hike. Its better because it is concentrated.

GPS Track for Fletcher Mt. Red is Ascent Route. Blue is Descent Route

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mount Columbia South East Ridge - Finale

I am amazed how much the mountains can still surprise me. This was my 34th new Colorado 14er and I was still not quite prepared for what this route offered.

Mount Columbia via the South East Ridge is a scenic and unique hike. It is also a long, long slog from 9,400 feet to the summit at 14,073 feet. On paper it looked as though it should take us about five hours from trailhead to the top. In fact, it took us seven hours to the summit in what seemed like a never ending ridge-rollercoaster trek up and down a long steep and curving shoulder of this great mountain. There was nothing particularly technical about the climb but it did require concentration and perseverance.

Add to this another fours hours down via the “standard” route directly down into Cottonwood Creek. This descent route, we theorized correctly, would be a faster and easier route than our ascent. All in all this was nearly thirteen miles of tough, long, and mentally challenging hiking. It took us about 11 hour total time.

All this is true. But Mt. Columbia also delivers some amazing and unique terrain with areas of open woods, unusual and surreal forests stands of dead pines, and rugged expansive views of the surrounding great peaks.

On Friday, Sept 12 the team headed out of Denver towards Buena Vista where we stopped for Dinner at Jan’s at the behest of a service station worker. We had stopped to ask him where we could get some good Italian food. He said Jan’s right across the street. So that’s where we went…Jan’s.

The place was nice enough. Although at 4:30 it seemed more tuned to the geriatric crowd and other persons who may typically make it an early evening. We sat down and had a look at the menu. There was not one single Italian meal listed. Nothing. Not even close. We stayed and actually did have a decent meal consisting of typical continental American fare including roast turkey and dressing, burgers, chicken fingers, and the like.

We were then off to find a camp site near the trailhead. And that is exactly what we found. For the South East Ridge approach to Mt. Columbia one drives to precisely where the CO Trail crosses CO Route 365. There is a large camping area right at the trailhead that is flat and quite nice excepting a preponderance of various wild animal pooh. This pooh was however easily avoided and we set up camp.

We completed the normal camp chores and turned in around 9ish. The next morning we woke up a bit late; around 5:25. By 6:30 we were off and climbing the Colorado Trail to where it forks off to the Columbia Route with me in the lead. Unfortunately I missed the unmarked fork but realized it relatively quickly. From here we just charged up a hill directly to the approximate location of the Columbia Trail at the ridge top. This part of the trail was a well-wooded ridge hike to tree line, where the hike started to get more interesting. Up till now we had hiked through pine forest occasionally scrambling over a rocky out crop. At tree line the scenery opened up into a very unique and very surreal landscape of dead standing pines.

A Surreal Landscape of Dead Pines

Looking back Down the Ridge Towards Buena Vista

From here the team began grinding its way out of 12,000 feet and into the teens. We skirted to the left (South) of the ridge following faint trail segments. Eventually we made our way up to our first 13er; Point 13,298.

The Team Climbs to the Top of the Ridge with Point 13,298 in the Background

The Team Summits Point 13,298

At the top of Point 13,298 we got our first look at Columbia. Prior to getting to this point we had assumed, wrongly, that the actual summit lay close behind Point 13,298 and that after attaining this “crux” we would have a short jaunt over an easy ridge to Columbia’s fine summit. Unfortunately this was not the case. In fact, it was not nearly the case. We were still miles away. This is the view that greeted us on top of Point 13,298.

The First Look at Mt. Columbia and its Long SE Ridge

Mt. Columbia is the high point way way on over to the right in this image. We still had to follow nearly two miles of arcing up and down ridgeline at altitude before we could stand on the summit. It was already about 11 AM. Usually our team is leaving a summit at 11AM. But this day, we still had two hours of hiking/climbing to go. But as can be seen above, the weather was Blue Bird so off we went.

Up and down, up and down we hiked as we tried to pick the best line along the ridge. There were some faint trail segments here and there but they were rather faint until we intercepted the standard route as it joined up on the ridge. Below you can see that this hike is a roller-coaster ridge with many ups and downs.

Traversing the Final Miles of the Ridge with Mt. Columbia far Right

Snow had fallen the previous day as a cold front came through. Mostly the snow was just a few inches deep but there was one point I post-holed to my knees in an area where it had drifted below the ridge top. The snow was not really a factor in this climb.

At about a half mile from the summit we intercepted the standard route trail and began to see other human life. People here and there. Coming and going, to and from the summit. We had not seen a single person up until this time. We now had a more definite trail to follow, which we did through rock and snow.

After climbing over the last prominence we were within a relatively short stretch to the summit consisting of a rather pleasant level area of high-alpine tundra.

The Relatively Level Tundra Leading to the Short Final Summit Push

We crossed the tundra and were greeted with an array of chaotically placed boulders that required some easy scrambling. It was at this point that I heard what I thought was a distant rumble of thunder. Whenever one hears thunder at this altitude it can be a rather scary affair to say the least. In fact it can cause nearly instant incontinence. Fortunately, this day, it did not do that and the sound was not thunder. It was merely another hiker who had sidled up behind me and dislodged a rock, which only sounded like thunder. On I climbed.

The picture below shows to smallish points. One climbs up between these points and then has a short upward hike to the final, and surprisingly small, summit.

Two Small Points Hiding Columbia's Summit

We were all on the summit by around 1PM. It took seven hours of dedicated and sometimes frustrating climbing to get us from trail head at 9,400 feet to summit at 14,073 feet. The weather was still great. We still had blue skies with just a few non-threatening fair-weather cumulus clouds. The temp was probably in the mid 40s. It did get rather cold on the summit when clouds finally blocked the sun and we decided to make the long trip back. We knew we still had a very long hike ahead particular, and wisely, as we had decided to return via the standard route.

I had brought my tripod as I typically do but was helped out by a fellow summiteer to take the team summit shot. We all posed with Mt. Harvard in the background far right.

The Summit Shot

The team split up at this point as Mike and Erin pulled out ahead on the return followed by Sara, and finally Don and me.

Let me say this now. After down hiking the standard route I have no idea what insane person or group thought it was a good idea to put this route in were it is located. It appears that this trail may have been recently constructed, or formalized, by the CFI as I saw several trail “whiskers” and other evidence of recent trail building.

To call this portion of the hike a trail is somewhat misleading. After analyzing data from my GPS and National Geographic Topo! I determined that on the steepest portion of this trail section one must negotiate themselves from 13,550 feet down to 11,600 feet in the length of about ¾ of a mile. This measured out to be a 50% grade, or a 45 degree slope that drops the unfortunate hiker nearly 2,000 feet in less than a mile! There is another geographic term for this sort of “slope.” Its called a cliff. Below is a look down this section.

The Incredibly Steep Descent into Cottonwood Creek

The picture pretty much tells the story. There are no switch backs to speak of. The path pretty much bores down the slop with little relief and a uninspired meander here and there. On the plus side you dump altitude rather quickly. Looking back up the trail I thought who the hell would climb UP this thing. I mean really. I have climbed many many Colorado peaks but I have never seen anything quite like this. This trail segment presents the hiker with 2,000 nearly vertical feet from Cottonwood Creek to Columbia’s ridge. As unpleasant as it was to descend, it would be positively miserable to climb.

Don and I stopped a few times on this slope as the light snow that had fallen and the lighting made for some amazing views of Columbia’s neighbors, Mt. Harvard and Bear Lake.

A View of Mt. Harvard (far right) and Bear lake (center)

We continued to take in the views as we rapidly descended the slope down into Cottonwood Creek. On this return hike we covered about six miles in four hours and finally arrived back at camp around 5:30.

This was a miserable and rewarding hike. It was tough mentally and physically but did present the hiker with incredible views, challenge, and uniqueness. Just make sure you have a long day to do this route with cooperative weather. I would not want to repeat this hike but I do have satisfaction that I have completed it.

GPS Track for Mt. Columbia, Saturday, Sept. 13.

Red is Ascent Route, Blue is Descent Route

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Square Top Mountain - Better than Bierstadt

I have climbed Mt. Bierstadt many times. It is a favorite of mine and the Platinum Team's for early season training due to its relative ease of climb and close proximity to Denver. For more than a couple of years however I have looked across Guanella Pass towards Square Top Mt. and wanted to see what that peak held. The past couple of seasons the Platinum Team has put this 13er on the list of peaks "to do" (and by "do" I mean climb) when we were not otherwise engaged with climbing 14ers.

Also, as a fluke of how my company computes leave, I found that I had to burn about 40 hours of flex-time before the end of Sept. So, I thought I would take every Friday off in Sept. I knew that Mike, as a lifer at his company also was taking many Fridays off this summer as well. So literally, at the last minute, Mike and I were able to put a climb together for Sept. 5th. Don was out of town and Erin will not be able to take another vacation day until she is 80.

Mike and I both arrived at the west side parking area on Guanella Pass around 6:45am. There was not a single car in the west lot. There were about 8 cars in the East lot presumably to climb Bierstadt. We both geared up and set out.

We were planning to climb Square Top via its Eastern ridge. There is an excellent trail from where it begins, as it were, from behind the out-house. We trundled along the trail and down a bit until we began to parallel the ridge. There is a trail junction that cuts off towards the North to gain the ridge. However it is now marked "Trail Closed." Wanting to climb via this route, and not wanting to cause undo damage we followed a faint trail North up towards the ridge. The trail rapidly petered out and we separated a bit and made our way along the hillside. I had plotted the route in my GPS from a Summitpost route description, so we generally followed these way points up the steep hillside towards the ridge top.

We could clearly see a gully along our route and consulting the map it appeared that we would need to climb the gully by its left shoulder. The gully is quite a bit larger than it appears in the image below.

The gully as it appears from below on the hillside. The best way up is to ascend via the gully's left shoulder.

Mike and I made our way up this shoulder with no problems. We topped out and got our first view of the summit of Square Top in some interesting terrain at the top of the gully.

Square Top Peaks up in the Distance from the Top of the Gully

The terrain was very interesting along this entire hike. The gully consisted of fractured volcanic and columnar rock. There was a lot of white milky quartz mixed in with black fined grained rock as well.

Mike and I made our way arcing upwards steadily along the ridge towards a prominent saddle just before the going gets real steep. The wind began to pick up as we made the ridge top and meandered our way around a few high points. I am guessing the wind was blowing from around 15 to 25 MPH from a generally Northerly direction. Therefore, the right side of our faces were getting blasted. But the skies were very clear. Not at all what was forecast.

Mike and I made our way along a prominent high point and gauged our elevation in order to catch the saddle without having to gain or loose altitude.

We Stopped to take a Picture in the Great Morning Light with Square Top now Prominent in our View

We caught the saddle and began the steep climb up toward the summit. While steep, there is nothing particularly difficult about this part of the climb. The trail is all solid rocky tundra and rock out crops. There is nothing greater than perhaps a Class 2+ in some of the steeper rocky portions.

Mike and I zig-zagged our way up the slope stopping now and then so I could breath and to fine tune our route. The "crux" of the route came near the top of the ridge and consisted of a large rounded rock outcrop. We pondered as to whether we should skirt the outcrop but in the end we took a rather obvious line directly up its center.

The Author makes his way up the Crux of the Ridge Route (photo: Mike O'Hearn)

At the Top of the Outcrop I Turned and Grabbed this Image of Mike Climbing Up with the Remaining Ridge Stretching Beyond

A short time later Mike and I stood upon the ridge top with about one half mile of nearly level walking to the actual summit of Square Top. This was a really cool walk. Not particularly hard, but it was cold and windy. The interesting geology and the great views really made this part of the hike fantastic.

The Pleasant Route along the Ridge Top to Square Top's Summit

Mike and I arrived at Square Top's summit around 9:45. About 2:45 minutes after we had departed the trail head. We took in the views for a short time then retreated below the summit to get out of the wind and have some food. After eating and resting a bit we walked back to the summit for pictures. I brought my tripod for a summit shot but it was so windy I worried that my camera would be blown over so we just took pictures of each other at the summit as our fingers grew colder and more numb.

The Author at the Summit (Grays and Torrey's in the background)

Mike at the Summit

A Broad View of the Surrounding Mountains with Grays and Torreys in the Center

We made our way down from the top to take the more gentle Southeastern route back to the trail head. We carved a gentle descent along Square Top's Southeastern face. We descended rapidly but we could not find any hint of a trail. It turns out that there must have been some relatively recent trail realignment. We made our way down some steep slopes towards Square Top lakes. We could see the road that makes its way from the trail head to the lakes and we knew the hiking trail broke from this road and made its way up the Southeastern face to the summit.

We finally found the "new' trail near the where it breaks from the road close to the lakes. It appears to have been realigned to offer a much more gentle ascent of the mountain. The new trail now cuts further South in order to gain Square Top's Southern shoulder.

Mike and I were back at the cars around noon. We drove down into completely obscured skies into Idaho Springs for our traditional lunch at Tommy Knockers.

This was a really great climb. Easy logistics, very scenic and we did not see one other person during the entire hike. We had the summit to ourselves. The hike is in many ways better than Bierstadt. The terrain and geology are fascinating. The views incredible. And the route interesting. Next time I do this hike I will take the new route in order to avoid the closed portion and to simply tool along a more gentle ascent of this great peak.

A Tarn near the Trail Head with Bierstadt and the Saw Tooth in the Distance

GPS Track of the route up and return to Guanella pass appears below.

Next up...Columbia Peak via the East Ridge.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wetterhorn Peak - Peak Perfection in the San Juans

It really does not get any better than Wetterhorn Peak on a blue bird day. And that's just what the team had on Friday, Aug 22 (also my son Hank's birthday). Wetterhorn Peak (Wetter meaning weather, in some European language, and Horn meaning...well...horn) is known to attract some nasty weather. And given the technical challenge of the last several hundred feet to the summit, I would NOT want to be caught anywhere near this thing in bad weather. But we had no worries on Friday. The weather was perfect. No clouds. Slight breeze, and skies so blue it was amazing.

We left on Thursday afternoon and had dinner at NY Pizza in Gunnison. This trip consisted of the core Platinum Team; Erin, Don, Mike, and Ben. We were all VERY pumped for this trip as we planned to do both Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre Peaks on Friday and Saturday respectively. More on how that worked out later.

Don was driving his GMC Professional Grade Sierra extended cab pickup. We took the truck up the 4X4 Matterhorn Creek road all the way to the trail head. The road was pretty rough but the GMC did fine. At least on the way up. Thankfully there were two small camping areas near the trail head as we had not really seen a plethora of sites anywhere else. We set up our camp at about 7pm. Started a fire and began to get our gear organized and then hit the sleeping bags by about 9pm.

We woke up the next morning, choked down some food and caffeine, finalized our gear and set out at just a hair past 6am. The scenery on the trail was spectacular as we caught some late alpine glow as we neared tree line.

Alpine Glow in the San Juans

We continued to cruise up through the Matterhorn Creek basin enjoying the views and even spotting a huge heard of perhaps 50 or 60 elk on a ridge at about 12,000+ feet.

As we wound our way around the basin we got our first good look at Wetterhorn Peak as the sun made its way higher into the deep blue sky.

Wetterhorn Becomes Visible Above the Grassy Basin

The trail goes through some interesting terrain that consists of the typical alpine tundra, then traverses kind of a cool grassy boulder field and then turns up towards the final ridge towards the summit.

The Steep Ridge Leading to the Summit

You catch the ridge at about 13,100 feet and are then faced with a steep trudge up some very yellow and somewhat loose terrain with the imposing face of Wetterhorn towering above. At this point you begin thinking about the 600 feet or so of technical class 3 climbing needed to reach the summit.

Trudging up the Steep Yellow Terrain with Wetterhorn's Summit in the Background and "The Prow" Clearly Visible

At the ridge we stopped for some refueling and a quick rest and to take in the incredible and vast views that we were treated to upon gaining the ridge. I snapped a picture of the group before we started towards the summit.

The Team (minus me) With some Incredible Views in the Background Including Sneffels Peak

Soon after this shot we entered the technical portion of the climb. We cached our trekking poles and began the job of scouting the best route through the rocks and searching for cairns.

We Met two Guys (visible lower left) Who Helped us a bit with Route Finding as we Entered the Technical Portion of the Climb.

The trail was fairly obvious with a sharp eye but does differ somewhat from what is described on 14ers.com. This is not to disparage 14ers.com. I, and most other climbers, consider this web site The Gold Standard for climbing beta. But it appears that the trail has been recently rerouted a bit from what is described by 14ers.com. It no longer works its way up to the east side of the Prow. You still go through the rib as described but do not go all the way to the Prow (although you can) but rather head directly up (North) following well placed cairns. This routes is more technical but you avoid some really nasty loose scree adjacent to the Prow. At the top of the new portion you pop out into the open area described in the 14ers.com route description. I found this part of the hike the most challenging.

A Shot of the "new" Trail Section. Two Folks Can Be Seen Climbing Center Right in the Frame

After negotiating our way to the open area at about 13,900 feet we prepared for the final pitch to the summit. We pushed our way up and through the last notch to the bottom of the final pitch.

Mike Stands Relaxing in the Final Notch with his Daughter Erin Below

We climbed up through this notch where you then quickly traverse to the bottom of the final pitch on a huge stable slab. The final pitch consists of a very steep class 3 climb directly to the summit. Its basically a solid rock "stairway" that is easily negotiated. However, if you make a mistake you will be treated to a long and unpleasant fall, at the bottom of which you will most likely be deceased. Even with a helmet.

An Incredible View Through the Final Notch

The Final Pitch to the Summit. Very Solid Rock but Steep. Erin Stands to the Left Side of the Pitch.

Don (lower figure) and Erin (upper figure) Negotiate the Final Pitch. I did this Pitch with my Nikon D300 on a Strap Around my Neck! (by "did", I mean climbed)

A Look Down the Final Pitch as Three other Climbers Make Their Way Back Down.

At about 10:30ish we were all on the summit and enjoying a perfect day. Peak Perfection. You don't often get such perfect weather in Colorado. But it is welcome when you do. We posed for our summit photo, refueled again, and took in the views.

The Platinum Team on Top of Wetterhorn Peak

There were a few friendly folks on the summit and we spent a lot of time taking pictures, talking, and identifying surrounding peaks. At the summit (yes I said the summit) there was a very friendly marmot. I have seen many marmots in my time but never one on the summit of a 14,000+ foot mountain peak. Not only did it appear he lived there but this was one friendly marmot. He definitely knew how to work the crowd.

The Marmot moves in Towards Erin for His Close up

After about an hour we began to make our way home by down climbing the long technical portion just below the summit. This was not that bad. Mike and Erin went ahead of Don and me as I helped Don make his way down. Don is uneasy with heights and just wanted some assistance with the down climb.

We both made it down with no problems. We ended up heading down the route described in 14ers.com that takes you along the Prow. I would not recommend this. While the old route does save you from traversing some steep and exposed class three on the "new" section, it treats you to some very loose, steep, and nasty sections. I imagine that is why the the trail was swung around. You can't help but to cause some significant erosion and send some rocks a-flyin' by climbing down this section.

We had to wait several minutes as some climbers below us made their way up. We didn't want to send a shower of debris down on them.

The rest of the climb was uneventful and we ended up back in camp around 2ish. We relaxed a bit then packed everything away and headed off towards Uncompahgre's trail head. Unfortunately, on the way down the 4X4 road, we ripped a HUGE (about three inches wide) hole in Don's right rear tire. The tire nearly came off the rim and the rim ended up slightly damaged. We put the spare on and decided that, now that we had used our only spare, it would not be prudent to do any more four wheeling when we still had a 300 mile journey just to get home. So we regrettably headed back to the Denver area. We plan on bringing Don's lifted jeep back in the future and perhaps doing an Uncompahgre and Handies two day combo.

In hindsight we all agreed that this was definitely in the top three peaks we have climbed. The challenge, scenery, company, and the joy of the San Juans combined to make this a very special trip.

GPS track of the Wetterhorn Climb.