Peak(s):  Wetterhorn Peak  -  14,021 feet
Matterhorn Pk  -  13,590 feet
PT 13,206  -  13,206 feet
Date Posted:  08/14/2014
Modified:  08/15/2014
Date Climbed:   08/09/2014
Author:  goingup
Additional Members:   ColbyG101, SenadR
 Wetterhorn Basin. Threat Level: Wildflower   


I went on a week long mountain-hobo rompineer through the San Juans and Sangres so this will suffice as
Part One.

Estimated Total:
25 miles
10,000 ele gain
32 hours

With a loose plan I tore down 285 in the red speed machine on a Thursday afternoon. It was no coincidence I was headed toward Wetterhorn Basin. One year ago while thumbing through Roach's book this alternate route caught my eye and has haunted me since. I was not in a peak bagging mind set. I was in a, "I want to marinate in a beautiful natural place and if I get some summits, great" kind of mind set. I also wanted to see if I could spend the night alone in the middle of no where. Being afraid of the dark I knew this would be a real challenge. I wish I was kidding.

I had two looks on the way to Gunnison:

I'm not behind an RV going 25 miles below the speed limit!

I'm behind an RV going 25 miles below the speed limit.

Part of the allure of mountain climbing (for me at least) is intimately getting to know Colorado. By traveling to far away lands I accidentally stumble upon places like the gorgeous Curecanti National Recreational Area (in between Gunnison and Montrose) where I totally geeked out on how beautiful water is.


After wasting an appropriate amount of time splashing about I made the left hand turn on to Cimarron Rd. (858) and began the 27.8 mile dirt road drive toward the West Cimarron trailhead. The drive alone is SO beautiful, I knew I was in for something special.




It is a good dirt road, easy to navigate, and obvious where 2WD low clearance vehicles should hault.

Idiot Proof.

I crawled in my trunk around 10 p.m. with wild dreams of a 7 a.m. start time.

My alarm went off for a solid two hours on Friday before I even considered tackling morning chores. By the time I strapped the 51.6 pound pack (I did not really learn a lesson in Chicago Basin) to my back it was close to 9 a.m. Go me! I said goodbye to Lola and started up the 4WD road. Soon enough there was a silly creek crossing that took my feeble mind fifteen minutes to figure out. It was 1.8 miles from my car to the actual West Cimarron TH and the start of the West Fork trail. Who loves extra mileage? This girl I signed in and started the trek up and over West Fork Pass.


I found the trail difficult to follow through the trees because of gnarly washouts. There were cairns but they blended in with endless rock.



For once in my life I am at a loss for words. Simply put, this is the most beautiful place I have ever been.


There were bones EVERYWHERE



Getting up and over West Fork pass was grueling. There is one very unpleasant steep loose dirt section to gain a head wall. It was here I fell backwards landing on the giant pack and like a turtle flipped over on its shell, I sat there flailing about. I was mad for like half a second before I started cracking up. How ridiculous I must have looked I took my turtle break down to rest and cloud watch.

Turtle Power.

There is a "trail" in that.

I was ecstatic to crest the 12,500 foot pass, I was even more ecstatic when I descended and rounded a corner to see this would be my home for the next 24+ hours.




And this is how I felt about it...


The flower population devoured the trail and I relied on sticks and cairns to direct me through Wetterhorn Basin. I was on the hunt for a good camp spot and found one near the first creek crossing at a low point of 11,720 feet. To my absolute delight I had the entire basin to myself.


Home base

A million dollar view. The best things in life are free (ish)

From car to camp was 6.5 miles with 2,200 feet of gain.

After tent set up and food consumption I decided I would lazily laze my way up something. I shot towards the southwest slopes of PT 13,206 with the intent of running the ridge out to PT 13,377. Gaining 13,206 was steep wildflowered grass. When I arrived at a false summit the intensity that is Wetterhorn peak and its surrounding ridge lines became apparent. The traverse over to 13,377 appeared to be a little bit more fun than I was looking for but the views of Wetterhorn's north face captivated every sense, my arm hairs stood on end.

The side of Wetterhorn no one ever sees. Who wants to traverse that ridge?

I signed the summit register (a paper towel with a small pencil inside a miniature plastic container) underneath the only other name, Ryan Marsters (monster5). I was truly inspired by the views.



From 13,206 I decided to push northwest to the happening summit of 13,092. The descent of 13,206 was a steep loose (but short) gully.

From left to right, the sad looking hump is 13,092, Coxcomb, Redcliff

I was not feeling especially ambitious but from the summit of 13,092 I thought I would attempt to penetrate Redcliff.


Heisenhorn, Uncompahgre, PT 13,206, Wetterhorn

I dropped down in to the Middle Fork basin on the east side of Coxcomb Peak and started eyeing possible routes up Redcliff. From the east side I saw nothing but a gully full of snow and since I had no snow gear I decided to jump ship and head back to camp. I later came to find out that Redcliff can be easily attained by skirting around Coxcomb, who woulda thunk?

No summit but I got some views, photos, and bonus vert because I had to go up and over Coxcomb pass to get back to the correct basin.





The trail off of Coxcomb pass was overgrown and confusing to follow. It led me off of this and I blindly followed.

Because it led to this...



My afternoon exploration tacked on another 4 miles and 2,100 feet of gain bringing the days total to 10.5 miles and 4,300 feet of gain.

I arrived back at camp around 4:30 p.m. and made dinner. The sun did its thing and set.

Good night Friday.

Coyotes (or so I thought) howled around my tent all night and since I am the size of a baby deer I "slept" with my bear mace in hand. I was becoming a real pro at hitting the snooze button and started my trek over Wetterhorn pass at 6:30 a.m., forty five minutes later than I would have liked. The plan was to meet Senad in the saddle of the standard southeast ridge route in between 7:15 and 7:30. Good thing I am a runner.

The sun touching Coxcomb.

Since I was hauling serious tail I took very few pictures of the route but it is fairly obvious. I headed southeast towards Wetterhorn pass through endless hip deep wildflowers. The trail was impossible to follow, occasionally I would see a stick and realize I was too far left but it did not really matter, the pass was unavoidable. There was the main creek crossing and another headwall to gain. It's a lot of gain in a short amount of mileage.

Taken on the way back after the creek crossing and headwall.

Once atop the 12,860 foot pass there is more descent-ion and more ascent-ion. I was beginning to understand why people do not climb Wetterhorn from its basin, it is A LOT of work. There was large snow patches, large enough that if I slipped while crossing I would go for a ride so I stuck above the Wu-tang symbol and side hilled some steep grass dirt to reach the saddle between the saddle I needed to be in and PT 12,819 (which I later tagged). I was confused for a mili-second but soon realized I had to move steeply northeast to end up in the meeting place Senad and I agreed upon. It was exactly 7:30 when I heard my name through the thin morning air. I looked up and there was Senad, I was SO happy to see another human!

Senad had made two friends, Colby and Brandon and we would end up climbing to the summit with them. The four of us set out to navigate Wetterhorn's solid walls. From here on out if I am in a photo, Senad took it. This route is well documented so my words of wisdom are, have fun, this is a GREAT mountain.

The start

Solid rock towards the Ships Prow

Brandon and Colby with the Ships Prow

Brandon, Colby and Senad

The climb into the eastern most gully.

The slab before the final climb.

The final climb is exposed but really solid and fun.

Small ledge right before final climb. Take eastern most gully to the right.

About to summit.

The summit of Wetterhorn was raging. There was a group of runner girls who I enjoyed talking to, a group of younger men, and the sage of Wetterhorn Peak. He stood on the outskirts and doled out advice like how I was going to die if I took ibuprofen during my runs.

The sage looming in the background.

Territory Run Co. Runners of the wild, another great company. It's called Cottoneering.

BFF's reunited...

A summit headstand.

These views are my favorite from any 14er thus far...

Coxcomb and Redcliff


I thought because of the verticalness of the final pitch to the summit the down climb would be tricky but it was not. I had my heart set on scrambling up the ''Ships Prow." It is accessible via the north side on some exposed class 3.

View from top featuring the slab and the Ships Prow.

Slab Party!

Top of the Ships Prow.

Top of Ships Prow, Wetterhorn summit can be seen in the background.

The day was beautiful so Senad and I decided to go for Matterhorn. We descended Wetterhorn's standard route and used Matterhorn's steep grassy south slopes to ascend. I hear that traverse is loose.

A hung over marmot.

Wetterhorn to Matterhorn traverse.


Once we gained the ridge we turned left or northwest and it became bumpy, from here there is some class three scrambling to reach the summit.

I love the summits of 13ers, not only do they give the most fantastic views of the 14ers but they are generally void of people. This was a fun one.

From the summit Senad pointed down in to Middle Fork Basin where there were a bazillion sheep being herded by dogs. Not coyotes but dogs. I suppose thinking I was going to be eaten if I fell asleep was a healthy distraction from the fear of darkness.



I was far away from really really far away. The reality and monstrosity of the ground I needed to cover just to get back to my tent began to set in. But how could I fret.........

I bid Senad a farewell and jogged up to the summit of unranked PT 13,117 (connects with Wetterhorn).

Pano from the summit of 13,117

From there I followed my footsteps back to my tent. I grappled with going for 13,300 C but in the end decided to leave it for another day. From tent to tent it was 9 miles with 4,500 feet of vertical gain. Again SO much hot up and down action.

Back at the tent I ate everything I had left and packed up. I was super excited to put that giant pack on and go up and down West Fork pass because there is nothing like steep loose dirt with a second back. I moved with intent and made it to my car by 5 p.m. Totals for the day were 14 miles with 5,500 feet of vertical gain. I will say it again, from start to finish this is the most beautiful place I have ever been in my entire life.

Braless, shoeless, and seatbelt-less, I tokyo drifted down 30 miles of dirt road through endless cow plops as the sun went down. Destination Unknown....

TO BE CONTINUED............

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Comments or Questions
Rock Star!
08/15/2014 00:32
Another great Trip Report!
I was so glad to see you alive and well Saturday morning!
I had great time with you and other guys I met hiking this beautiful mountain. I wish you could join us at Packers in Lake City.

Shawnee Bob
08/15/2014 01:07
This report brought back so many good memories, both recent and not so recent. The views and solitude of Matterhorn are really tough to beat, and you're spot on concerning Wetterhorn: Fun, solid and gorgeous. I've long wanted to see it from Wetterhorn Basin. Great TR!

Great Hike with New Friends
08/15/2014 03:31
Awesome trip report Kay! Really great to meet and hike with you and Senad, Hopefully I can do some more climbing with you 2 in the future. I am actually setting out to hopefully climb Capitol this weekend, keep me posted on your upcoming adventures!


Awesome place
08/15/2014 03:36
Likewise brought back great memories. It is absolutely the most beautiful place I have been in Colorado and maybe anywhere. I was lucky enough to have the summit to myself that day due to a strange confluence of scary weather and apparent bear sightings in the night! Thanks for the memories and the beautiful pix!

doing a headstand
08/15/2014 06:31
on wetterhorn will send blood rushing to your head. this will cause your head to explode. I'm surprised you didnt die.

Way to get after it, in supreme style.

This all looks familiar....
08/15/2014 11:11
...including the tent spot.

But are you sure mileage on the road was 1.8 and not 1.9 or even 1.7? How can you tell? ;)

Nice trip, goingupsomewhere!

08/15/2014 15:18
Darin~~ I use strava to track my progress, however, it normally is not accurate and does not give me enough credit so it probably was 2.0 miles

Natalie~~ I have never been to Ice Lakes Basin so for now...this is my favorite, it was unreal beautiful.

Abe~~ I took advil while running and standing on my head

Another Gem
08/15/2014 20:26
The combination of your great storytelling and picture taking makes for superb trip reports. Thank you for sharing another adventure! If I repeat Wetterhorn I would like to follow your footsteps with this less traveled route, it looks AMAZING!

08/15/2014 21:38
I have to go back through and read now, just spent 20 minutes in awe of your pics! Awesome job!

San Juan Ron
08/16/2014 03:18
What a fun read.
SJ Ron

08/17/2014 04:44
epic, gorgeous. wow wow wow. too much here to absorb in one sitting.

Best pictures
08/17/2014 23:31
These are some of the best pictures I have seen on this site. I climbed Wetterhorn a week ago and found that my camera was broken as I started up into the basin. Took a few phone pictures but your post includes all the pictures I would like to have taken and a whole lot more. Nice.

08/18/2014 02:22
Funny, fantastic pictures, ... , great pics. Sage of Wetterhorn. Oh my. I think I must go this weekend. Quick little story but my son and I were bopping way back on Middle Cimarron and I was taking in Coxcomb about 1/3 mi away on the pass and the boy says ”Dad ... Look down” and it was a baby deer. Had died but very recently. So little deers need to be careful up there. Again, great read and great pics.

Thank you guys!!
08/19/2014 02:27
Each one of your comments mean so much to me since it takes forever to upload 100+ photos.

Heart hug.

Well done
02/02/2015 06:23
Not sure how I missed this, but great write up of one of the fourteeners worth repeating and of the awesome West Cimarron area. Also, loved your wildflowers – you’re not off route if the side trip takes you to beauty! Enjoyed the report.

True grit
04/02/2015 19:45
Looks like a nice way to do Wetterhorn, Kay! Was in that basin only briefly recently, so it would be nice to go back to see it with the wildflowers. I still think Weminuche is my favorite hands down, but this area and Ice Lakes basin are close runner-ups!
p.s. Great photos

West side
01/04/2018 06:46
views (25, 30) of Wetterhorn must have been somethin' to see in person, and a ridge to eye as you traversed around it!

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