19 August 2012

I knew I had to get up on the peaks again – and quick – after the La Plata fiasco. I drove over four hours to Wetterhorn’s lower 2WD trailhead last night and slept in my car. My alarm went off too early this morning, and I woke grumpily, dawned my gear, grabbed my pack, and set out for the dramatic and beautiful Wetterhorn Peak. La Plata had rattled me, but I’m not ready to triage my beloved Colorado high country. I wanted to ease back into it with a straightforward, well-marked class III scramble with some good ol’ class IV exposure. Enter Colorado’s Wetterhorn Peak.

The crux was tucked neatly away just below the summit. After a long morning of hiking and easy scrambling, I finally reached the base of the final 100-foot pitch. It was a class III wall with pretty solid rock and ledges, plenty of good holds for both hands and feet. The exposure was dramatic, falling away sharply for hundreds of feet beneath me. I was anxious and excited. And here’s the kicker: the down climb was every ounce as wonderful as the up. This was the fourteener experience which I treasure. It was one of my favorite peaks: the hike was fun, the climb was challenging, and the view was stunning.

The crux was fun. My least favorite part was by far the loose, steep, fine sediment scramble just above the saddle. That’s the crap I hate ascending/descending. There are no footholds on the way up, and no foot brakes on the way down. It’s not really dangerous; there’s no exposure. It’s just tenuous and annoying. Rather than slide down on my butt, I ran for it. I figured why fight gravity when I can let it do the work. I clumsily raced to the wide, firm saddle below.

The rest of the descent was a total breeze. I even got a well-deserved ride for the last quarter mile(ish) to the lower trailhead. Jamie – a cool guy I met at the summit – stopped and offered. I’m not too proud to accept, so that was that. He mentioned that I should think about Pyramid Peak. He’s not the first to recommend that climb, but I’ll have to find a climbing buddy if I decide to tackle it. I think that route is just a hint out of my league for a solo bid, at least for now.

I’d thought about tagging the Matterhorn while I was up there, but on my way down, I decided that it wasn’t worth regaining all of that elevation for a summit that wasn’t a Centennial. Man, that sounds snotty, but that’s how I felt. Besides I didn’t have any route information, so the top section would likely require some route-finding. It was probably marked by cairns, but I didn’t care enough to go find out. Plus I’m behind on some stuff, not the least of which is sleep. And I have a few hours of driving ahead to get over to the lower 2WD Sneffels trailhead for tomorrow’s summit bid. It just wasn’t gonna happen. No regrets; it was certainly for the best.