| Das Wetter ist sehr gute!!
Climb and ski descent of Wetterhorn Peak, June 12, 20011
Crew: Gerlinde (telerina13), Chris (otherbrotherdarryl), Caleb (RoanMtnMan), Matt (pioletski)
6.5 miles, 3500' climbed, about 3000' skied
Wetterhorn Peak (Weather-Horn in German) thoroughly deserves its status as a classic climb and ski descent among the Colorado 14ers. Chris and I had had it in our sights for a long time, and were delighted that Gerlinde and Caleb were able to join us for the trip. It was a near-perfect trip marred only by a near tragedy - we almost lost Caleb!
Gerlinde and I arrived at the turnoff to Matterhorn Creek at about 11:30 at night, found Chris and Caleb's vehicles, and bedded down for 3-1/2 hours of blissful sleep under the stars. It's the little things... like the little time to sleep... At 3:00 we brewed coffee in my Jetboil and geared up. The previous Tuesday I had checked out the trailhead and found the Matterhorn Creek 4wd road blocked by snowdrifts. The snow is melting fast, however, and Caleb had been able to punch through the remaining snow with his truck on Saturday afternoon. So we piled in and rode all the way to the upper trailhead. At least we can say we carpooled part of the way!
Caleb and I have embarked on several trips together but (until today) never succeeded. There seems to be some sort of jinx that causes Caleb all kinds of bad luck whenever he and I try to climb. This is doubly unfortunate because he is such a great friend and climbing companion. We hope we've finally broken the jinx by succeeding today, but poor Caleb still had a price to pay!
The evil spirits struck almost immediately, as we were hiking the first section of the Matterhorn Creek trail. One of the tributaries of Matterhorn Creek is swollen by this spring's snowmelt into a raging torrent, which we had to cross. Three of us made it, but Caleb slipped and was very nearly swept away by the mighty current. Once rescued, he wrung out his wet gear and soldiered bravely on. The man's a machine! The difficulty of the situation was compounded by darkness (it was only about 4:00 am), so I was unable to photograph the scene until the return trip. In the interest of narrative integrity I will place that picture near the end of this report.
We all drew a deep breath and hiked onwards. Our first view of Wetterhorn came just as the sun fell upon its face:
The excitement of the view is reflected in Chris' face:
By the time we gained the southeast ridge Caleb's clothing (except his socks) was nearly dry, a distinct advantage of synthetic fabrics. Upward we climbed, enjoying a view of Mt Sneffels to the west:
Distracted by the beauty of the day, we got a little off-route, which made the climb a tad more sporting (usually the summit block is the "scrambly" part). Nonetheless we made good time. Here are Caleb and Chris at the base of the summit block:
Gerlinde beginning the scramble to the summit:
The last 100 vertical feet of Wetterhorn make for a fine climb. Here's Caleb:
And myself. (Note: pictures in this TR are generally mine, with a few taken by Caleb using my camera. You can spot Caleb's pictures because (1) I'm in them and (2) the camera is tilted at a drunken angle, no doubt due to hypothermia and the shock of his near-fatal experience.)
and, at about 8:15 am, we stood on the airy summit of Wetterhorn:
Gerlinde and Chris had been quite amused that Caleb and I insisted on carrying our skis all the way to the summit. They began the downclimb while we geared up. In honor of Joe's (doumall) finishing climb 2 years before, we each made exactly 3 turns on the summit:
Then we climbed down to rejoin our compadres. (One generally has to do this when skiing Wetterhorn. I know of only one person - Jordan (Jcwhite) - who has found it skiable from the summit.) The breeze kept things a bit cooler than we had anticipated, so we hunkered down in the notch between the Ship's Prow and the summit block to wait for the snow to soften a little. At 9:30 we put our skis on:
The snow was suncupped, and the avalanche debris was rough, but with just the right amount of surface softening we were all able to make decent turns on the slightly tricky snow. Here's Caleb:
Thanks, Caleb, for getting this great shot of Chris. Note Sunshine on the left skyline, and Handies on the right:
Looking back up the face, that's Chris near the bottom:
And a group shot courtesy of my ski pole:
The snow remained really nice on the ski out, firm underneath and soft corn on top, as Matterhorn disappeared around the curve in the basin:
Approaching the end of our journey, we returned to the scene of our near-tragedy only a few hours before. I include this picture as a warning about the deadly hazards of the mountains, although I find it frightening to look on!
The puzzle is how Caleb managed to nearly submerge himself in 3 inches of water. We'll never know, but I'm glad he carried on!
Thanks for reading, and thanks to my companions for a glorious day!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):