| Uncompahgre and a Perfect Day
Route: South Ridge from Nellie Creek (standard)
Skiers: USAKeller, comin2getcha, BillMiddlebrook
Updated Trailhead Info: Nellie Creek
Elevation Gain: 3,800'
RT Mileage: 10 miles
Snow Coverage: Continuous snow from 10,500' to 13,900' on the south ridge. Dry sections between 13,900' and 14,000' and patchy snow to the summit.
Topo of the route (yellow=snowmobiles, blue=hike, red=ski):
The day before the climb, I took some time to preview the area from southeast of Lake City:
Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre from Slumgullion Pass
After reaching the trailhead, I rode the mountain sled up the 4WD road to see how far I could get and if it was "doable" for my 2nd two-person sled. After some on-and-off snow, there was a long, dry patch below the first stream crossing and plenty of rock-fall in the road. I rode up to the 2nd stream crossing near 2.5 miles and built snow ramps on each side of the open water. Continued up to almost 3 miles where passage was blocked by rocks and small mud slides running across the road. Once I returned, I figured we could get both sleds about 2.5 miles up the road without risking an afternoon shovel fest.
Also taken from Slumgullion Pass, here's a closer look at the upper terrain. With this preview, I was hopeful there would be enough snow for a continuous, summit ski descent. Well, that didn't happen but it was close enough.
An overview of the climb (blue) and ski
After the sled ride, we began skinning just after 6:00am and made the upper trailhead at 7:30am.
On a 14er, some mornings are better than others and this one seemed special. Everything seemed perfect - the temps, snow cover, light cloud cover and, of course, this view. For me, this was the first real day of the 2010 spring 14er skiing season. Absolutely gorgeous.
Uncompahgre from tree line
Look at all of that snow!
What could be better than skinning on firm, grippy snow? Answer in "ski" section, below
The snow was ideal for ski travel
Once we reached the slope where the summer trail switchbacks up to 13,800' it became clear we were going to have good ski conditions from at least that high.
The terrain to 13,800'
Looking down from 13,700'
For those of you that have climbed this route (south ridge), you're probably familiar with the steep, scree section between 13,900' and 14,000'. This was where we realized the continuous ski was out for today. We booted this loose section in hopes of seeing more snow up higher.
Uh oh, this could be hard to ski later
USAKeller near 14k, Wetterhorn in the distance
When we got to this point, I realized we were running about an hour and a half later than we had hoped, but it didn't matter. Light clouds were helping to keep the mountain cool as we took our time reaching the summit. I'm not kidding, this was turning out to be a perfect day. Throughout our climb, I kept thinking of a possible post-holing nightmare if we came down too late, but once we got to the summit, I was convinced we had enough time.
Approaching the summit plateau
The summit, with snow along the east edge
Uncompagre's familiar summit
The east face of Wetterhorn is in, but the road up to Capitol City was closed! This was our possible goal for the next day but it wasn't in the cards this time.
Wetterhorn has lots of snow
USAKeller demanded that I include these shots
Off we go
Making the upper terrain work
The big dry spot
Continuous from here to the bottom
As if someone hit a switch, the cloud-cover vanished and it was time for some excellent spring skiing. From 13,900' we enjoyed creamy snow on top of a mostly-firm, stable base. I'll let the remaining photos do the talking...
I think comin2getcha may have been enjoying the ski conditions!
Endless creamy skiing
Heading out of the drainage, with Unnamed 13,106' to the east
The upper (4WD) trailhead and skiing out on the road...
A mellow ski on a great mountain.
And the drive home wasn't a snoozer either! From Buena Vista to Fairplay there was lightning, heavy rain, hail, and some heavy snow.
An interesting end to a perfect day...
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):