From Lake City, turn west onto Second street. Drive 0.1 mile and turn left onto Henson Creek Road (Alpine Loop Scenic Byway) and begin measuring mileage from here. Near 5 miles, pass the Nellie Creek trailhead sign. Near 9 miles, turn right onto the North Henson Road which is more rough than the Henson Creek road but can still be driven by most good-clearance vehicles. Near 11 miles, there is another junction with a sign indicating the Matterhorn Creek trailhead is ahead. Park here if you don’t have a 4WD vehicle or turn right and continue 0.7 mile to the trailhead and parking area.
From the upper trailhead (Photo #1), follow the trail north for nearly 0.75 mile to reach a trail junction in an open. Turn right and switchback up a hillside before continuing north at 11,300’. Follow the trail along the hillside and exit the trees at 11,600’. Stay on the main trail before turning left onto the Wetterhorn trail, near 12,000’ - Photo #2. Continue north then northwest (Photo #3 and Photo #4) to reach 12,800’ in the upper basin where the trail turns southwest and heads toward Wetterhorn’s southeast ridge - Photo #5. Follow the trail to a saddle on the ridge, just right (northwest) of Point 13,117’.
Continue northwest along the ridge - Photo #6. Pass through some rocks near 13,200’ and continue up yellow-colored dirt to reach the upper ridge and more difficult terrain - Photo #7. Follow a small, broken trail as it weaves up through the rocks on the left side of the ridge. You will soon be able to see the next 400’ of rocky terrain which leads up to the "Prow" (Photo #8), a fin-like tower just below the summit. The route gradually climbs towards the Prow by staying below the ridge crest and you’ll encounter a few sections which require some brief scrambling. One area in particular is a rock rib which blocks easy passage - Photo #9. Once you reach the rib, bypass it by turning right and climbing a small gully back toward the ridge crest - Photo #10. At the top of the gully (Photo #11), you have a couple of options:
1) Locate a "V" notch on the left that allows passage through the rib. Drop down the other side of the notch into the top of another small gully (Photo #12) and continue toward the Prow - Photo #12. 2) Or climb up through the rocks show in Photo #10 and Photo #11 to reach the crest of the ridge. Once on the ridge, turn left and continue toward the Prow. Photo #14 looks back down on the route.
Near 13,800’, walk past the right side of the Prow (Photo #15) to reach an open area below the summit block. You’ll see two notches between the Prow and the summit - Photo #16. Climb through the higher notch (Photo #17), over an angled slab and turn right to see the final pitch and crux of the route. You must climb over 100’ of mostly-stable, Class 3 rock to reach the summit. Scramble up a steep, shallow gully which leads to the top. Some people find it easiest to climb slightly to the left on the last 50’. Photo #18 looks down on the route and Photo #19 shows the upper half of the final pitch. Gain the summit and enjoy the beautiful views - Photo #20 and Photo #21.
The last 0.6 miles to the trailhead requires 4WD - don't take a passenger car up this road. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Uncompahgre Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Uncompahgre Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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