August 31st, 2003
The alarm sounded at 5:00 a.m. and after a quick breakfast we began hiking just before 6 a.m. We were suprised to see the trailhead almost completely empty. The trail starts out in the forest but doesn't remain in the trees for long. We crossed a stream and the trail switchbacks a couple times to gain a grassy slope. Uncompahgre can be seen off in the distance and as the skies began to lighten, the peak was saturated with alpenglow.
We continued approaching the peak eventually heading to the left towards Uncompahgre's south ridge. The photo below shows the route up the peak.
We gained the south ridge where I had got turned back by rain almost exactly a year ago. From here the route ascends just below the ridge heading towards the backside of Uncompahgre Peak.
The wind was getting funneled up through the notches in the ridge and was almost strong enough to blow us over. We continued up the ridge and as we gained the west side of Uncompahgre, we could see the peak's massive shadow cast toward Wetterhorn Peak.
The trail turns to broken rock as it climbs up the west side of the peak. The wind was really fierce and bitter cold.
We climbed up a gully and gained the upper flanks of Uncompahgre. From here it was an easy stroll to the summit.
We gained the summit at 8 a.m. and had the views of the surrounding San Juans all to ourselves. We could see Wetterhorn Peak and Mt. Sneffels to the west and Wetterhorn is the peak behind us in the photo below.
The north face of Uncompahgre is absolutely incredible and peering over the edge you see nothing but air for 700 feet hundred down to the valley below.
For a summit panoramic Click Here--See Note below if image seems small.
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We took some summit photos and retreated to a rock break to get out of the wind. After eating a Snickers bar we were cold and wanted to get out of the wind. We departed the summit and quickly made our way back down to the ridge. We could see the hordes of people heading up the slopes as we descended. In total we passed about 40 people on our way back to the trailhead. It didn't take long to arrive back to the now completely full 4wd parking. We got back to the 4runner at 10 a.m. bringing our total hiking time to 4 hours, 2 hours for the ascent, about 2 hours for the descent. Uncompahgre is a pretty easy hike from the 4wd parking but well worth it. The peak has a very unique character and peering over the north face is exhilirating. It was off to San Luis Peak for another San Juan summit.