Monday, July 2, 2012

Uncompahgre Peak: 14er #48

On the morning of Sunday, June 24 I rose with the sun in order to squeeze in an ascent of 14er Uncompahgre. This 14,309 ft gem is visible from many positions in the San Juan Range.

I first laid eyes on Uncompahgre last summer while climbing other San Juan 14ers. It was, then, an imposing rock protrusion that was surrounded by a moat-like soft snow field. I thought about making a run up it last year, but discussions with other climbers at Mean Jean's made me reconsider. I had just swam through a half-mile of soft snow on Handies Peak, so I wasn't inclined to jump back in.

Uncompahgre (rt) from Redcloud last June
It was while watching runners finish the San Juan Solstice 50 Mile run on Saturday the 23rd that I met up with Matt. He was in from the front range for a few days of summiting and kindly offered to ferry me five miles out of town and then up the four mile rugged jeep road to the trailhead. I took him up on the offer and we, along Matt's friends, Natalie and Stephanie, left Lake City just before 6 am Sunday morning.

We started the climb just after seven. I really enjoyed talking to them. We ascended together until we were well above tree line, but I had already told Matt that I planned to test my ankle with some running. The alpine trail was great for running, so I began to run at about 12,800 ft.

It was a fantastic day to be high. The sun was bright and warm, the wind was minimal, and the temperature was warmer than usual. I remained in shorts and a tech t-shirt all the way to the summit. Once there I put on a light wind jacket even though it wasn't really needed.

I remained on the summit for 40 minutes, taking and posing for pictures and eating, while waiting for the trio to arrive. I began to believe that they had turned around because I was never able to see them on the approach trail. So, I jogged away from the summit and  met up with them while down climbing the rock features leading up to the summit. We said our goodbyes and I continued to run the rest of the descent.

The ankle/achilles were fine and that nasty toe only griped a little. It was a great mountain run! I ran the 3.5 miles to the trail head, then continued to run down the jeep road. Near the end of the jeep road I caught a lift with Cary, from Boulder, because I was tired of breathing in dust from the endless line of four wheelers that speeding up the road. That ride allowed me to make it back to Lake City by noon.

Here are some of the photos I took during the climb.

Matt and Natalie early on the climb
Natalie just above tree line

14ers Wetterhorn, near center, and Sneffels, barely visible through the forest fire smoke, center horizon.
Some class four scrambling near summit.
More scrambling
Mostly good view here.
Stephanie, Matt, and Natalie when we cross paths
Oh, come on . . . I feel like Charlie Brown.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. - John Muir


  1. Shane, another awesome post. I'm going to be in San Juans in two weeks as I relocate to Vegas (family is following at Christmas after my deployment ends). I was planning on hitting the area during the Hardrock weekend and doing a little mountain running for myself. This trip has got too be on my short list. Any other must do's that you'd recommend?

    Love the blog... keep up the running and the posting. It's also great to see you're back in running shape so soon. (I'm only now fully recovered from bull run run in April!)

    Continued best wishes!


    1. Thanks, Doug! I, too, will be in the San Juans for several days. I plan to climb a few more 14ers and volunteer at the HR100. Let me know when you are in and I will try to meet. BTW, there is a duathlon in Leadville on Sunday July 15: Du It High. Check it out. Take care and stay in touch. Hope to see you in a couple of weeks.