Friday, September 9, 2016

Uncomprahgre - 14,309ft!

[Previously posted on FB 9-Sept-2016]

Hiked my first 14er in Colorado. I've biked up two 14ers, each twice, for bike races. Can't bike up this one though. It is in the middle of the vast Uncompahgre Wilderness Area.
I had planned this to be a recovery day, drive up to 11,000ft, then do the short 7.5mi RT hike. But the last 4mi of jeep road to trail head looked too sketchy for my rental Jeep Patriot. So I added 8mi/2000ft to this hike. While hiking up, a Suburban went up. Dang, if that could go up this gnarly 2-track, my rental surely could have done it.
The woman driving the Suburban started hiking with her dog right behind me. She stayed right there. I wasn't exactly poking along. We ended up hiking to the summit together. Amanda lives locally and is an ultra mountain runner. That explained it. Lives at 9000ft. Her dog Slayer tried to slay the numerous marmots whistling at us the whole way up.
The day could not have been more stunning. Short sleeves all the way to the top. Windbreaker was needed milling around at the top. Visibility was easily over 100 miles. Was nice to chat with somebody with local knowledge, pointing out other peaks, ranges, formations, etc.
Amanda had to get back, so I lingered on the summit a bit longer. A 14er all to myself! This is pretty remote area, and I think Amanda said the county is 97% gov't land.
On the way down, literally 200ft from my car, I tripped. I tore chunks of meat out of both palms and one knee. Don't even know how it happened. I was bouncing of the embedded sharp rocks in the jeep track before I could react. Maybe I looked at my stupid GPS to see what stats I was going to finish with. Anyway, thought I was going to have to use my toothbrush to clean gravel out of the cuts in my hands back at the hotel. No major damage.
Could not get all of my hiking gear in the cycling Camelbak, so I transferred over to slightly larger summer hiking pack. Except for my good camera. SOB! All I had with me is crappy cell phone for photos on most photogenic activity I've ever done. Sorry.
Finished with 15.8mi, 5000+ft climbing (very nearly monotonic!) in 5.2hrs moving time. Couple KOMs too, but very short leaderboard. I'd say this was my best day in Colorado yet. 

Beginning of jeep road #877. If it was like this at the bottom, how much worse would it get? 

Few miles up, summit comes into view 

Above tree line, Uncompahgre is imposing

Looking back down

Looking up, summit still looming

Gaining elevation, looking down

Amazing views start to open around 13,000ft 

Looking down the trail 

Amanda heading up the trail. About to get more challenging.

Scree field makes this a class 2 hike...

... and some pretty serious rock scrambling, not much different than the chimney on the Osceola's, except 5x more vertical. Amanda and Slayer.

Green lichen, blue sky

Forget name of gulch Amanda said this was

Another gulch due north

Wetterhorn Peak, another 14er

Pano south 

Summit at 14,309ft with 800ft vertical drop

Pano north

Trail I came up

Looking up scramble on way back down. They say 14,000ft is 40% of the way to space in terms of atmosphere. So deep blue.

Wilderness boundary at end of jeep track

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