July 4, 2016

Wetterhorn Peak – 14,015′

14er rank:

# of climbs:
First climbed:
Last climbed:
Routes climbed:


San Juan
1,635' (Uncompahgre Peak - 2.8 mi ENE)
Hinsdale/Ouray County
8.9 mi ENE of Ouray
10.7 mi WNW of Lake City

Southeast Ridge (Class 3)

Google Maps


This is the seventh 14er I've climbed, back in May 2013 with a couple friends. This peak is one of the lower 14ers, only the 49th tallest in Colorado. It sits in the northern part of the San Juan Range, in far southwestern Colorado, is is quite remote when compared to many other 14ers closer to Denver or I-70. I cannot attest to this, but it may be possible to see this peak to the north from U.S. 50, about 20-30 miles away. Once in the San Juans, the deep valleys in which the main roads and towns are situated help hide Wetterhorn from sight. One must venture up rough dirt roads into the higher basins or onto nearby peaks to catch a glimpse.  

We hiked the standard Southeast Ridge route, which begins at the Matterhorn Creek trailhead. A rough 2WD dirt road (North Henson Rd) takes you to 10,300', where there is a parking area for 2WD vehicles and a sign for the Matterhorn Creek trail. From there, 4WD vehicles can turn right off North Henson Rd and continue on up a 4WD road to the actual trailhead at 10,800'. The trail follows Matterhorn Creek along an old road up through the valley before taking a right turn and ascending up into the wide open basin between Wetterhorn and Matterhorn peaks. Yes, these peaks are named for the majestic peaks found in the Swiss Alps, and bear a striking resemblance due to their steep, pointed shapes. 

The route follows a good trail across the basin toward the base of Wetterhorn's east face. It then turns west up the slopes of the southeast ridge before reaching a saddle along the ridgeline at about 13,100'. The remainder of the route essentially follows the southeast ridge up to the base of the summit wall near 13,900', although there are a number of rocky obstacles to cross along the way. Most of the route up the ridge remains at Difficult Class 2. The final 100' to the summit requires some Class 3 climbing up the summit pitch, which from afar resembles a wall. This is accompanied by a decent amount of exposure, although I personally found it to be similar to climbing up a steep set of stairs and easier than it looks from below. However, some of the rocks are loose and a fall from here would not end well. 

From the summit, there are sweeping views from southeast to southwest of the beautiful and very large San Juan Range and to the north of the Uncompahgre Valley. Many of the 14ers within the range, including the taller Uncompahgre Peak just a few miles to the east, can be seen. To descend, follow the same route back to the trailhead. In winter, some experienced climbers may also decide to descend the summit pitch on foot and then ski the peak's east face, dropping in at 13,900'.   


Trip Reports

Wetterhorn Peak (June 2013)