Route: West Face
Team: Christy, Ted
In a week, we were headed to Europe to ski the Haute Route, the classic ski trip connecting the towns of Chamonix and Zermatt. So, to prepare for the tour, we decided to head to Lake City for a weekend trip. We made our way there Friday afternoon, staying in a Lake City cabin, and although the floors were slanted, ceilings low, and the bed was like mashed potatoes, it was better than camping. Early the next day, we would pack in our overnight gear and try for Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn peaks.
The snow closure was high on the Matterhorn Creek Road, almost at the trailhead. With a tent, sleeping bags, food, and ski gear, we hiked up into Matterhorn Creek and set up camp. It was easy skinning on the frozen morning snow. It wouldn’t be that easy on the way out. We had two days there.
We were high in the valley with camp setup by noon. Although it was cool out, the sun was high, so we decided it was too late for the east side of Wetterhorn- that route was getting too much snow, and we would have to wait until tomorrow morning. Instead, we headed towards Uncompahgre’s big west face. Except for a short rocky bit near the top, we could see snow all the way to the summit. Throughout the climb, we felt lucky because the snow was softening, and we thought the ski down would be sweet.
As luck would have it, the light breeze around all morning abruptly became a sustained wind, and with it came clouds. We stopped to add some layers, eventually putting on our down jackets.
Once on the summit, we took a few photos and headed back down the same way we came up, only to discover a nasty breakable crust about two inches thick had formed, turning what we thought would be a sweet ski descent into a quite sour one. The lack of ski photos is a testament to the conditions— kick turns and traversing became the style for most of the descent. Bummer.
Back at camp, the spring storm hung around for a while. The next morning, while clear, was dominated by driving winds all around the tent. We made a short effort towards Wetterhorn but had to abort after numb fingers and the sandblasting effect on our faces proved too much to bear.
We’d get another attempt at Wetterhorn on a better day.