Uncompahgre Peak (14,309′)

Our initial plan was to hike up Handies Peak, but the weather forecast for Saturday had a very high chance of snow and rain. Plan B was to hike Uncompahgre Peak from the Nellie Creek Trailhead accessed from Lake City. The weather forecast was not too promising for our hike, but we started nice and early to increase our chances. Dark clouds covered the skies early on, so there was a little tension in the air on the hike up. We could see some blue behind the clouds, but we could also see some precipitation drifting from clouds on neighboring peaks. The result of the clouds were very unique lighting conditions and views on the way up.

Before we start on the hike, it should be noted that Nellie Creek is accessed via a 4WD road. This is readily evident by the large rocks just after you turn onto the road. At least on our visit, this initial section was by far the most difficult segment of the road. There are a few creek crossing later on the road as well, which could be much deeper earlier in the year as well. The reward for battling up the 4 mile drive road is cutting off 2,500′ of additional climbing and obviously 8 miles of hiking. Don’t worry, you still get a very nice 7.5 mile roundtrip hike with 3,000′ of gain from the 4WD parking.

Welcome to the wilderness
The trailhead starts at about 11,400′, so you emerge above treeline pretty quickly.
As you reach the ridge, the trail intersects the Matterhorn Creek trail.
On the way up, this mountain looked much higher than it turned out to be. When I looked it up later, it turned out to be a ranked peak ‘named’ Unnamed 13,158′. For some reason there are a lot of unnamed peaks in the San Juans. Then again, maybe there were just too many to name. SummitPost.org states that the San Juan have 314 Thirteeners in addition to its 14 Fourteeners. 14ers.com notes 250 ranked 13ers in San Juans. Regardless of which figure you use; the San Juans are full of spectacular mountains!
The trail up Uncompahgre is very nice and heads toward the ridge gradually to make this unique summit a much easier hike than it first appears.
Here are some shots from the ridge further into the San Juans.
We could see some fresh snow in the distance.
Fresh hail or snow from the day before. Wetterhorn Peak (14,015′) is the dramatic mountain on the right.
One more from the ridge.

Uncompahgre Peak (14,309′)

Well, it was a lot more work than these photos make it seem, but we reached the summit in great time! In part, we were hustling since the weather still looked questionable. Once we reached the summit, the clouds suddenly broke up and a gorgeous day broke out unexpectedly.

Wetterhorn Peak! I edited this photo to highlight the peak.
A little chilly on the summit, but beautiful!
The mountain was much more crowded than you typically see in the San Juans, but it was Labor Day weekend. Still not all that crowded though.

The drop-off on the backside of summit is pretty dramatic

We expected to be hurrying down the mountain to beat the rain, but thankfully the forecast was incorrect.

Heading back down the class 2 trail near the summit.