North San Juans

We’ve often talked about traveling further into the Uncompahgre Wilderness Area. In the first week of September the stars aligned. With stable weather and time on our hands we set out on a 5 day excursion into the nearby North San Juans.

We left Telluride on a Wednesday morning and drove the van over Owl Creek Pass to the Cimmaron Middle Fork trailhead. Leaving the trailhead at about 11:00 AM, we made camp 6 hours later in a basin between two 14er’s at 12,400′.

The next morning (my bday!), carrying only day packs, we traversed the high basin terrain and intersected the main route to Wetterhorn Peak 14,015′. We reached the summit in the late morning on a perfect bluebird day, warm and calm. Visibility extended for well over 100 miles in all directions.

After descending from the summit we struck out across the basin and headed back towards our campsite. At about the halfway point we climbed another one of the named peaks, Matterhorn 13,590′.

That evening was cold enough to freeze our water, but we stayed warm and comfortable in our Big Agnes tent. Next up was Uncompahgre Peak 14,309′. The route led across the high alpine terrain in the opposite direction from the day before. Another beautiful summit morning with perfect weather and unlimited visibility.

We got back to our camp in the early afternoon, picked up our backpacks and began heading back. We camped high up in the headwaters of the Cimmaron East Fork that evening.

About four hours of hiking put us back at the van around 12:30 on Saturday. After some clean up and lunch we drove back up to the top of Owl Creek Pass and found a nice place to van camp for the night.

In the morning we made a quick and fun ascent to the top of Courthouse Peak. An interesting hike with unique views and cool geology. After descending it was time to head back to Telluride.

It was a great trip. Climbing the 14er’s is more commonly done from the Lake City side and there were a number of people climbing the peaks starting from those closer trailheads. We were glad to have taken some extra time by approaching from the “back way”- a more secluded and less traveled option.

4 thoughts on “North San Juans”

  1. Nice hiking trip!
    I was out for a 3 day hike in our local terrain during that same awesome weather window. What a perfect time to be out in the alpine terrain.
    I did the “lakes tour” going to Hope Lake, Fuller Lake, Ice Lake, Island Lake, Clear Lake, Paradise Lake, no name lake, Columbine Lake, Lewis Lake, Blue Lake and down to Idarado mill.
    Glad to hear you are working with renderings again.

    1. Thanks for commenting on my blog Dave! That’s a lot of lakes and a world class route. Good to know you are getting out and enjoying the neighborhood.

  2. Happy climbing birthday Frankie, well written and excellent choice of terrain. Wetterhorn, gotta be one of the finest , reminds me of an alps peak. Back from fish’n an river running in Idaho. later, Bob

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