Apr 28 2007

Wetterhorn

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Well, i was planning to be in the Telluride area on sunday for a ski descent of El diente, and so instead of just driving that far for one peak, i decided to join Lordhelmut on Wetterhorn. Our plan became to climb Wetterhorn and ski the East face, and afterwards go to Uncompaghre and ski the south ridge. So we left a car at nellie and took mine up towards the matterhorn creek trailhead. We were able to drive about a 1/4 mile short of the turn off to the upper TH. So we were about a mile from the summer TH.

We started walking somewhere around 4:35 AM and Broke tree line a little before 6 am. About the time we broke treeline we saw the first sunlight of the day hit Wetterhorn’s high cliffs above.
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We continued climbing, me skinning up the valley while Brian was following on snowshoes carrying his alpine skiing gear.
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We got to the point where we needed to decide whether to climb the ridge or the east face. At this point i didn’t think we were moving fast enough to climb the face, so i continued up and skinned all the way to the ridge and continued skinning up the ridge to where the summer route traverses climbers left.

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At this point the skis went on the pack and the crampons on the boots. The snow on this side didn’t have a deep enough freeze to support my weight, so rather than traverse and posthole to my hips across snowfields, i climbed a rock rib and back to the ridge.
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I weaved in and out of the rock towers and eventually ended up on the flatter ridge below the rock face of Wetterhorn. I continued up what had already turned into some soft corn, and headed up to where the snow stopped.
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The entire way up the ridge i had been looking up at some snow i really didn’t expect to see there. I kept thinking “What if there is a line off the top?” “Do I have a chance of being the first guy to ski this thing off the top?” I just kept looking at this line of snow. Well i was still waiting for Brian to come up and over the ridge so i decided to take a look. I dropped my pack and walked around the corner and really couldn’t believe my eyes. There was actually a decent strip to the top.
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I walked back down to my pack and got it ready to go. I put my crampons on and climbed straight up the snow gully to the top, taking care to notice the smaller sections that i needed to down climb. As i was about half way to the top i looked down to see Brian arriving at the base of the cliff and told him what i had in mind. After taking a short break Brian came and scampered up to the totally snowcapped summit.

Brian climbs up the gully

Brian climbs up the gully

After grabbing some grub and some water it was time to give this baby a go. I started off by touching the summit (i was standing on it) and skiing towards the start of my line.
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I skied down a short ways and inched my way down a section exposed to a fall over the face and came to my first of two downclimbs. This one was the shorter of the two, not more than 4 or 5 feet. Shown here:
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This lead to a snowy ledge traverse to the next downward section.
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This lead to some jump turns down the couloir that was not much wider than my skis are long. 11

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Along with some side stepping in areas, but i was still on my skis, and still on snow.
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The area right below me in this picture is where i had to downclimb another 6-8 ft. But instead of being lazy after this i still put my skis back on for the final bit of snow to the bottom of the chute.14

Upon arrival here i had to climb back up the ledge to the ships prow where i put my skis on at the top of the snow, which i think was still at a higher point than where i took them off below. And as far as i can tell from the rules set before me, thats legal.15

As soon as Brian was ready, we went to take a look at the face.16

I skied out to the roll over to take a look down. Man this baby was getting cooked. A couple of super hard ski cuts got a good amount of slough to go down ahead of me. But i felt good about what was underneath and so i skied a few turns down what i had been able to make go. The skiing here was just great corn.
Looking down:
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After this i was able to clear a couple more paths below us to ski out on and the snow under the mashed taters on top was just great for ripping turns on. I waited about half way down by a rock outcropping and after Brian got here, i skied out the rest of the face with him taking up the rear. Seen here just below the cliff band in the middle:
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This picture shows our routes. Mine is in green and Brians is in red19

From the base of the face, we headed for the river bed there and skied fun corn turns over rolling hills all the way back to treelin20

The ski out below treeline was fairly uneventful with a stream crossing and we skied more or less to the turnoff onto north henson creek road and out walked to my car about a 1/4 mile down the road. On the drive back we stopped to take a picture of this huge avalanche that had come down and blocked the river recently. In talking to a friend in Lake City, he said this dammed up the river which washed out the road. He and his brother just happened to be the ones who got to fix it. Thanks George!
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From here we drove on up to get Brian’s car and parted ways. Me to the Telluride area for El Diente the following day, and Brian back to Denver.

Nellie Creek flowing pretty well. 22

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Wetterhorn”

  1. […] Case in point: Jordan White (jcwhite) managed to more or less ski Wetterhorn from the true summit (http://www.elksandbeyond.com/14er-ski-descents/wetterhorn/). And the Luttrell Line on El Diente goes from the exact summit. Just […]

  2. […] http://www.elksandbeyond.com/14er-ski-descents/wetterhorn/ […]

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