Trip Reports: Sunrise On Wetterhorn Peak, Colorado - July 2010

On Sunday I hiked into Wetterhorn Basin, in the Uncompahgre Wilderness east of Ridgway, Colorado. With all the stormy monsoon weather and fantastic sunsets we’ve been having in the San Juans lately, I had hopes of catching another great sunset in the mountains. I arrived in Wetterhorn Basin just in time to hunker down in the forest as the lightning and thunder rolled through. After an hour or so the storm cleared just as the sun began to dip into a gap on the horizon, lighting up the mountains with spectacular alpenglow!

rainbow, Uncompahgre Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, photo

Uncompahgre Rainbow

A rainbow appears amongst the rugged peaks of the Uncompahgre Wilderness, after a late afternoon thunderstorm. 

Wetterhorn Peak, sunset, Wetterhorn Basin, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Colorado, photo

Wetterhorn Basin Stormy Sunset

Wetterhorn Peak lights up with sunset alpenglow after a July monsoon thunderstorm.

That night I woke up at 1:40am, and under the full moonlight I climbed up Wetterhorn Peak, the rugged 14,015 ft. mountain that dominates the scene. I’d climbed up the peak once before four years ago, so I kind of remembered how to climb the scrambly exposed route to the summit in the dark.

Wetterhorn Peak, San Juan Mountains, dawn, summit, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Colorado, photo

Wetterhorn Summit Dawn

Dawn light illuminates the San Juan Mountains, as seen from the summit of Wetterhorn Peak, in the Uncompahgre Wilderness - July. 

I relaxed up there by myself for four hours, enjoying the sunrise, soaking up the views, and looking at all the other places I’ve hiked around there and would like to hike in the future.

Wetterhorn Peak, sunrise, summit, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, earthshadow, photo

Wetterhorn Earthshadow

Sunrise over the San Juans, as seen from the summit of Wetterhorn Peak.  At 14,015 ft. the summit rocks of Wetterhorn are lit by the sunrise alpenglow light before the earthshadow has even dropped below the horizon!

Cimarrons, Wetterhorn Peak, summit, sunrise, alpenglow, Coxcomb Peak, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, photo

Sunrise Over the Cimarrons

Sunrise alpenglow illuminates the peaks of the Cimarron Range, as seen from the summit of Wetterhorn Peak, 14,015 ft.   Coxcomb Peak and Redcliff are the two taller mountains to the left.

Potosi Peak, Sneffels Range, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, moon, photo

Potosi Moon

A nearly full moon sets over Potosi Peak and the Sneffels Range. 

Colorado, Jack, San Juan Mountains, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Wetterhorn Peak, photo

After downclimbing the peak later that morning and strolling back to my campsite, I relaxed for the rest of the day, waiting for the afternoon storm which never seemed to materialize. That night, however, the sky finally unleashed and dumped rain for hours, with lightning and cracking thunder trying to keep me awake. But I was pretty exhausted after my hike that morning, so I managed to sleep like a baby through the storm. The next morning I had a leisurely hike out amongst the wildflowers, wrapping up another nice trip in the wilderness.

POSTSCRIPT: When I was on the summit of Wetterhorn, in the early dawn darkness, I could see another headlamp on the high ridgeline to the north. I just KNEW that it must be Jody Grigg, a fellow Colorado photographer, because A) I had seen his name on the trailhead register, B) only a photographer would be on that remote ridgeline for the sunrise, and C) Jody’s one of the few photographers I know who would actually make it up there! Sure enough, a few days after this trip, I got this photo from Jody in my email:

, photo

Jody Grigg's photo of me up on the summit of Wetterhorn Peak.