Wetterhorn Peak and rafting the Gunnison Gorge

Andrew and I had four days before we had to get back to work and we wanted to go climb Wetterhorn Peak in Lake City. A very highly recommended 14er when it comes to fun class 3 exposure and surrounding views. We invited PJ and his wife Katrina to join us and soon PJ had some other plans for us….

Me, Andrew, Katrina and PJ on the summit of Wetterhorn

If I could just write an entire page about the awesome things PJ has done in his life it would be far more interesting than this blog! He lived in Gunnison during college and at one point he was a raft guide. So coming up with ideas to do near Gunnison after the hike wasn’t an issue. The plan: Drive to Lake City, camp, wake up and hike Wetterhorn, afterwards we would head to the Gunnison Gorge to do a two-day fishing and rafting trip.

We shoved a raft along with everything else we had into the back of the camper of PJ’s Toyota Tacoma and with no room to spare, we headed off! Our tour guide took us through Gunnison where we got to meet some of his friends from college and then we headed out to Lake City. A small old town, I’d love to go back and visit (lucky for me there are plenty more 14ers in that area I still need to do). By the time we reached the start of the trailhead for Wetterhorn it was dark so after setting up tents we went to bed to get ready for our 5am start. I am pretty sure I didn’t sleep more than an hour all night.

headed up the final ridge towards Wetterhorn

PJ’s alarm didn’t go off but I was already awake and had stared at the sky for hours I knew that it was close to 4 or 5 am and woke up Andrew to check. After everyone was up, dressed and had eaten, we drove the rest of the way up the trail head towards Wetterhorn. I was a little anxious about the hike because I had wanted to do this one for so long and it was class 3. The hike is beautiful and when you first get a glance at Wetterhorn the summit looks very appealing.

The class 3 section is at the end of the hike on the ridge near the summit, and it’s really not that long. However, it does involve a little route finding.

Ships Prow

(For a full detailed look at the ridge you can check out this link from 14ers.com) We strapped on our helmets headed up the ridge. The last scramble to the summit is where the hike really gets fun! While it wouldn’t be a good idea to fall here, its kind of like climbing a ladder and as long you stay focused on what you’re doing it’s relatively safe and easy.

PJ and his marmot friend

One of my favorite parts about Wetterhorn is that there are no false summits. When you get through with the scramble you’re basically on the summit. After messing with a marmot and taking some photos we headed back down the ridge, to avoid any bad weather. Climbing up class 3 is often easier than climbing down, but really it just requires a lot of focus and some good route finding (not my specialty).  By the time we reached the car I felt exhausted from lack of sleep the previous night.

Down climbing

After Wetterhorn we packed up the car and headed towards Gunni Gorge. PJ took us over Engineer Pass a 4×4 road that goes to about 12,800′.

Andrew and I on the summit

We then went through the town of Silverton, Ouray and eventually to the Gunnison Gorge outside of Gunnison. The stories he told us about kayaking and skiing on the way were priceless.

The top of Engineer Pass with Wetterhorn in the background

By the time we reached the campsite I  just wanted to sleep. (I’m really no fun without sleep). We unloaded everything in the back of the camper that we needed for the next two days and then Andrew, Katrina and I went to bed. Meanwhile, PJ and his friend from Gunnison shuttled the car to the takeout and hiked an extremely heavy (100 pd) raft a mile down, to the put in, before getting any sleep.

The next day we organized all of our gear into waterproof containers and Katrina and I hiked down as much as we could while the boys took a couple of trips, carrying the oars and a full cooler. It took a while to get the raft set up and everything tied down but finally we were off. Down a beautiful canyon just outside of the Black Canyon, we fished and went through a few rapids until we found our campsite. The evening was relaxing and Andrew and PJ got some fishing in before it started to rain sending us to our tents for an early night.

The next morning was sunny and we headed down the river.

Andrew caught a fish!

We spent most of the time fishing, going over some small but technical rapids and enjoying the views. Eventually I was feeling a little more comfortable being in a raft and PJ convinced me to try oaring. I managed to get us stuck on a river bank.

This is not an easy job!

Near the end of the trip we stopped and got out and walked through this narrow valley, over rocks and a stream. The water was actually warm, unlike the rest of the river so it was a fun place to get in. Around this time the camera got wet, which was unfortunate, because we got to swim underneath two waterfalls in a natural pool made by the rocks. Beautiful!

We reached take out later in the afternoon then we had expected, but after everything was back in the truck, we still headed to the Black Canyon. The canyon was really intimidating to me, it’s steep and narrow and full of poison ivy. I can’t believe people climb there! I don’t think I’ll ever be that brave! From the beautiful Black Canyon we headed home. Using up every last hour (and then some) of our 4 day vacation, we had another amazing Colorado adventure!

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One thought on “Wetterhorn Peak and rafting the Gunnison Gorge

  1. Wow, Whitney, I can see why you love Colorado so much. Nothing to match it in Bradenton 😉

    I especially loved the 4th of July party on the peak.

    Love you lots,
    Aunt Carillon

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