(G & M: #514)
Dwarfed by its 14er neighbor, Uncompahgre Peak, UN 13,158 is an oft ignored 13er located SE of the 14er. Though the narrow summit ridge looks imposing, the Climb is a fairly simple Class 2. Vehicle access to the Nellie Creek/Uncompahgre Peak trailhead is best obtained with a 4WD that has decent clearance. It's a fairly long drive up Nellie Creek to reach the trailhead. While UN 13,158 can be easily paired up with UN 13,106 and UN 13,091, we are treating it as a stand-alone summit here.
UN 13,158 NW Ridge Route
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Nellie Ck - Uncompahgre Peak:
Directions begin from Lake City. From Gunnison, go west on SH50 to the intersection near the beginning of Blue Mesa Reservoir with SH149 and turn south. From Montrose, drive east on SH50 to the east end of Blue Mesa Reservoir for the same turnoff on SH149. Drive west and south on 149 to Lake City, just over 45 miles from the previous intersection. Once in Lake City, watch for either 3rd or 2nd street. Turning west on either will take you to Bluff St. in two blocks and a left turn (south). 2nd St. is considered the "official" access to CR20 which heads west following Henson Creek, but if you take 3rd St., it passes by a nice city park with restroom and picnic tables for those who need a break before proceeding further.
Once on CR20 (on the Gunnison National Forest map this is labelled as BLM3303), drive 5.2 miles to the turnoff for Nellie Creek which is signed and turns off to the north (FR877). Coordinates are: N 38° 01' 13.88" W 107° 24' 02.68". Standard clearance passenger vehicles should not attempt to go up this road. A short distance up the Nellie Creek road is some camping, (several possible sites) but camping is not permitted along CR20 in this section of the road. To proceed further up the Nellie Creek road, a minimum stock 4WD is best to have. The road starts out kind of rough and with potholes as it passes the initial campsites and then improves in a relative sense. While rocky in stretches, there are never any difficult places up to the creek crossing. Along this stretch there are a couple other campsites right off the side of the road. In 2.0 miles, the road crosses from the east to the west side of Nellie Creek, then climbs a steep switchback and continues generally north. In another .4 mile, it makes a hard left while another road veers off to the right. This older road gives access to Crystal Peak. In another mile, the road to the trailhead begins to level out in an open meadow. From the meadow it's another .8 mile to the trailhead from there for overall mileage of about 4 from CR20. Plan on this drive taking a minimum half hour or longer depending on how much you want to rattle your vehicle.
The parking area and vicinity at the trailhead offers some primitive campsites but the ground here is not very level, so the best campsites are about a quarter mile back in the trees where there are several good sites. There's also good opportunities back in the long, wide open meadow. On summer weekends, expect the trailhead to be crowded and camp sites more difficult to find. Since Uncompahgre Peak is the 6th highest 14er, it attracts a lot of attention.
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 2003
From the trailhead on Nellie Creek, hike up the Uncompahgre Peak trail to about the 12,000 foot level. The main branch of Nellie Creek will be flowing west to east here and the trail will be on the north side of the creek. Depart the trail and head across tundra in a relatively flat basin hiking SW and aiming for a saddle/break that's on the summit ridge of UN13,158 and NW of the summit. The dramatic cliffs on the NE side of this peak along with the narrow appearing summit ridge may cause some concern, but keep heading toward the saddle. The last 200 feet to the saddle will be steep but nothing technical. Once on the ridge, follow the rocky and somewhat airily exposed ridge SE to the summit, taking care not to fall off on the cliff side. The rock is loose at times.
The summit offers a view of two very large basins on either side. The view to the WSW will include Broken Hill, while the Wetterhorn/Matterhorn group will also be visible. And of course, Uncompahgre Peak will dominate the scene. For the return, simple retrace your ascent route or continue on over to UN 13,106 and UN 13,091, both being easy hikes from here. You may want to avoid dropping into the more chasm like section of the main branch of Nellie Creek.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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"It's not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit." J.R.R.Tolkien