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 Peak(s):  Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
 Post Date:  07/12/2005 Modified: 04/23/2008
 Date Climbed:   04/23/2008
 Posted By:  ColoradoScott

 July 10, 2005 Mt. Wilson to El Diente   

14ers.com matched me up with a fellow climber, doumall, and we drove to the Navajo Lake TH on Friday 7/8/05. We backpacked into the lake area, covering the five miles in three hours. I wasn‘t feeling well and had already climbed Wilson Peak, so my new friend soloed it on an easy climb on Saturday, reaching the summit before 9:00 am. On Sunday we woke with the first light and made our way up the trail into the higher basin. Two parties were ahead of us: one taking the North Rib most of the way up, and a pair of skiers heading up the snow couloir that reaches the first saddle just west of the notch on Mt. Wilson‘s ridge toward El Diente. As we climbed higher we also noticed two people ascending El Diente‘s north face route. We started up the rocky ridge route, but when we reached the first snow (at about 13,000) we left the rib and traversed up the snowfield to a second rib. The snow started at 35 degrees and was about 42 degrees when we reached the second rock rib. We rested and then tackled the next, now steeper snow filled couloir that leads directly to the notch on Wilson‘s north ridge. Near the top this couloir reached 52 degrees, but the snow was firm, our axes providing solid belay points and our crampons kicking solidly into the perfect snow. Upon reaching the notch, we unstrapped our crampons and climbed to the summit, arriving at 11:00 a.m. The scramble to the top was airy, but not as hard or loose as I expected.

After descending back to the notch, we followed the skiers back to their saddle and watched them make graceful turns down the couloir they had ascended. We continued on the ridge traverse over to El Diente. Although there were a few exit routes to the north, given the snow conditions, the weather was perfect and we easily found our way to El Diente‘s summit in three hours. Again, this traverse was easier than I expected, with cairns marking the downclimb sections along the route, and other route-finding issues easily overcome. There was exciting exposure at times on the ridge, but generally it was quite solid.

Upon returning to the El Diente north face route, we downclimbed a few hundred feet on rock, and then attempted to descend on snow. Unfortunately, we got on a steep snow slope that had rotten soft snow conditions, and was only 18" deep over rocks. I attempted a plunge-step to test the snow, but my crampon went completely thru the snow and slid out from under me when it hit the icy rock underneath. I immediately went into self-arrest, but in the soft snow my axe didn‘t bite. I had to stop myself, knowing that there were rocks under my fall line, so I tried to slow myself with my crampons. One of them caught the edge of a rock and I flipped onto my back, while much of the snow was going down with me. I rolled back into arrest position, more aggressively now and finally came to a stop after an uncontrolled slide of 100 feet. I had stopped less than ten feet from rocks that provided a ten foot drop onto more rocks! Whew!!! I stood up, and although winded, yelled to my partner that I was ok except for some bleeding lacerations on top of my left hand (both of us had forgotton to don our gloves before descending this snow slope). I told him to be careful (duh!) while I mended my wounds. Although nervous after witnessing my slide, he carefully found his way down to me without incident.

Given the unconsolidated snow conditions, and concerns of further slips, we then scrambled down a rock rib, traversed over snow to a second rock rib and finally getting a thousand feet down before we were now brave enough to venture onto the snow again, this time at a much less steep angle, with a clean runout at the bottom. We glissaded this remaining five hundred feet to the valley floor, and then hiked down to the camp exhausted, but happy and relieved, from the day.

 


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