| 14ers Jihad Week – El Diente/Mt. Wilson/Wilson Peak
14ers Jihad Week D4 – El Diente traverse to Mt. Wilson to Wilson Peak
Date: Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Team: CODave, TalusMonkey
TH: Navajo Lake
Day 3 and 4 of 14ers Jihad Week was to be an attack on the Wilson Group via Navajo Basin. Secretly, CODave and I hoped to rape all three mountains in one single day – but weather would determine the feasibility of that…
Late Monday morning we checked out of our hotel in Ouray and drove over to Telluride. Arriving in Telluride at about 1230 we spent a leisurely afternoon exploring downtown Telluride and riding the gondola up to Mountain Station. Ok, enough of that! We departed Telluride at about 1620 and headed for the Navajo Lake TH.
The 7.3 miles of dirt road from Hwy 145 to the Navajo Lake TH is well maintained and suitable for passenger cars. As we arrived at the TH at about 1715 it began to rain. We sat in the truck and waited…and waited…and waited… Finally, at about 1900, we took advantage of a brief lull to gear up and get on trail. Since this was high importance mission we packed light for up to two nights at Navajo Lake - my pack weighed 18.5 lbs and CODave‘s weighed about 28.5 lbs.
It rained lightly on us as we ascended toward Navajo Lake. There are two junctions along the route (one near the TH and one close to the lake). Always follow the sign to "Navajo Lake". Although the rain was very light, the grass and other plants growing along the trail were very wet. The entire trail is narrow singletrack and our pant legs, socks and boots quickly became saturated…
We reached the top of the trail (11,200+) at about 5 miles in 1.5 hours. We continued on down slightly toward the lake as darkness fell and began looking for a suitable (and sheltered) campsite. We chose to continue on the trail around the north side of the lake to the trees on the east side. There, we quickly located a nice site well sheltered by tall pines (N37deg 50m55.1s, W108deg 01m19.7s). We set up camp, hung out some wet socks and pants, and went to sleep.
Because of the short approach to the peaks from our high camp, there was no reason to get up at our normal time of 0200 (we did not want to route find up El Diente in the dark). During the night it rained more – dashing our hopes of having even somewhat dry clothes for the morning. So we slept in and got on trail at 0418.
The trail up the basin from the lake is class 1 and easy to follow in the dark. About 1.3 miles from camp we left the trail and headed a few hundred yards south in the basin to our target gully on El Diente's north side. Dawn light came just in time for us to select our route.
The climb up El Diente was steep and was covered in loose talus, scree and soggy sand/dirt – with water running down in many places. Whatever route we took was sparcely and poorly cairned. But we managed the loose climb to summit El Diente at 0800. After a brief break for snacks and photos we began the traverse to Mt. Wilson at 0820.
On the summit of El Diente (photo looking west):
From the east end of El Diente's summit descend along a cairned dirt trail on the south side of the ridge to Mt. Wilson. Although we started high on the ridge we eventually were driven down to this cairned trail. We followed the cairned trail down and below the Organ Pipes. Eventually the cairns lead us back up to the top of the ridge somewhere toward the middle of the traverse. At this point, the cairns became scarce and we could not locate a clear route to continue the traverse. So we stayed on the ridge for a while before coming to the gendarmes/towers toward Mt. Wilson. We descended south around these obstacles and climbed back up to Mt. Wilson from its SW side. We never dropped below about 14,000.
Early in the traverse (El Diente in back):
CODave on traverse (El Diente in back):
Getting close to Mt. Wilson on the traverse (El Diente in back):
We summited Mt. Wilson at 1045. The weather was holding but low clouds continued to drift through the area. We wasted little time and began our descent on the north side of Mt. Wilson at about 1100.
On the Mt. Wilson summit facing south:
The 100 feet of class 4 off the north side of the summit was basic class 4 with little exposure, I thought. Once we came through the gap onto the north face, we descended a steep but well traveled loose gully down along the west side of the snowfield. This eventually sloped off to a shallower grade and then reached another steep slope. I took a steep, almost cliff-like, line down and CODave stayed further west and found gentler terrain. I dropped down to a boulder field at about 12,900 and waited for CODave.
At the boulder field I revealed to CODave that I still wanted to make a run on Wilson Peak. I proposed a high traverse on talus around the east end of the basin – trying to maintain about 13,000 feet. So off we went – Wilson Peak was about 1.25 miles away – as the crow flies. It was about 1215.
View of Rock of Ages Saddle and the Gladstone/Wilson Peak ridge from the boulder field:
The traverse was on fairly solid talus and boulders – tiring for most, but a nice stroll for me. We never dropped below 12,750. As we neared the point between the Rock of Ages saddle and the Gladstone/Wilson Peak ridge we began an ascending traverse toward the SOUTH side of the point. There we crossed the saddle (about 13,300) at a large cairn and began ascending the ridge to Wilson Peak on the SE side of the ridge.
The route along the SE side of the ridge is well cairned but involves a few slightly exposed areas along steep rock just beyond the saddle. The route leads you up to a crossover notch near 13,800. On the NW side of the ridge we descended a few feet and then began a steep class 3-4 pitch to about 13,900. Then it's easy scrambling up to the summit to the NE. We made the summit at 1400 – three hours after leaving the summit of Mt. Wilson.
CODave and TalusMonkey on Wilson Peak – with Mt. Wilson in background on left and El Diente on right:
Ok, a few pictures and then an accelerated descent back to camp. From the saddle between Wilson Peak and Mt. Wilson we took a direct line on talus down to the upper basin to intersect the trail from the Rock of Ages saddle. We got to the campsite and packed our gear and marched back to the TH and the truck.
It was a 14 mile day but we managed to bag the whole group of 14ers with only about 5,000 feet of gain today and 1,800 from the TH to high camp at Navajo Lake the day before. We headed up toward Montrose looking forward to hot showers and soft mattresses at the hotel! We returned to the Front Range on Wednesday afternoon. CODave has to work on Thursday and Friday! I‘m regrouping and headed to the Elk Range on Thursday to hit the Bells and Capitol Fri-Sun...
Our descent route from Mt. Wilson and the beginning of the traverse to Wilson Peak:
The middle section of the traverse toward Wilson Peak:
The completion of the high traverse on the east end of Navajo Basin to the Gladstone/Wilson Peak saddle:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):