| El Diente and Mount Wilson
Paul and I left Carbondale about quarter after one on Friday afternoon. We started up the Navajo Lake trail about quarter till 8pm. Roach's 1996 and 99 version differ slightly on the directions to the trailhead, strangely the 96 version is correct and the 99 version incorrect. The 99 version calls for a sharp left instead of a sharp right at mile 7.2 on the Dunton Road. The trailhead is well marked with a sign off of the Dunton Road.
The start of the hike up to Navajo Lake is a stroll through pleasant meadows and across a finely crafted bridge over the creek. The columbines are starting to bloom near the Navajo Lake trailhead. It is always an auspicious sign when you get to see a bear on the hike in. This little guy was a little curious about us, but his fear of humans was greater and he ambled off.
The only unpleasant portion of the trail switchbacks up around the waterfall through a shale hillside and is a little steep and slippery. It looked very hot for the hikers ascending Sunday afternoon and could be treacherous during rain. We set up camp near Navajo Lake about 10 pm.
Saturday morning we started from camp about 6 am. Three other climbers were in a couilliar west of the route described in Roach. We took Roach's El Diente north face route and put on crampons at about 12,200. The snow was good until about 13,000 where rotten snow resulted in postholing and progress became difficult. We scrambled onto rock and climbed the Class 3 and 4 rock up to the ridge. The route finding wasn't simple and the going was slow. We finally reached El Diente's summit at about 10am.
Image #2 (not yet uploaded)
The weather still looked good, so we started across the ridge towards Mt. Wilson.
There were a few sections of snow to cross but most of the ridge was dry.
One of the issues of climbing with a rock climber is they tend to drastically underestimate the difficulty of what they are doing. I don't know what Paul was thinking here, but being the mountain goat he is, I was too far behind to tell him he was off route!
He free climbed this and made it look easy. I made him belay me up this section! We did manage to avoid the 200 foot descent around this obstacle.
Image #6 (not yet uploaded)
After two hours on the ridge we were at the point described as the 14,060 foot saddle in the route description. Unfortunately, the weather had turned and we were forced off the ridge by an electrical storm accompanied by snow (grapple). We descended the steep gully and retreated back to camp.
The weather cleared up about 5 pm and the view up the Navajo Basin from the lake is spectacular. Gladstone is the peak in the photo.
Thinking that it might be reasonable to summit Mount Wilson and Wilson Peak in one day, we left camp about 3:15am on Sunday morning. The wind howled fiercely from about 4 to 5am. When the sun came out, it revealed a large avalanche on the north face of the ridge Mount Wilson-El Diente ridge. The avalanche likely occurred around 2 to 3pm during the snow and rain.
The avalanche was massive and it was in the location of our descent off of the ridge the previous day! The slab appeared to be close to 3 feet in places and it carried quite a bit of snow all the way into the valley. It started near the top of the Mount Wilson - El Diente ridge (about 13,700) and lower slabs looked like they broke off down as low as about 12,500!
We took the standard route on Mount Wilson making the assumption that the more easterly aspects in the early morning hours were safe. The standard route up Mount Wilson is almost continuous snow to the class 4 summit pitch. The snow is very steep in the gulleys, I estimated 45 degrees or slightly higher. The majority of the snow was hard and even icy in places. Unfortunately there were also areas, primarily near rocks, that was rotten and I stepped in up to my waste too many times! At the summit of Mount Wilson I determined I didn't have the energy to make it over to Wilson Peak.
The route up Wilson Peak still has quite a bit of snow. I believe the route wraps around the north side near the summit, not seen from Mount Wilson. North is on the left in this photo from Mount Wilson. I didn't feel up to the class 4 climbing with the possibility of mixed snow and rock on the north side. I descended down to camp and we packed up and headed out. Ironically, the sky was clear well into the afternoon on Sunday. The 20 percent chance of thunderstorms happened to hit on Saturday. Well, 2 out of 3 isn't bad for the weekend.
This leaves me one summit, Wilson Peak, shy of touching all the 14ers. I expect to try her from the Silver Pick trailhead later this summer.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):