| San Juan Splendor and my 99th Centennial
My friend Beau and I headed to the San Juans last weekend. Our goal was to climb the four peaks in the Wilson Group. I needed to climb Gladstone for my 100 highest list, while Beau needed to climb all the peaks. I would repeat the 14ers and we made an awesome traverse of the El Diente - Wilson ridge on Day 2. We also finally got to meet the Jamies, Chicago Transplant (Mike) and Barry Raven as well as say hi to San Juaneer and crash at his hiker hostel Sunday night (thanks Aaron!) Beau wrote this trip report elsewhere and I thought I‘d post it here as there is only one other account of Gladstone on this site. I added a few pictures.
Beau‘s trip report:
We had another great Labor Day weekend in the San Juans. Steve Knapp and I hightailed it outta town on Friday to get to the Navajo Lakes TH early in the AM. We took a 3 hour nap before hitting the trail with our packs at 7:30 am. The trail up was a nice pleasant trail with plenty of meadows along the way. The views were great from each one as long as blocked out the pain from hauling an insane pack. Steve tried to encourage me to get up there in a couple hours. I just laughed at him, this ain‘t a race, I‘ll get there when I get there. I hate BP and that last insane climb to the lake just fueled the fire for me anyway. Those last 3 switchbacks were laughing and taunting me to madness. Steve raced on ahead to get a good campsite, which he did with a good view of the lake too. I finally caught up at 11:15 am, nobody here, great!!
We rested for awhile and set up our camp, ate and set out for the days climb of Gladstone Peak. This was Steve‘s 99th of the Centennials and I was proud to be a part of it all, even though I was cursing my backpack. The pain we go through for our friends is truly amazing.
View of Gladstone from Navajo Lake:
We headed up the Navajo Lake Trail to the upper basin and got off the trail before it turned up to Wilson Peak. We walked across the very grassy basin here, much like a giant green sponge, felt good on my aching feet too. We looked at a shallow gully to the left of the basin that climbed up to a bench. Soon we were on the bench traversing up to a notch on the ridge when we got a few sprinkles. We were both thinking we might not make it today, but not saying it openly, not to jinx us. After a few more minutes the sprinkles stopped and we never saw rain again.
We were fooled into gaining the ridge, we actually climbed a rib and had to traverse a little to get to it. It was about 1 pm when we started up the long class 3 & 4 ridge. We had a good time climbing up, Steve up ahead about 100 feet. He was keeping an eye on me as was me on watching were he was going. It was a good scramble up on solid rock. I was in no hurry as it was now shaping up to be a great day.
Beau climbing to the Gladstone ridgeline:
The ridge was taking us a very long time though. At every opportunity, I was looking down the couloirs to see a good escape route. Finally seeing one about a 100 feet below the summit that ran almost down to the Navajo Glacier. I got to the summit at 3:00? The day still looked good and we started entertaining the thought of going for Wilson Peak. We knew the ridge was too time consuming to backtrack, so now the couloir I saw looked really good. We hit the trail at 3:35 pm and entered the couloir quickly, a small down climb of 10 feet put us in a nice wide couloir and we made short work of it and got on the glacier. We followed the glacier down into the basin and made the trail by 5:08 pm.
Lizard Head Peak from Gladstone summit:
Steve looked really strong but I was thinking I wanted to sleep in the cool grass instead. He tells me we got plenty of time, all we gotta do is get through the hard stuff before it gets dark and we got it made. We can do this, somewhat encouraged, I ate a bag of those Sport Beans and it was off to the races Cher! (that‘s Baby in Cajun French). We got to the saddle at 5:40 pm and kept on going, we didn‘t stop at the mine to take pictures, wink, wink.
Wilson Peak from Gladstone:
We climbed on the traverse in the Bilk Basin side and made the notch, nice little down climb here and made the summit at 6:45 pm. Wow, the summit was a wreck. A nice plaque memorial was dedicated to the unfortunate souls who died here last September. The engine was right on the ridge near the top and sheet metal was strewn about the south slope. Very somber moment for us as we surveyed the scene, climbing the 14ers seems trivial.
Memorial plaque for the crash victims:
We took a summit photo this time. We forgot on the top of Gladstone. When you are tired those little small details seem to slip away. We missed our opportunity to record Steve‘s 99th. We had plenty of daylight left and we carefully made our way back to the Rock of Ages saddle by 7:38 pm?
We met two men coming up to the saddle as we headed down, they said they came from Silver Pick Basin, we didn‘t press them for more info and let them continue. We got down to the basin by 8 pm and were walking in total darkness by 9 pm. We got out the headlamps, but walking in the dark was murder, we must have tripped on every stinking rock on the trail. With no way to see your progress on the trail, I was thinking does this s**t ever end.
As we neared the lake we could see the headlamps buzzing around like fireflys. It was the only reference point we had to measure our progress so far. I was never into navigating by the stars anyway. I was relieved to see the end was near, but disappointed we now had so many neighbors in the hood. I almost accidentally walked to the wrong tent it was so dark.
When we got to our camp we just dropped everthing, I think it was 10 pm. Steve started cooking his meal , but I was so tired I didn‘t want to eat at all. I staggered to get up to go filter some water and struggled finding the creek even with the headlamp. It took every once of my being to pump that water and the 30 foot climb to the camp felt like climbing up a 14er. My chicken noodle soup looked nasty and had to make myself eat it. I knew I needed it for tomorrow but I didn‘t care and ended up burying it, which meant I had to walk several dozen yards away when I didn‘t want to walk several dozen feet.
I finally fell into my tent and pried myself into my bag, but before I could fall asleep I found the strength to turn on my camera to review the days work. Boy, we really had a good day after all. That was day one.