| Wilson Peak - NW face
Route: Wilson Peak, NW face, Silver Pick Basin
Elevation Gained: ~4,000-ft
Roundtrip Mileage: ~8-mi
Group: Scott (scotthsu) & Amy (Nice Axe!)
Andy & Sarah (CincyBearcats)
Nina (our pawed companion)
(Though Sarah and I have been working on our 14er checklist for a couple of years now, this is the first trip we've done that's FINALLY been worthy of a trip report. However, I must admit that, by writing this trip report, I am merely stealing Scott and Amy's thunder. This route was well beyond our comfort range, and we never would have been able to do the final push to the summit without their guidance. Their coaching inspired confidence when it was all but gone.)
After dinner in Telluride, we drove up the road towards the Silver Pick Trailhead on Saturday evening. We were stopped by the snow around 9,700-ft, which was just over half a mile shy of the summer trailhead. Before we retired for the night, we were treated to a spectacular sunset.
(Wilson Peak doused in alpenglow)
The following morning, we started skinning up the remainder of the Silver Pick road around 5:15 AM. About an hour later we arrived at the summer trailhead, and we reached the second gate on the road around 6:45 AM.
(Coming out of the trees into Silver Pick Basin)
Once we reached the private property line, we left the road and veered east up onto the hillside in an effort to avoid trespassing. We then traversed along the hillside until we fell into stride with Big Bear Creek. We then continued farther up into the basin, and Wilson Peak quickly came into view. From this point, we picked our way safely through the avalanche terrain up into the successive bowls below the face. With careful route-finding and switch-backing, we were able to stay on gentle slope angles that our skins could handle.
(Our first glimpse of the NW face)
(Looking back on the NW face after our descent)
After picking our way up through the highest bowl, we worked our way across the bench and onto the base of the NW face. At this point, we switched from skins to crampons. There was over a foot of fresh wintry powder on the lower slopes of the face from the recent storm. The fresh snow had little cohesion, reducing the potential for a slab, and the bed surface was stable. Scott took the lead and laid down an amazing snow staircase. Only an escalator could have beat his boot pack. The slope on the open face was sustained around 40-deg.
(The end of the skinning)
(After our descent, looking back up the boot line towards the summit gully)
(Scott takes a well deserved break to pose with Sarah and Nina. The summit gully is just over Sarah's left shoulder.)
Once we reached the top of the open face, we entered a deep, narrow gully that led to the summit. Near the entrance, the slope steepened to 45-deg. The wintry powder slowly transitioned to a hardened crust that could be penetrated only by the front points of our crampons. Amy took the reins at this point and led us to the end of the snow line. The slope continued to steepen a few more degrees until, much to our dismay, the snow ended at a rocky face a few hundred feet below the summit. We conceded that a proper summit ski descent would have to wait for another day. Instead, we faced a few spicey moves to get off the snow and onto the summit ridge. The climbing was sustained class 3 for a few dozen feet, but it wasn't much fun with ski boots. A few sweaty palms and knocking knees later, we found ourselves on the summit ridge just a few yards from the summit proper. We were standing on the top of our world by 12:30 PM.
(Andy and Nina take a breather while perched just above the entrance to the summit gully.)
(Amy leads the way up the summit gully, and Sarah follows suit. The headwall is just to the right of Amy at the highest point in the snow.)
(The end of the line.)
(Andy approaches the headwall of the summit gully)
(Looking down the lower portion of the headwall, Nina ponders the advantages of four-paw-drive over the opposable thumb.)
(Amy makes her way off the headwall from the gully and onto the summit ridge)
(Nina attentively awaits as Andy and Sarah push through the final few steps to the summit)
(Scott and Amy are all smiles on a fantabulous summit.)
(Andy and Sarah pose on the summit while Nina has a rare camera-shy moment.)
(Mt. Wilson and El Diente draped in white glory)
Although a few choice words resounded from the steep face on a few occasions, the descent from the summit back to the opening of the summit gully passed without incident. With the rocky, icy down-climb behind us, I issued a bellowing sigh of relief. From there, we got down to business: sucking down as much wintry powder as we could hound on a gorgeous May day. After a short break in the shade along the road to cool off, we arrived back at the car at 3:15 PM, capping off a splendid ski descent.
(Scott beats the slope into submission with all the tele style of a rock star.)
(Amy opens the throttle and lays down her line.)
(Andy, Nina, Sarah, and Amy tear up the spring corn in the lower reaches of Silver Pick Basin)
Thanks again to Scott and Amy for taking us to the next level in our 14er quest. They were patient and encouraging every step of the way.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):