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 Peak(s):  El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
 Post Date:  08/26/2008 Modified: 08/30/2008
 Date Climbed:   08/22/2008
 Posted By:  uwe

 El Diente & Mt Wilson via Kilpacker   

Monique, Dean, Uwe

Trip Dates:
08/21/08 – 08/23/08

Trek Segments and Times:
Dawson's Route - Kilpacker Creek - 4.1.9, rated intermediate.
CoSp to Lizard Head Wilderness Kilpacker TH - @ 6.5 hrs
TH to Kilpacker Basin camp area below 1st waterfall - < 2 hrs
Camp to Summit RT - @ 12 hours (normal is 8 - 9 hours)
Pace - slow. El Diente - Mt Wilson Traverse - standard route.
(Use this route guide after you have reached the top of
the 'grey' gully
Rated Class 3, and most difficult - There are a few class 4
moves if you want them.
Camp to Mt Wilson summit RT via the traverse - @ 12 hrs.
Pace – slow.

Perfect all three days.
Hiked up/down El Diente without any wind.
A little breeze encountered on the traverse to Mt. Wilson, and some
afternoon clouds did roll in over the peak, but with no consequences.
Day temps in the 70's. Summit temps were in the upper 50's to low
60's. Evening temperatures were in the low to mid 40's.
Very nice.

Ground Conditions:
Trailhead to Kilpacker Basin Camp Area - Summer conditions.
A beautiful, gentle hike to a great camp area with a nice stream
nearby. Trail very easy to follow and gentle on the feet. Look for a
fork in the trail with signage about an hour or so in depending on your
pace. There is a sign for El Diente, with the trail going to the right. If
you go straight, you will wind up on the Navajo Basin trail. There is
one stream crossing requiring a walk across a log.

Camp to El Diente Summit – Summertime trail all the way to the top.
No snow! It is well carined. It is critical to not miss the left turn (N) after
reaching the right end of a cliff band – about 1.5 - 2 hours into the
hike. (@ GPS: N37.59.03.5; W108.99.11.3) It is here that you actually begin
to ascend the south slope trail towards El Diente. There are two cairns
on either side of the trail at this turn, and you will see cairns further up
as well. Dawson describes the route for summer above treeline as
heinous. I found it to be ok.

(If you were to miss this turn and continue west beyond this point,
you will pick up other cairns that will lead you further west along the
southern slope of the traverse and on to the southwest slope of
Mt. Wilson

You will eventually start climbing east (see picture).
As you continue your climb, you will eventually reach a 'grey' gully, and
start ascending north. At the top of it, look left to pick up the cairns
that will lead on to El Diente's summit.

Camp to South Slope to Traverse to Mt. Wilson Summit – Ditto as
above, except that when you reach the top of the 'grey' gully at around
13K, rather than hitting the well-worn trail to your left towards El
Diente, you will climb up to your right and pick up cairns that will lead
you along the traverse and up to the ridge. If you keep your eyes
open for cairns, you will have no trouble staying on route. The route description for the traverse to Mt. Wilson is dead on.

To return to the camp, you descend the summit pitch to the left gully.
As you descend the gully, look to your left, and upon reaching the first
gully to your left, begin your descent down it. It will lead you to the
bottom of the southwest corner of the basin. Simply follow a logical
line down the boulder and talus field. Continue working southeast until
you get to about 12,600' or so, and start heading due east. You should
start picking up carins to lead you back to the camp. Otherwise, just
stay high to the right, and continue east, until you hit the trail used to
climb El Diente.

Camping – Perfect. Below the first waterfall to the right of the trail
are several nice large camp areas that are within 200 ft of a stream.
The flora is fantastic and really creates a beautiful environment. The
stream plays its music for free all day and night. Sweet.

Overall Comments:
Another perfect trip with great companions. One of the highlights was
Monique's Surprise. Thanks to her generosity, good heart and
strong back, we had liquid refreshments for the 21 and older crowd.
She quietly hauled 6lbs + of extras to celebrate her first foray into the
San Juans. It just so happened that we met two fellows, Steve and
Mike, at the camp site. They were going to climb El Diente as well. It
was Steve's last one. So we able to extend the celebration.
Congratulations Steve. Congratulations to Mike, too

For El Diente, stay on route and do not miss the critical left turn
described above. If you do, you may get confused like we did,
continue straight and wind up doing some low 5th class climbing up
the steep rock face on the south slope in an attempt to gain the ridge.
(Think: 700 feet of sustained adrenaline pumped climbing.)

Really enjoyed the traverse to Mt. Wilson. Saw quite a few folks,
including someone who had done the other major traverses, and rated
this one as the easiest. I was disappointed to hear that. ☺

We did not hike up to Navajo Lake for our Wilson Peak attempt, opting
to pack out and hit the Silver Pick Trailhead. After arriving and seeing
no cars, several no trespass and we tow you signs, we left and tried
the Wilson Mesa alternative. The trail is not completed, but
supposedly available. Unfortunately for us, we were stopped when we
reached an impassable area for our vehicle. So at 22:30, we pulled
the plug. Dean put in a heroic all night drive to get us back to CoSp
at 04:30. Wilson Peak is saved for another day.

Bring your helmet, but leave the gaiters, crampons and ice axe at
home. The climbs are class 2 - 4, with exposure, especially the
traverse. So you need to be comfortable climbing rock. In my
humble opinion, rope is not really needed for these approaches.

If I had to do it again to snag all 3 peaks, I would go this way:
First, go to Navajo Basin for Wilson Peak and Mt Wilson.
Pack out to Kilpacker Basin camp area for El Diente.
You can do this in 3 to 4 days. 5 days would make it a mellow trip.
Forget the Silver Pick Basin approaches. Wait until 2009 when the
Wilson Mesa trail opens. If you are only looking for Mt. Wilson and El
Diente, using the Kilpacker approaches described above works. You
can cover this in a 2-3 day trip. 4 days would make it a mellow trip.

Thank you Dean and Monique for your company and making this a
great trip!

P.S. The flora was fantastic. But you can clearly see signs that fall is
approaching - hard to believe it is around the corner. So if you want
to see the last of the summer colors, you better hurry up!

Photo Journal:

On the Kilpacker trail heading towards the lower waterfall and camp area.

The lower waterfall just above the camp.

We started out at 5:15 and headed up the well worn trail for El Diente. After missing the left
turn and getting off-route, we made up for it by climbing this rock face/gully for @ 700 feet.

Looking up the same rock face/gully. My thought was next time, I will backtrack until I have
regained the trail.

We started moving into nicer sections, allowing Monique to smile, and Dean & I to relax.

View of El Diente from the ridge.

Congratulations Monique!

Congratulations Dean! El Diente is put to rest!

Descending El Diente, you get a nice view of the ridge leading to Mt. Wilson.

Next morning found Monique and I heading back up the El Diente route to connect
to the ridge for our traverse climb to Mt. Wilson.

A nice arrangement...I am hunting for the name.

Monique rounding a corner as we ascend up to the ridge.

On the ridge looking at Mt. Wilson.

Looking at Wilson Peak.

Two climbers descending Mt. Wilson.

Congratulations, Monique!

Down climbing the southwest gully to get back to camp.

Yes, I know. It is the millionth shot of our state flower.

A reminder that fall is ready to get some action in before winter rolls over everything.

Approaching Kilpacker TH. Another great adventure ends.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions (11)

Great report..     2011-02-04 17:22:15
That is definiely one of the more fun ridges I have traversed. Looks like you guys had a great hike. That is one incredible basin area. Congrats to all of you. It‘s good to see Monique smiling!



Nice chatting with you     2008-08-26 10:35:03
Met with you and Monique as you started down the sw gully. What a beautiful day it was!


Nice     2008-08-26 11:35:20
trip report and pictures Uwe. Congrats guys on Mount Wilson and El Diente. The sounds of the climbing you did up El Diente seems a little scary. I loved that traverse and glad you were able to do it with great weather. Monique packed up 6 lbs of goodies, wow I think I need join you on one of your hikes


an adventure ends, another begins     2008-08-26 11:41:51
never a lack of things to do in the San Juans, solid work on the traverse. El Diente is far from easy, anyway you approach it. Forget rankings, its a beast.

Some great shots of Kilpacker region in this report.


Impressive!     2008-08-26 15:51:12
Way to go! Uwe, how many more? You‘ve got to be CLOSE! Monique- it‘s good to see you back out there- and doing tough climbing at that! Congrats!


Now I‘m Depressed     2008-08-26 18:16:17
I was just getting over missing you guys at the fateful rendezvous point - and now this! Monique pulls a Clint Eastwood - even better - she carries it up herself! If only I was half the woman...

Really nice report, Uwe - very comprehensive and useful information! See‘ya soon in the San Juans, I‘m sure (how‘s that for high altitude alliteration?).

We‘ll miss you next-next weekend, Dean. Can I have your beer?


Tks One and All     2010-11-30 10:28:45
Yes, I thought Kilpacker Basin was beautiful, we had a great time indeed.
Ok grand806, I assume you were the gentleman with whom we reviewed the state of the gullies. The upper gully was indeed the one to take.
Rankings forgotten, and beast is a good term.
I'm close and have a decent shot at making my goal.
That was a hoot to discover you and Doug were there 5 hours earlier having an interesting conversation with Rusty. Sorry we missed it...Not!


Ok .. who told Susan ...     2008-08-26 20:22:02
about the six-pack I left in the truck?? Let‘s just say ... I had had enough ”air” by time we descended Mt Wilson!! But I am so ready for the next!! Susan .. they made me keep the six-pack .. it shall be returning for our climb!! But smiling ... oh yeah!!!


Hmmmm . . . . . .     2008-08-26 20:26:44
Hey Uwe,
that shot of ”our gully” makes it not look so bad .... hmmmm .. adrenaline pumping ... oh yeah!!

Kevin Baker

Kudos     2008-08-27 21:49:58
Very comprehensive report as always, Uwe! So when is the finisher on San Luis? I finished on 9/9/06 on San Luis, a great one to finish on with it‘s solitude. We had the summit to ourselves. I need to go back and do that El Diente/Wilson ridge run someday.


Sometime In September     2010-11-30 10:28:45
Yes, the ridge was a lot of fun. When I am finished, I will start poking around the 13'ers. With your great trip reports, I'll be able to follow in your footsteps on the easier ones. The tough ones, I'll armchair those. Getting kinda old I think.

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