| Epic Adventure on Mt. Wilson!
Ok, this is my first trip report, and it includes some unnecessary details about all the things that made this trip a hell of an adventure, but here goes.
Our intent was to leave around noon on Saturday to drive to the Navajo Basin TH with enough time to backpack in to the lake and camp there. However, I had lent my sleeping bag to a friend the night before, which was a bad decision in retrospect, because this guy is pretty unorganized and forgetful. I spent about 2 hours trying to find him to get my bag back, and finally just called Joel (so_il_summit) to see if I could borrow his. Due to this little delay, we didn't get out of Gunnison until about 2:30pm on Saturday, and by the time we got to the trailhead, we only had about 2.5 hours of light left.
So we stopped about a mile short of the lake and set up camp just off the trail right as it was getting dark. My climbing partner (Matt) had forgot his headlamp so we only had mine, which complicated things a little, but we set up the tent, built a fire, and made some macaroni and cheese and hot chocolate before calling it a night. On top of a late start, and only having one headlamp, Matt's cell phone didn't have service, so now we were without an alarm clock. I wasn't terribly worried, because I figured I would wake up a few times during the night anyway, as our tent was on a slope.
We woke up around 5, made some oatmeal, and were hiking by about 6. We got to the lake at about 7am and continued up into the basin.
Looking back at the lake from the trail
I easily identified the hummocky-looking shoulder indicated in the route description and we left the trail and hiked up it. There is no cairn indicating where to leave the main trail, but it is pretty easy to identify; it's a lumpy little slope just right of the area that leads up to the saddle between Gladstone and Wilson.
Reaching the northeast shoulder
Soon, we reached the Navajo Glacier and skirted it to the right. There aren't many cairns along this part, and the few ones that we did see we didn't realize were there until we were practically on top of them. This part is easy class 1/2 hiking.
Navajo Glacier and part of Gladstone Peak
We were unsure of where to go up, as the route description says to go to the right before gaining the ridge, so we continued to skirt the glacier until we ran into a guy who was descending, who told us to go far to the right to a gully with some snow (which he pointed out) and ascend that gully to a notch and then climb the ridge to the left towards the Mt. Wilson summit.
View of Wilson Peak from the slopes of Mt. Wilson
The route description had mentioned a gully, so I figured that this guy's description was legit. We traversed across the slope to the right (west), which involved some treacherous crossings of LOOSE scree fields below several gullies that still had some snow. We crossed these as quickly as possible because a few rocks were coming down through the gullies so we didn't want to spend much time there. We reached a small gully where we reasoned the best way out would be to climb through a notch. I stayed down behind a rock (sort of) while Matt headed up, as the loose rock in the gully made it really unsafe for one of us to be climbing directly behind the other.
At one point, Matt knocked down a huge rock that I immediately realized was headed right for me. I knew I needed to get out of the way but the rocks on either side of me were loose, so I just jumped to the right and grabbed a solid, non-loose rock in front of me to steady myself. Unfortunately, a smaller rock that had been loosed above me in the midst of this big rock falling down smashed my left hand. I climbed up to where Matt was and we determined that my finger wasn't broken, just bruised, and we continued through the notch which put us at the gully described by the guy we had talked to earlier, just above the snowfield. The climbing in this gully was much easier and we soon gained the ridge.
However, we were nowhere near where we thought we were. Actually, we knew where we were but we didn't realize that this wasn't where we were supposed to be for the standard route. That gully had put us at the low point on the connecting ridge between Mt. Wilson and El Diente. We climbed up a fun class 3 section to our left (east) to reach a pretty narrow ridge from which we could clearly see the summit of Mt. Wilson. It was a lot farther off than we expected, but considering how far off-route from our intended route we were, this shouldn't have been surprising, in retrospect. Most of the moves on this ridge were not harder than class 3, but it drops off to forever on either side. A fall here WILL kill you.
The crux of our climb came at a point where we traversed around an overhanging block near the top of the ridge. I don't know if you're supposed to go further down to get around this, but I would definitely rate that move as class 4. I actually said out loud, "oh f***, I don't wanna die," during this part. After this, it generally got less technical, but there was a little more steep and sketchy down-climbing at the last section of the ridge (the notch right after the place labeled "narrow section" on Bill's route description.
After this, the climbing got a little easier – mostly class 3 with a few class 4 moves and it wasn't long before we were on the summit. Matt and I shared a Snickers bar and some summer sausage, took some pictures, and Matt yelled out "Wilson!" like in that movie with Tom Hanks where he's stranded on an island and has a volleyball that's named "Wilson."
Gladstone Peak w/ Mt. Sneffels in the background from the Mt. Wilson summit
Me on the summit of Mt. Wilson
We descended via the standard route, which was not bad at all compared to what we had just come up. There were a few cairns marking a trail down a gully which I can only guess is the gully indicated in the route description. The sun was pretty low in the sky by the time we got to the lake, and my knees and ankles were killing me.
Looking back up at Mt. Wilson's slopes on our way down
We got packed up and got out of camp right as it was getting dark, but the adventure was not over yet – the batteries on my headlamp were about to die so it wouldn't stay on unless I held the button down. So now we had a 2 and a half hour hike out ahead of us, in the dark, with virtually no light whatsoever. I'm not going to lie, that hike sucked.
It was 10:15 by the time we got back to the parking lot and we still had the 3.5 hour drive back to Gunnison ahead of us, which really sucked because I was tired as hell from a 16 hour day on the mountain and absolutely NOTHING was open along the drive from the parking lot to Montrose, so caffeinated beverages were not a readily available option.
But hey, we survived. And it definitely was an adventure.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):