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 Peak(s):  Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
 Post Date:  04/30/2009 Modified: 12/03/2009
 Date Climbed:   04/27/2009
 Posted By:  doumall

 Getting it Right in the San Juans   

A Daytrip: Ski Descents of El Diente, Mt Wilson and Wilson Peak

Crew: Jordan White, Joe Brannan

Snowmobile up Sliver Pick Road to 10,400'
Skin to Rock of Ages Saddle
Ski to base of El Diente North Face and climb to Summit
El Diente Direct Summit Ski, Mahogany Couloir into Upper Killpacker
Climb of Mt Wilson via West Couloir
Mt Wilson Direct Summit Ski via SE ridge, East Couloir and North Face
Climb of Wilson Peak from upper Navaho Basin
Direct Summit Ski of Wilson Peak via Coors (NE) Face


Why we climb:

Photo: Jordan White

After an easy tow, Jordan, Caleb (RoanMntMan) and I skinned up through moderate winds and light snow to the Rock of Ages Saddle. A light cloud cover clung to the high peaks, delaying a snowpack meltdown. Another dust storm hit the San Juans a few nights earlier, making more dust storms than you can count on two hands for the year. The snowpack will suffer. Luckily, today some fresh bright white snow covered maybe 40% of the surface, reflecting at the speed of light. Our plan to get all three peaks would have to be accomplished by focusing on one peak at a time. We expected to have 3 bootpackers as well, however, a cold got the best of Caleb and he headed home. Jordan and I would have to make track with only two. The task seemed insurmountable.

Looking back down Silver Pick Basin:

Photo: Joe Brannan

The boot up El Diente was long. Boot steps were consistently shin deep and secure so we just used our poles here. Trading leads, we made decent time up to the rugged ridgeline.

Climbing El Diente's North Face:



Photos: Jordan White






Photos: Joe Brannan

After a bit of interesting mixed climbing…

Photo: Jordan White

…we hit the ridgeline, where the real difficulties began. We opted to climb the ridge direct. The ledge used for the standard summer route looked unclimbable in the current snow conditions. The snowpack on this upper north side of El Diente was still very wintery. Getting out on that ledge without a rope and protection in its current condition would have been suicidal.

Jordan traverses around a difficulty in the ridge:

Photo: Joe Brannan

He then climbed up some steep snow covered rock back to the ridgeline.

Sugar snow rock climbing:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Here are a few pics of me coming up this. Note the tip of my ski in the first one. It was steep, loose and exposed.

Entertaining climbing:



Photo: Jordan White

A steep downclimb and traverse above the Mahogany Couloir was next.

Jordan downclimbs around difficulties on the ridgeline:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Hanging it out there:

Photo: Jordan White

The ridge is short, a good route in these conditions.

Finishing the ridgeline climb:

Photo: Jordan White

We hit the snowcapped summit in good style and quickly prepped for the ski descent.

Straight from the top!



Photos: Jordan White

Jordan off the top, for the second time:

Photo: Joe Brannan

We sidestepped up a bit to get to the top of the Mahogany Couloir:

Photo: Jordan White

Then skied 50 degree corn down to the very top of the icefall.

Joe Skiing the Mahogany:



Photos: Jordan White

Jordan getting his:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Making a transition from skis to crampons on mid 50 degree terrain takes some careful planning. Jordan took firsts on the downclimb, surprise surprise.

Jordan down climbs the first icefall.

Photo: Joe Brannan

The ice was thin out right, which was Jordan's favored route. I took a line through thicker ice slightly climbers left. I really enjoyed myself here. The second icefall was shorter but a bit overhanging. Good times!

Jordan:

Photo: Joe Brannan

My turn:

Photo: Jordan White

Getting the sticks back on the feet, we had wonderful corn snow to ski over toward Mt Wilson.

Jordan:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Skiing below the difficulties, one peak in the bag:

Photo: Jordan White

Nice turns in an amazing setting:

Photo: Joe Brannan

The Mahogany Couloir, El Diente Peak, Colorado

Photo: Joe Brannan

I scoped this ski link between the Tooth and Mt Wilson during a summer climb two years ago with my Fiancée Debbie. A guy almost took us out sending rocks down on us from above as we descended the West couloir. I wanted to climb back up there and strangle him after his "oh well" reaction. This day, I wouldn't have to worry about hoards of careless climbers; it was just Jordan and I for miles.

The skin up to the base of Mt Wilson's West face was quick. A cool breeze was greatly appreciated.

Skiing up to Mt Wilson:

Photo: Jordan White

Jordan:

Photo: Joe Brannan

The booting conditions in the couloir were optimal.

Mt Wilson West Couloir:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Jordan took the lead all the way to the notch. Crampons weren't needed, just a whippet, ice axe and step after sweet step.

Jordan traversing into the couloir:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Climbing Mt Wilson's West Couloir:

Photo: Jordan White

At this point, we started to feel like the triple banger might happen today. The snow was staying cool and we still felt pretty strong. Smile!

Topping out in the notch:

Photo: Jordan White

The upper east face, the terrain used by Frank Konsella and Chris Davenport's crew to ski direct from the summit looked dicey!

Photo: Joe Brannan

We headed up with the skis to get a closer look. Our choice was the ridge direct line, which offers some brief rock moves over 100' cliffs. What a blast!

A super fun scramble:





Photo: Jordan White

The traverse:

Photo: Joe Brannan

After previewing the East Face, it was clear the ski was not in condition. Instead of consolidated spring snow it was thin wintery powder over rock slabs. There was no option for a duck walk or leap of faith. Not giving up on it, we searched all sides of the summit for another option and the determination payed off. Snow from the summit stretched down the SE ridge to a small snowfield above a scree chute. We could make several turns and then hop down onto the top of a south facing couloir. Hot lunch was served and we clicked in:

Joe from the summit:

Photo: Jordan White

Jordan, getting an elusive Mt Wilson summit ski:





Photo: Joe Brannan

Like I said, a few turns from the summit:

Photo: Jordan White

We had to click out for a 15' downclimb into the top of the couloir.

Photo: Joe Brannan

This couloir provided some of the best turns on the day. A great day this was becoming.

Jordan heading east from the Summit of Mt Wilson:



Photos: Joe Brannan

My turn:



Photos: Jordan White

After a few hundred vertical, we booted back up to the top of the north face over interesting dust affected snow.

Dust Ice Lens:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Joe on the way back up to the north face:

Photo: Jordan White

We carried our skis up to the highest ski able snow along the saddle to make sure we skied the entire vertical on this mountain. We definitely put the sticks back on at a higher elevation than we took them off on the other side of the summit. The standard for this mountain is still a bit unclear as far as a legitimate ski descent. Today, we may have added a bit more clarity, or perhaps more ambiguity to this feat.

Trying to get it right:

Photo: Jordan

Enough of the ethic stuff, onto the best skiing of the day.

Jordan picking his way down onto the north face:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Then he absolutely ripped this amazing snow:






Photos: Joe Brannan

My turns:







Photos: Jordan White

Tracks:

Photo: Jordan White

After some refueling, we began the skin up to the Wilson Peak, Gladstone Saddle:

Photo: Jordan White

I was a bit concerned with the snow quality on this last leg of our trip. We had to ascend a lot of south and east facing terrain late in the day. Each step I took, I reevaluated the choice we were making to go after the last challenge. Fortunately, there were no new roller balls and the snow below the ice lens was firm. Getting it right in the mountains feels so good.

Jordan on the final skin of the day:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Joe motivated:

Photo: Jordan White

Turning the corner, Jordan began plowing a highway for me to follow up to the ridge around the difficulties. There was a nasty old boot pack which helped a little, but not much. The snow here was pretty bad but behaving as far as staying put.

Turning the corner, Mt Wilson behind:

Photo: Jordan White

On to Wilson Peak:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Jordan wasn't done; he kept on charging to the summit. I sometimes wonder if he is a Terminator under all that pasty white flesh and blond hair.

Jordan leads to boot.

Photo: Joe Brannan

This ridge is much more aesthetically pleasing to the eye with cornices than in the summer when it's a scree slog.

El Diente observes silly men:



Photos: Jordan White

Trying to catch Jordan:

Photo: Joe Brannan

The notch crux downclimb held wintery snow.

Photo: Joe Brannan

The upclimb was spring slop:

Photo: Jordan White

I finally caught up to him, but only because he found a dead end. I took the opportunity to restore some pride and led the rest of the way to the summit from the bottom of the notch.

Finally, no more climbing, right?

Photo: Jordan White

We ate some more hot soup and geared up for a sunset ski of a ski mountaineering test piece. The northeast face of Wilson Peak is a serious ski.

Off the top:

Photo: Jordan White


Photo: Joe Brannan

There are two main couloirs which go through the upper face. We used the more northern option by first heading down the north ridge.

Jordan heading down the north ridge entrance to the face:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Turns straight off the summit, again!

Photo: Jordan White

The terrain to get into the couloir is freakishly steep, mid 50s.

Photo: Jordan White

Jump turns commenced in the tight upper couloir:

Photo: Joe Brannan

The terrain remained steep for a while:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Sneffels Range:

Photo: Joe Brannan

The snow was pretty bad on one turn, then great on the next. Aim for the dirt!



Photos: Jordan White

Sunset accompanied our final turns on the face:



Photos: Jordan White


Photo: Joe Brannan

Our first shot at getting off the route cliffed out, so we had to traverse skier's right as spindrift avalanches came off the face above.

Photo: Joe Brannan

We found an exit:

Photo: Joe Brannan

With the gnarly face behind us:

Photo: Joe Brannan

We headed for the barn:

Photo: Joe Brannan

The day completed 16 hours after it started. The last of the hard peaks are behind me now, I feel like I am coasting to the finish line.

Jordan's TRs can be found on his blog:
www.elksandbeyond.com

 


  • Comments or Questions (17)
RoanMtnMan


Killed it!     2011-02-04 17:22:15
After seeing the pics it makes me even more disappointed or maybe not. I was in about my fourth hour of truck bed snooze when this was taken.


The most remarkable thing is what you guys did the previous 2 days before this climb. Don‘t know where the energy comes from. Respect and congrats. A better TR than Cap I think.


lordhelmut


Just when you thought     2010-11-30 10:28:46
it couldn't get any better. I too agree this report beats Capitol. Technical difficulties aside, some trippy Beta Band music just so happened to be playing in the background as I read this and I had to pinch myself to remind me I'm not dreaming. Absolutely incredible, wish I had your drive or atleast your endurance. Our group last week climbed nearly 9,000 feet or so of vert and didn‘t summit crap at Holy Cross, you guys do 7500 and ski off 3 badass peaks. Holy s**t is all I can say.


geoffirons


Spectacular     2009-05-01 06:59:14
Stunning. Exceptional climbing, skiing, photography and TR.
Thanks for the thrills.


scotthsu


you guys are     2009-05-01 07:35:46
both Terminators and continue to impress in the style of your climbs and ski descents. Best of luck to both of you getting to the finish line.


maverick_manley


I second scottshu...     2009-05-01 09:29:14
I wouldn‘t worry too much about El Diente‘s judgment. I doubt he has climbed and skiied any 14ers.


Chicago Transplant


Quite a week     2009-05-01 10:14:17
You guys had quite a week! I hadn‘t seen any TR from you guys for a while and then WHAM! The Crestones and Wilsons all within a few days of each other, glad they were all in such great condition for you guys. Not much left to finish now!


fox_inthesnow


EPIC     2009-05-01 10:42:59
That was amazing guys. Thanks for taking me to another place for 1/2 hour, i don‘t wan‘t to work anyway


KrazyK


WOW, top notch!     2009-05-01 10:57:15
You guys have been absolutely killing it this year! Thanks for providing another thrilling TR for us mortals! I love the sunset shots, must have been surreal descending as the sun went down. Best of luck to you two on your remaining 14er ski descents.


bckcntryskr


Legs of steel     2009-05-01 12:57:54
Thats a pile of climbing. Great work and inspiring effort.


TylerStorm


Absolutely Breathtaking!     2009-05-01 14:09:16
Just...........AMAZING!!!!


BillMiddlebrook


Awesome.     2009-05-01 20:41:10
WTF - I get home from skiing La Plata today and think I had a good day in the mountains, then I see THESE TRIP REPORTS. Holy crap you have some serious stamina.

Joe and Jordan, you guys are amazing.


susanjoypaul


Life as art     2010-11-30 10:28:46
The peaks, the pics, the stories – the pure physicality of what you guys are doing. I'm just not so impressed with the Olympics anymore, or the Oscars, or the Grammys. You went and spun your passion into a day that blows it all away – again. May we all have just one day – doing something, somewhere – as good as this.


SchralpTheGnar


strong effort     2009-05-03 13:32:13
solid effort, what‘s it like skiing on that snow with all that dust? It sure looks different but does it ski different?


Congrats on getting the hard ones out of the way but don‘t let your guard down cruising to the finish line!


MountainHiker


Amazing Stuff     2009-05-04 17:13:58
I enjoy these trip reports. This is a challenging group in the summer. To ski them is awesome.


hippitahoppita


good lord     2009-05-06 12:07:56
you guys are ridiculous. I mean seriously ridiculous.


Easy Rider


F     2009-05-07 21:47:05
KNA


stairwayto14er

Truly a wet dream!     2009-06-08 21:56:03
Wicked!



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