| Wilson Group Ski in One Day
This is a cross-post from my thread on TGR. I wanted to add it here for you guys to enjoy as well!
Back in May OSki and I set out for our longest day in the mountains yet. Fresh off our adventure on North Maroon, we drove from Aspen to the San Juan mountains on Friday afternoon to attempt a triple summit day of the Wilson Group 14ers: El Diente, Mount Wilson, and Wilson Peak. We parked the car at snowline below the trailhead at 7:00PM and skinned in a couple of miles to set up camp.
Now when I say "set up camp" I mean that we rolled out our sleeping bags and napped under the stars for 3 hours before waking back up at 11:30PM to continue climbing. We had clear skies and a full moon lighting up the night and after a bite and a quick cup of coffee we were off towards the Rock of Ages saddle by 12:15AM.
The moon was so bright that when we reached the Rock of Ages saddle, we could see El Diente and Mount Wilson lit up across the valley. Unfortunately the moon would soon set so it was really nice to at least be able to get our bearings. We dropped down from the saddle and contoured around the basin before switching to crampons and starting the boot up to the summit of El Diente.
Most of the climbing up El Diente was done in complete darkness, so luckily it was a simple, yet tedious, foot-over-foot climb for 2,000 vertical feet. Just below the summit as the skies were starting to brighten we encountered some interesting mixed climbing followed by a very scary-looking traverse across a hanging snow shelf above large cliffs. I started to set a bootpack across the traverse but quickly found myself sinking crotch deep into soft powder snow. I quickly realized that this route wasn't going to work, so I retraced my steps and we continued up to the ridge to head across to the summit. This ridge required some scrambling and a couple of interesting moves with crampons on rock, but soon enough we reached the top of El Diente just after sunrise!
Putting away the crampons and switching to skis, OSki and I enjoyed the beautiful sunrise for a couple of minutes before getting back to the mission. After a short ski down the pitch from the summit, we arrived at the top a short 60 degree chute that led down to the scary traverse I turned back from on the climb. Carefully navigating the chute I got down to the traverse and carefully made my way across. OSki followed and we had soft spring snow down a steep but open slope back down towards the basin.
After skiing down from the summit of El Diente, OSki and I cut hard right, switched back into the crampons, and started the climb to the Mt. Wilson summit.
This year has been a pretty low snow year, especially in the San Juans. This meant that instead of a nice snow climb the whole way up, we had some technical mixed climbing and dry tooling to contend with. After our last couple of climbs, OSki and I have certainly gotten better and a lot more comfortable with using crampons and ice axes to climb on rock!
Getting through some tricky sections of climbing, we finally reached the summit ridge... or so we thought. OSki topped out first and I immediately heard some choice words from his mouth. Apparently the summit we were aiming for was a false summit, and the real summit of Mt. Wilson was a bit further back and higher on the ridge, out of sight when we started climbing.
We traversed across the ridge we were on for a bit and then crossed over onto the south side and downclimbed a bit to find a way up to the true summit. Scoping a route I thought went through, I quickly found myself stuck with my crampons on tiny ledges and the pick of my ice axe cammed in a tiny crack. I couldn't go up any further and I was too gripped to climb back down! Contemplating my life at this point I heard OSki yell that he found a route through to the summit. This snapped me back to reality and I very carefully climbed down and across to where he was. OSki's route up wasn't much easier though, and a couple of technical and excessively committing moves finally put us on the summit where we found and signed the register.
Because of the low snow year, skiing down the north face from the summit back down to Navajo Basin was not possible, so we dropped down a west-facing couloir for a couple of turns until we ran out of snow, downclimbed on some loose rocks to the saddle south of the peak, then skied down the east side from here until reaching the bottom of a couloir that led back to the northeast ridge of Mt. Wilson. We climbed up this couloir and over the ridge and from here we were able to ski back down to Navajo Basin. It sounds complicated, and it was very tiring, but it was the only way to ski this mountain right from the summit.
At this point it was 1:00PM. We were both pretty exhausted and it had already been a long day, but we had one more peak to go: Wilson Peak. We traversed back to Rock of Ages saddle after eating lunch, and started the scramble up the ridge to our final summit. Unfortunately, about 500 vertical feet from the summit, while navigating a technical rock section, OSki separated his shoulder and had to downclimb to me in utter pain. We tried to pop his shoulder back in place there on the side of the mountain, but it wasn't going in.
Our plan immediately changed to getting him off the mountain as quickly as possible and to a hospital. 5 hours later we were off the mountain and back at the car. 8 hours after dislocating his shoulder, the Montrose hospital staff popped it back in. OSki was in excruciating pain the entire time; hella respect to him for keeping his wits about and getting out quickly and efficiently. You can't keep a good man down though, and already we have plans to do some peak bagging in the Sawatch this weekend!