| Organ Pipe Detour & The Northwest Couloir
El Diente Peak
Organ Pipe Detour & The Northwest Couloir
El Diente is knd of a question mark. The snow routes are obscured from one direction to the other. Honestly the Davenport ledge scares me, and the Mahogany Couloir, though manageable, complicates things by committing to the return over Mt. Wilson, especially when dealing with shifty weather and a marginal snowpack, a bad dynamic when solo. The north face routes are the plumb routes, but descriptions of more than one rappel made these seem doubtful too. Google Earth shows a nice line. My visualization problems are basically due to a lack of any other firsthand view of the mountain except the Rock of Ages saddle. I probably should have used more of the beta that is out there, but I sometimes enjoy the sense of discovery from just trying to work it out.
El Diente in the summer monsoon season gave me a healthy respect for the weather in this range. Running the traverse to El Diente from Mt. Wilson, I managed to miss the top of Wilson in a white room.
A few years ago I charged into the 'infamous slate mounds' for Mt. Wilson. It was on mostly dry ground, but still pretty hard going not knowing. I went too high on the bushwhack, in part because I was using a barometric altimeter under changing pressure. So I got suckered up into Cross Creek, then had to traverse around into Slate Creek only to find snowline receding to nearly the Gladstone saddle!
The first thing I did this time, was drive to Lizard Head Pass to check the conditions. There was about a foot of rot left, but snowmobile tracks packed out the Cross Mountain fire road. Still, I was hesitant, and decided that if I was going alone, I should just stick to the Silver Pick. That bushwhack is just another MOI. Nevertheless, that side has the best lines by FAR, and getting them from Silver Pick Basin involves returning over two passes. ug. A shuttle would be ideal, but couldn't pull anyone down there.
Driving back to Telluride I passed what could only be Ames' Ice Hose. Ol Lou himself took the first ascent on this route back in the 70's. http://www.mountainproject.com/v/colorado/co_ice__mixed/telluride/105747549
At the trailhead everything was status quo. Someone left a pile of wood, a hay bale, fire ring, and a bottle of water. I parked inside the fence, and listened to the forest, finished the tea. Couldn't blame those guys for not wanting to chase me and my wild goose all the way down here. I set my alarm for two, three, and three thirty. I reluctantly left my truck after four. Yeesh! kinda slack.
I was breaking through a lot with the skis on at first. This confirmed my decision to stay out of the slate mounds. Things got better up higher, but there was evidence that things were only going to be stable with the freeze: it was only a temporary bridge. I took the inside track to the left through the basin this time. Not as good, with a couple of annoying dips, and somewhat more disorienting in the dark. The sunrise lit the peaks briefly, and faded to grey, weak light as I worked the last pitch to the saddle.
I was a little dissed to see sunhit lingering on El Diente. The broken slopes to the summit were more east facing than I realized. I didn't trust the northeasterly slopes so much, and took the deeply inset couloir for the shade, remembering it opening up again at the top. The conditions were perfect for skinning!
Progress was feeling good, but this way set up on the wrong end of the organ pipes. I planned to traverse under them and intercept the main route, though I still did not like the looks of the snow on that aspect, or the exposure to the ledges below it. This angle made it look twice as bad too.
I used the descending traverse on the south side. I also made the mistake of returning to the ridge too early, and having to backtrack, down climb, side climb out of it on thin snow. Not making headway, and wondered why I was carrying a board up here. The Mahogany chute was hidden. There was one more exposed, loose, waffled, ramping cornice to mantle before reaching the escape chute. I was glad to have clouds to keep everything frozen here.
Back at the ridge there's a nice section of more moderate scratching before the Davenport ledge. I spent a minute getting the moves right to get on this last row to avoid the ledge. The Mahogany chute dropped away to the left, I picked along the rocks up to the col, and looked down the powdery northern couloir. A smooth hiking stick marked the top.
I spent time really checking out the northwest side since the weather was getting questionable for Mt. Wilson. This would send me in the right direction, and with more vertical drop anyway. I could have still used the Mahogany with a return to the ridge in the vicinity of the descending traverse under the organ pipes, but the snow was perfect in the northwest couloir
It almost looks like it goes through to the right at the bottom of the first pitch...
...but it doesn't!
...digging those ragged edges in!
...to this rib.
It was past noon, and the clouds down in Dunton were starting to rumble. I felt good, but it was time to get going.
Mt. Wilson will have to wait again!
This is a dangerous area in the afternoon, the clouds kept this from turning into a trap. The bottoms are not too bad when in doubt.
In the aspens it was a dirty mess. I was punching through to the ground. The wax was gone on my base, and it wasreally slow going. It felt like I still had the skins on. ick.
A challenging day without Wilson. I spent the night and rolled out the next day. The window passed. Hoping to get back before the dust takes hold. The storms this week should help!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):