| Buttress Route on The Tooth & Traverse to Mt. Wilson
Mt. Wilson: 14,246 Route: Traverse from El Diente; descent North Slopes (Standard)
El Diente: 14,159 Route: North Buttress; Traverse to Mt. Wilson
Crew: Aaron (Smitty), Wes (wesley_j) , and picked up Richard and Rodney (aka Altidude) for the traverse
Climb date: Sunday, July 3, 2010
Start Time: 4:30am
End Time: ~2:00pm
Time: 9.5 hours (hiking/climbing/negotiating/contemplating/resting/recovering)
Mileage: ~7.5 miles (from Navajo Lake to El Diente, Traverse, and Mt. Wilson descent)
Elevation Gain: ~3,700 feet (From Navajo Lake to El Diente and Traverse)
After extensive planning and anticipation for another adventure, Smitty and I headed off to Telluride for an abbreviated 4th of July in the San Juans. This time, climb "The Tooth" and hopefully knock off the traverse to the mighty Mt. Wilson.
We showed up at the Navajo Basin trailhead around 5:00pm on Friday July, 2nd and shortly thereafter, the pack-in had commenced. We were greeted with our first views of El Diente in one of the many meadows you cross.
First view of "The Tooth"
Upon arrival at Navajo Lake around 7:30, we were welcomed to overcast skies, rain, and a bit of skepticism for the weather holding out for us on climbing day.
Climbing Day - July 3rd 2010
The alarm went off at 4:00 AM and we slowly got ourselves together after a tough night of sleeping. By 4:30, we were trudging up the talus/rock trail that leads you to the high basin. Not a fun trail, especially after descending Mt. Wilson.
Once you reach the higher basin, you are greeted to the evident, Buttress route on El Diente.
The route description proposed on 14ers.com (by jwproulx) does a nice job of leading you the way. There are a series of "benches" you must climb and for the most part, the rock is very solid and doesn't exceed Class 3. Look for this large cairn as you pass the boulder field.
NOTE: there are carins on this route and even though they are limited in number, they do exist.
Once past the boulder field just off the standard trail, there are three "benches" to climb. Here is a look from the 2nd bench back towards the valley floor.
Typical terrain on the Buttress
For 3/4 of this climb, the terrain is fairly solid and straightforward. However, after you pass the 3rd bench of large boulders, it gets A LOT more interesting and challenging. Reach the "V" snowfield past the 3rd bench and take some time to evaluate the remaining route as it gets increasingly narrow.
"V" snowfield past the 3rd bench
As the ridge narrows and you have crossed some slabs, you are welcomed to some pretty airy moves along a couple "catwalks." We weren't sure if these two moves could be avoided as we didn't see a way around them. Anyway, here is a shot of Smitty climbing the slabs and the "catwalk(s)."
Smitty slab climbing
Catwalk(s) on the Buttress
Here is a look back down the route and the traverse to Mt. Wilson
Looking back at the route
Looking towards the traverse
The final summit push has a mixture of solid rock as well as some very loose rock. Everything past the "catwalk" requires a lot of attention. The rock, the technicality, and the exposure all are elevated. Loacte a very prominent notch after the chimney to get to the summit ridge.
Remaining route; locate notch above chimney
El Diente summit looking towards Mt. Wilson
Summit of El Diente
Traverse to Mt. Wilson:
The weather turned out to be incredible so after spending a very short time on El Diente, we passed through the notch and were off to tackle the traverse.
The traverse to Mt. Wilson is well cairned and the route gives you just about everything, from a mountaineering perspective.
We reached the Organ Pipes and met up with Richard and Rodney (they climbed the North Slopes). After some conversation we all joined forces and headed towards Mt. Wilson. Here is a look back at El Diente from the Organ Pipes.
Looking back at El Diente
Traversing below the Organ Pipes, there are some fun chimneys and exposed ribs that need to be navigated.
It was during one of these exposed ribs that my ice ax got dis-lodged from my pack and off it went sailing...down into Kilpacker! Finders keepers...
Richard traversing past the Pipes
Once you conquer the climbing in and around the Organ Pipes, regain the ridge. This offers some easy-going ridge walking. A nice break...for now.
We reached the "crux" of the traverse and the line for us, pretty much stood out. I am sure there are multiple ways to climb this rock wall but we went straight up and navigated right, about 2/3 up. I thought this was fun climbing and definitely was not the hardest part of the traverse (IMO).
Route up "crux"
Once you reach the top of the rock wall, regain the ridge. Here are the "narrows" and this portion of the ridge is the most exposed. Huge air on both sides...
Terrain you will encounter on "The Narrows"
We made it past the narrows and located the notch leading towards Mt. Wilson. The summit push to Mt. Wilson is pretty wild with multiple options. We chose to stay left and towards the crest of the rock. The exposure on the right is large.
Here is me attempting to understand what just happened, with the traverse in the background.
Altidude enjoying a well earned summit with a cold one. Nice climbing with you guys!
Rodney, aka Altidude enjoying some Rocky Mountain juice
We eventually made it down the standard route of Mt. Wilson. Not a fun descent! Look very carefully for cairns as they get lost amongst all the talus/boulders!
A look at the entire traverse from the valley floor.
A look at the traverse from the descent
This was an incredible day and some of the toughest climbing Smitty or I have ever done. There are a lot of fun moves on these moutains but there are many hairy spots as well. There is a reason why this is known as one of the four great CO traverses.
My final thought is that the Buttress route is no joke and provides a great challenge. The traverse is immensely wild but totally doable with complete attention.
Anyway, thanks for reading. Keep climbing!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):