| Traverse Trip Day 2 - El Diente and Mt. Wilson
El Diente Peak - 14,159 South Slopes
Mt. Wilson - 14,246 traverse from El Diente, descend via scree on north face
Date Climbed - 7/11/2010
Climbers - doggler, Patrick, Scott(sdizzle), and Chris
A SOBERING LESSON?
Patrick and I set out on our 220 mile trek to the Kilpacker Basin TH in high spirits from ringing both of the Bells. We were mostly looking forward to having a full night's sleep after Saturday's 1:00AM wake-up call. What a beautiful drive - I had never been on Co. Hwy 133 before! On the way, we used our secret weapon in this silly little mission: Patrick's parent's house in Ridgeway.
Viewing Sneffels from Patrick's parent's place in Ridgeway
After a quick shower and meal, we set back off and arrived at the Kilpacker Basin TH before sunset. It was here that we met up with my friend Scott(sdizzle) and one of his climbing partners, Chris. We had the same objectives: we were going to do the traverse from Kilpacker. If all went well, we would then continue on to Wilson Peak. Our descent would be through Navajo Lake regardless. "Two valleys for the price of one" for those of you who have the 14er bible memorized. Neither Scott and Chris had ever been to the Wilsons, and were hoping to cross off their last couple of fourteeners. We agreed to a 3:00AM wake-up call. By 9:00, we were lights out in the dogglermobile - a 1996 Nissan Maxima.
Prior to leaving, we had a debate over whether to bring axes or not. We knew that both El Diente's south slopes and Wilson Peak would be snow-free. I put forward the idea of bringing axes for the north side of Mt. Wilson, but we then all agreed to save the weight, knowing that there would be snow-free ways down Mt. Wilson as well.
The four of us hit the trail at 3:45AM. The Kilpacker trail was WET! Very remote and green trail until treeline. From there until nearly the ridge, it was a talus heap. The faint trail did improve things a bit, but it still was pretty rocky.
Image #5 (not yet uploaded)
Lots of talus all over these parts.
I always dig that.
Approaching the ridge. El Diente is on the far left.
As we neared the ridge, the angle increased and things got a little more enjoyable.
Grunting up the last part of the south face.
We gained the El Diente-Mt. Wilson saddle, then popped over to the north face, did a couple of class 3 moves, and found us on top of EL TOOTH at 7:30.
Wilson Peak(L) and centennial Gladstone Peak.
On El Diente's summit - Patrick, doggler, Chris, sdizzle
After spending fifteen minutes on top, we began the traverse to Mt. Wilson
beginning the class 3 traverse
One of the spots that had us wondering how on earth we were gonna get up this thing!
Summit of Mt. Wilson
Upon approaching Mt. Wilson's summit pitch, we ran into the two guys from photo #17. They had just begun setting up rope to downclimb it. We used the fifteen minutes to refuel, snack, change, etc.
the last few feet to the summit have some of the more exposed scrambling
We each took a turn on that pitch, summitting Mt. Wilson at 9:20, 1h50min after leaving El Diente. Although it was fun, I have to disagree with the assessment that it bears similarity to the finishing move on Sunlight. Although it is a series of moves, they aren't nearly as exposed.
OK. Let's just say this next part still gives me the chills.
To this point, I felt that Patrick and I had made correct decisions throughout. I realized after the fact that we were about to commit a mistake. As we descended Mt. Wilson, we began following the two guys that had used the rope off the summit. None of us had enough sense to say, "hmmm, there's no trail through this?" Kind of a rookie mistake. I felt quite sharp and alert at the time, so I don't think it was caused by lack of sleep. Anyway, it was quite doable, just not very fun.
Up until this point, our group had done great! Chris seemed very comfortable scrambling and was found out front leading a lot, and Scott had no problem handling the most difficult parts of the route either. Enter mistake #2.
Chris witnessed one of the roped guys swiftly glissade down a couple-hundred foot long snowfield. He decided to follow suit, using a ski pole instead of an ice axe.
You know where this is going, right?
He offered me his other pole, but I declined as I thought of TalusMonkey and all the others who have met their end this way. While I didn't outright tell him he was a nut job, I told him I wasn't comfortable using a ski pole.
Within twenty feet, his pole flipped back and Chris began shooting uncontrollably down the snowfield. It happened in slow motion, as I had already been picturing it unfolding exactly like this. He squirmed a bit, but couldn't get into self-arrest. When he hit the rocks, he popped up in the air at almost a ninety degree angle and landed almost standing. "Oh man, he just snapped a femur," I thought as I began scrambling down to where he had landed.
The guy who had just gone before Chris was feet away and was by Chris's side within seconds. As the rest of us fell dead silent, Chris stood up, took a few extremely tentative steps, and announced that he was "fine", meaning he didn't end up dead or worse. I'm still trying to figure out how that didn't happen myself. By the time I got to Chris, it had been determined that he had lacerations on his hand and upper thigh. He was still able to walk out, though. One of the first things he said after the fact was, "I win the stupid award for the day. I was sooooo lucky." I believe Chris will never ever ever use a ski pole to brake on a snowfield again.
After the accident, some wind had definitely been taken out of our sails. Although we felt strong enough to go for Wilson Peak, I suddenly had lost the appetite to push on with the hour getting later and clouds starting to form. I had achieved my main objective and Wilson Peak surely wasn't going anywhere.
underneath the El Diente-Mt. Wilson ridge, one can find boatloads of lovely talus
We continued to hike down to upper Navajo Lake basin. By now, it seemed clear that Chris was going to be fine. Patrick and I parted ways with the others. As soon as we got around the mosquito-infested Navajo Lake and off of talus, Patrick and I began jogging back to the TH.
Robo-knee and something about Holland
The upper basin isn't fun with all the loose rock, but the lower trails are absolutely stunning
We got back to the car at 1:40 PM. It had grown dark, and occasional drops of rain turned into sheets as we re-packed the car and began our journey to the Sierra Blanca!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):