I'm home and amped on caffeine from the trip home. Kids and wife are already asleep so I'll post my pics and trip report while it is still fresh. Fun weekend in the most distant 14ers in the state for me. Following my normal trip report style let me share the stats, the story and the pics. Hope you all enjoy and can get down to these peaks soon.
8/6 To Base camp
Left Denver Airport 1130am
Arrived Navajo lake trailhead 7pm
Arrived at Navajo Lake base camp 930 pm
8/7 Mt Wilson and El Diente
Left Navajo Lake 430am
Mt Wilson Summit 815am
Started traverse to El Diente 830am
Arrived El Diente Summit 1050am
Back to Navajo Lake (approximately via El Diente's North slope route) 2pm
8/8 Wilson Peak
Left Navajo Lake 530am
Back to Navajo Lake 1130am
Left for trailhead 1230pm
Back at car 230pm
Five years ago my stalwart climbing partner Jesse moved to the sunny land of Florida. So for the last 5 years he has made an annual trip back to Colorado to climb 14ers with me. I can not say enough about how cool is to have him come in and make this effort. We have had some great climbs and so for this year we decided to go as far as we could for our 14ers and chose the Wilson group by Telluride.
The trip started out pretty easy with a long drive from the Denver airport to the Navajo Lake trailhead. Coming from sea level and going straight to hiking with a full pack to 11,200 is something I am not sure I could do. Good thing Jesse is in marathon training mode. We had been concerned about the wet weather lately and had lightning chase us all the way to the lake, but didn't get rained on. The trail in was mostly clear and dry. Where there is mud you can get around. However on a side note the trail to the lake is rather overgrown with plants so if you are going in when there is dew on the leaves or after a rain take some rain pants to cut through the potentially wet foliage.
We set up camp after the lake. We had tried the sites before the lake but there were tents in them all. Immediately after the lake we found two small tent sites with good access to water so we grabbed one of those. There are also three or so more site further up that are harder to find but looked good as people set up tents later in the weekend. Camp set up, alarms synchronized, off to la la land.
Up at 4am we had some hot oatmeal and Starbucks coffee. I love the Via stuff they have. I started on that when camping with my wife, nothing like a good cup of coffee in the morning to start the day right. On the trail at 430 we passed two groups of hikers. One we came to find out later had a pair of guys from Philly that were doing, and did, Mt Wilson as their 1st and 2nd 14ers respectfully. Go big or go home guys, well done. the trail up Wilson was mostly dry and well marked in the critical spots so we made short work of it. When we got to the summit push it gave us pause. Lots of exposure and a little startling when you first get on it. Once we got going though it was solid rock and we made the first summit of the trip.
Next up was the traverse to El Diente. We didn't spend long on Wilson because we were not sure how long the traverse would be and didn't want to be up at 14000 too long with the crazy wet weather the last week. We found the traverse to be hard to follow from Wilson. I think we spent way too much time on the climber's right side of the ridge as we had numerous times where we had a high pucker factor. It wasn't until we gained the flat part of the ridge line about half way across that our view matched what we saw on the trip report. That and the fact that we finally found some cairns made us feel a lot better. I do recall one set of big block steps under the gendarmes that made us nervous. Coming from Wilson it was a huge step or three down and across with a fair bit of exposure. If we had been going the other way it might not have looked so bad. But as the saying goes "God did not put eyes in your feet", so climbing down always seems harder than climbing up. When we hit the saddle at the top of the North Slope route for El Diente we dropped our packs and weaved our way up to its summit. I think this was the most fun section for me on the traverse as the rock was decent and the folks coming up from Kilpacker made it seem more comfortable somehow. Maybe it was just nice to know the traverse portion was cleared and we had a good way out as the clouds were starting to form.
From the summit of El Diente we made our way back to the saddle and sown what I think is part of the North Slope route. I am not sure if it a seasonal route but whatever it was we went down should be. It would be great in the snow, but as it was snow free it was a little piece of hell. Loose, crumbly, steep, bowling alley hell. I am thankful no one was above or below us as we would have come to fisticuffs most likely. I would not suggest what we did (picture below) unless it was a snow climb. back down and out eventually we made it back to camp in time for food, nap and another coffee. Day one down.
After a night of on and off heavy rain our alarms went off at 4am again for our attempt on Wilson Peak. We looked out and could not see stars, only wet ground. So we reset our alarms for 5am thinking the rain had stopped and we wanted extra time for the rocks to dry and for the light to come out and show us what we were in for. What we were in for was a nice blue day after the first clouds made their way out of the basin. Wilson Peak in my opinion was harder than Mt Wilson. It has a lot more loose rock and the exposure straight off the Gladstone saddle was a good reminder that the peak meant business. While never exceeding class 3 there were times that it tried. After the post saddle ledges and up to the false summit was a good climbers trail. That reminded me of many other 14er I have climbed, loose but manageable. When we hit the false summit however I about hurled. I looked over the false summit and thought I was on the wrong side, the trail must go somewhere other than over an to the left. Nope, to the right was even worse. To tell the truth I was about ready to call it quits but then we saw the two other parties that had been in front of us on the summit, and it was closer then I thought. So that started to make me think I was being paranoid about the exposure. Then to Jesse's credit he reminded me it was a class 3 climb so we just had to take it slow and look around for the route over and up to the summit. Sure enough he was right. When we looked at the actual rock and not at the cliffs beyond the trail off the climbers left of the false summit was a straight forward down climb, followed by a little traverse and a 50 foot up climb to the summit, all on solid rock. Goes to show you that sometimes you have to look at what is right in front of you and not at the noise in the background. In the 14ers summit description it gives two options, in my opinion the one on the right is the best. On the summit we enjoyed the solitude and the view. Coming down was even easier now that we had the line. Back to the saddle we played in the mine car and even found some good crystals in the mine talus. All the way down, packed up camp and back to the car by 3 we never got any rain. I took rain pants and jacket and never pulled out either which is amazing considering the rain we have been having lately. Great trip and definitely glad to have been able to get all three peaks on one long weekend push. Thankfully doing that drive again will get to wait until ski season. Enjoy the pics and happy trails (caffeine is wearing off).
Starting Up Mt Wilson
Summit Ridge on Mt Wilson
Looking whats next on the traverse
Wilson Peak from Mt Wilson
Traverse with Mt Wilson behind (people on top)
Finally back on route on the traverse
On the summit of El Diente
Clouds forming behind the traverse
Gully from he-double-hockey-sticks
Gully from he-double-hockey-sticks
Home at last
They call me Mr Shroom
Our tent guard
Day 2, Wilson Peak start
El Diente shedding clouds
Low hanging clouds
Heading up Wilson Peak after the saddle
I see summit
On top of the Peak
The traverse is behind us, literally yesterday and behind us...
Thanks to doggler's pic, had to do one. "Look out Indy, they are behind us!"
Parting shot of Navajo
The trail conditions on the way out, overgrown.