Peak(s):  Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Post Date:  08/10/2010
Date Climbed:   08/08/2010
Posted By:  James Scott


 Mother Nature's sick sense of humor  

Working titles for this trip report:

The weatherman can't be right 60% of the time without being wrong 40%.
Funny how it's always harder to see in the dark.
Navajo Basin- I spent a week there one night.

I headed down to the Wilson group on Saturday with my good friends Derek and Matt with the idea of camping in Navajo Basin, getting all three peaks, and maybe San Luis on the way back to Denver. It's amazing how a mountain and some weather can humble you so quickly.

Saturday night we arrived at the trailhead around 5:15, and took off a short time later. As on omen, it was dry until leaving, but after walking maybe a couple hundred yards, the skies opened and meant business. Within five minutes, we were all dripping wet, and the trail turned into a small creek. Another hiker came past us on the way down, and seemed near tears, begging us for the good news that the trail was near. He was wet and miserable, not the image one wants to see at the beginning of an approach. Bad omen.
The hike in:
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The weather cleared for a time, and we were able to set up camp without being rained on, which used much of the small amount of luck we would be enjoying this trip.
Sunday morning we were on the trail at 3:45, with the idea to start with the traverse and give ourselves the chance to climb all three. I had looked at the pictures of the route enough times to recite parts word for word, but it helps very little in the dark when you can't see the side of the mountain. We turned at a cairn, headed to the right, and wandered the basin for about 30 minutes looking for a path that would lead us to the El Diente couloir. There was no such path that we found. Of course, it was pitch black, but hey, how hard can this be? So we wandered until daybreak, when we saw low, thick clouds creeping up the valley and covering the summits of El Diente and Mt Wilson. We decided to be safe, given that today was an 80% chance of rain day, and took off toward Wilson Peak. The traverse could wait till tomorrow. We made the Rock of Ages saddle by 6:15, and the summit by 7:45. It mostly went as expected, but we all were a bit surprised by some unexpected climbing after a false summit.
The clouds coming up the basin, then clearing:
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The climb and summit:
Derek on the Rock of Ages saddle:
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Despite the weather reports of the 80% chance of rain, a little after 7AM it completely cleared, and it never rained the whole day. We joked about going back toward the traverse on the way down the Peak, but by then it was after 9AM, and we expected rain to be hitting by around noon. Never happened. Clouds did come in eventually, but never amounted to much, so we sat around camp all afternoon, passing up a bluebird day of climbing, thinking that the weather would be better tomorrow. It was a good afternoon, sitting and reading by the lake, but I wish we had the day back.
Views while reading by the lake:
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Monday morning we awoke at 3AM to starry skies- today would be the day! We found our way to the couloir and started making good time, but suddenly the stars disappeared, and clouds started obscuring the summit. We hoped this would be like yesterday- just a brief visit before clearing. At 615, it started raining. We were at 13,400, looking up at the headwall, but suddenly it was all wet. While we waited, grapple started, and Derek explained how that usually is associated with more of a storm than weak passing clouds. We gave it about 15 minutes, but when the rain began to really fall, we decided even if it stopped, we didn't want to get up to the ridge with soaking wet conditions. We started down.
In the couloir:
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By the time we got to the bottom, the idea was floated that it was still early, and it appeared to be clearing. We decided to bop over to the Mt Wilson shoulder and see if the weather would finally give us a break. For a short time it looked promising, but at about 13,000, the clouds returned. This was beginning to feel like a scene in the Simpsons where Homer takes a step forward, the sun goes up. He takes a step back, sun goes down. "Sun goes up! Sun goes down!" Maybe mother nature has a sense of humor, and spent much of the day laughing at us. We turned around for the second time, and feeling tired, resigned to head back to camp and start the hike out. Somehow we were still in good spirits, but wasn't today going to be the better weather day?
13,000 on Mt Wilson shoulder:
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The walk down the basin and out toward the trailhead:
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We talked a lot on the way down about the frustration of only one summit in three days- we made all the right choices, we were safe, and in the end nothing worked for us. Still, without getting all "Hallmark Movie of the Week" on everyone, being in the basin with good friends was worth the time- we were safe, we had fun, and it was better than sitting around on my big butt at home thinking about all the things I should be doing but don't want to do. I've read the phrase "take what the mountain gives you" many times on 14ers. This was one of those times.

Parting shot: Wilson Peak, the one we did get, flirting in the fog on Monday:
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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
Papillon


I spent a week there one night...
08/11/2010 04:33
Great title. The weather really swung like a pendulum while you were down there. I've heard people say that if the weather looks good in the San Juans, to make your move, because you never know what the next day will bring. Still, I would've probably made the same decision your group made after Wilson Peak. It is one thing to flee a class 2 walkup and another to rapidly descend spicy terrain.

Thanks for taking the time to put this together.


mlandon

The mountain wins again...
08/11/2010 05:31
This was my second trip with James and Derek this summer and I have missed three peaks in those two trips. I could be frustrated, angry, even highly annoyed, but if I were I would be missing the whole point - to be outdoors, figuring out life and your place, and finding the adventure and joy in each moment. We only grow when we face adversity. This was a great trip, thanks again James!


Presto


Been there ... done that ...
08/11/2010 18:30
You made the right call. Good on ya for being positive (i.e., with good friends, got one peak done, better than sitting around at home). Sounds like you've got a great group of guys to climb with. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!



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