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Near fatal rockfall on El Diente-Wilson Traverse

Threads related to Colorado mountaineering accidents but please keep it civil and respectful. Friends and relatives of fallen climbers will be reading these posts.
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Please be respectful when posting - family and friends of fallen climbers might be reading this forum.
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Re: Near fatal rockfall on El Diente-Wilson Traverse

Postby skerryjones » Mon Jul 01, 2013 6:17 pm

Was this on Saturday? I was on Mt. Wilson and saw a few people doing the traverse and heard a big rockfall from that area.

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Re: Near fatal rockfall on El Diente-Wilson Traverse

Postby paully » Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:01 pm

Then don't climb these 14ers, since the same is quite possible. I've seen it happen (with a pebble), multiple times. Anything "steep" (past the angle of repose - sorry, I'm a geologist) and rocks will slide...

1. N Maroon
2. Maroon
3. Pyramid
4. Snowmass
5. Capitol
6. Crestone Peak
7. Crestone Needle
8. Little Bear


+1 (maybe +2) --- I started this exact type of slide (pebble to rock to many rocks to many big rocks) above the hourglass on Little Bear. It's frightening to watch and can happen on many peaks even when you're being carful)

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Re: Near fatal rockfall on El Diente-Wilson Traverse

Postby my5sons » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:09 pm

Doctor No wrote:
spiderman wrote:I am not advocating removing peaks with 300+ feet of prominence from lists due to danger (Gladstone, etc). I personally will skip such enormous slag heaps, but that is a personal choice. I am just saying that dangerous bumps with less than 300 feet of prominence should not be on the main peaks page of 14ers.com. An order of magnitude more people climb the "official/promoted" list of peaks compared with the ones that are not listed on the front page. Relegating it to a less prominent place will not inhibit the hard core peakbaggers, but would reduce the number of serious accidents on that "peak"/traverse.


First, I'm glad that you're alright.

Second, no one should be (or should not be) climbing mountains based upon what's on (or not on) the front page of a website.



Couldn’t agree more! I am doing all the easy ones with my young sons and harder ones with my older ones.

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Re: Near fatal rockfall on El Diente-Wilson Traverse

Postby dannymiller15 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:57 pm

First, I'm glad everyone is ok.

The danger of rock fall on the traverse is well documented. That's why, as Bill and others have pointed out, it's not the standard route on that peak. While I would have preferred to have done the traverse, we considered the objective danger of that route, and selected the standard route instead. Yea it cost us an extra day, but it's a beautiful area and was well worth it.

El Diente is a great mountain. One just needs to seriously consider their options when climbing it.

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Re: Near fatal rockfall on El Diente-Wilson Traverse

Postby laxcountrypiper » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:43 pm

I would have been in the fall line had the group not stated they preferred to only go two at a time. That's really good advise. Go a couple at a time and make sure the fall line is clear before approaching.

Also, descending to the Kilpacker side from Wilson my buddy kicked loose a rock a bit larger than a couch cushion that went tumbling a few hundred feet to the valley below. It was one of those, "this rock is too big to move" rocks.

Be very, very careful and make sure people are out of the fall line!

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Re: Near fatal rockfall on El Diente-Wilson Traverse

Postby ChrisinAZ » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:56 pm

The Wilson group has some spectacular peaks, but the scenery is near-equalled by the rockfall danger. On Gladstone, I had a 500-pound rock start sliding down toward me that I was luckily able to stop, but I called it quits on that one shortly thereafter. While I didn't encounter (relatively) much loose rock on the N Buttress route up El D, or on most of the traverse, the descent down Mt Wilson into Navajo was loose and unsettling and dangerous. We heard a rockslide that lasted a minute over somewhere on the N Slopes route. And don't even get me started on the gully to climb S Wilson..! Believe me, the story of the couple of climbers who'd died in a rockslide on El D was at the forefront of my mind the whole trip there. I probably will not be back.

That's simply the nature of these mountains, and of many of the non-14er San Juans, particularly those where few people have trod to make a relatively safe enough path. Every mountain has risk; El D and Wetterhorn are both class 3, but I don't think many would argue that Wetterhorn is riskier to climb, simply because of the loose rock factor. There are peaks out there that make El D look like Taum Sauk in terms of safety...it comes down to having an informed opinion on how risky a mountain is before you climb it, knowing your own limits, and climbing something or not, accordingly. After all, if there wasn't risk, it wouldn't be mountaineering.

I'm very glad you all are okay. Hopefully our adventures up north will be a little less exciting in the rockfall department!
"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason."
— Jack Handy

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Re: Near fatal rockfall on El Diente-Wilson Traverse

Postby spiderman » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:48 pm

laxcountrypiper, I am glad that you were also safe in that rockfall. That was one scary time when boulder after boulder came thumping down the slope. ChrisinAZ, see you tomorrow for a couple weeks of awesome adventures.

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Re: Near fatal rockfall on El Diente-Wilson Traverse

Postby Scott P » Tue Jul 02, 2013 7:31 am

Scary. Glad you made it out OK!
I'm slow and fat. Unfortunately, those are my good qualities.

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