Mt. Wilson - East Face
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Difficulty:Class 3, Moderate Snow
Ski: Advanced, D9 / R3 / IV
Exposure:
Moderate exposure along the immediate route. It should be avoidable with some slow hiking or scrambling.
Trailhead:Cross Mountain
Start:10,040 feet
Summit:14,246 feet
Total Gain:4,900 feet
RT Length:12.00 miles
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Updated:6/2016
Photo

Trailhead

From Telluride, follow Colorado 145 to Lizard Head Pass. Continue 2 miles SW to the trailhead on the north side of the road.

Route

From the popular Cross Mountain trailhead, follow the Cross Mountain trail through an open area and into the forest - Photo #2 and Photo #3. Continue northwest (Photo #4 and Photo #5) for approximately 1.75 miles to reach 11,100'. Turn left, leave the trail, and begin working your way west through the forest. Your goal is to reach Slate Creek without losing too much elevation. Instead of dropping directly to the creek, continue northwest, contouring through the forest but staying above 11,000' for over a mile. Along the way you will have to make a few small creek crossings, which may or may not be snow-covered - Photo #6. After the final creek crossing, near 10,900', exit the thick forest and continue northwest where the trees finally start to clear. Near 11,000', you'll get your first view of 13er Gladstone Peak and the east side of Mt. Wilson - Photo #7. Leave the trees to intersect upper Slate Creek - Photo #8.

Turn north and follow the obvious drainage up an easy headwall to reach 12,000' and a spectacular view of Gladstone Peak - Photo #9. Continue north toward Gladstone, picking your line based on snow coverage and loading on the sides of the basin - Photo #10, Photo #11 and Photo #12. If you're goal is to climb Boxcar Couloir, the entry is off to the left, near 12,400' - Photo #13. If not, continue north-northwest toward Gladstone (Photo #14) until you reach 12,900' where you can finally see Mt. Wilson's east face, to the west - Photo #15.

Pick your line and continue west-southwest toward the east face - Photo #16 and Photo #17. As you approach the difficulties of the east face, locate the summit and a small couloir which leads up to Wilson's south ridge - Photo #18. This "south couloir" is the key to gaining the ridge, just below the summit. It also avoids the exposed, Class 4 terrain on the standard, north side of the summit block. Climb steepening snow to reach the defined couloir, near 13,800' - Photo #20. The angle of the couloir exceeds 40 degrees but does not exceed 45 degrees. Climb approx. 350' (Photo #21, Photo #22, Photo #23, Photo #24 and Photo #25) to reach a col on Wilson's south ridge - Photo #26.

From the col, you can see some of the final summit pitch - Photo #27. Drop 10' into a gully on the west side, turn right at a large rock and climb the final, 150-foot pitch - Photo #28 and Photo #29. This is the crux of the route and holds some loose rock but the difficulty does not exceed Class 3. Summit views - Photo #30, Photo #31 and Photo #32.

Skiing?

Mt. Wilson is rarely skiable from the actual summit. To ski this route, return to the col and ski the couloir and upper east face - Photo #33, Photo #34, Photo #35.
Options below 13,700' - Photo #36
Option 1: Continue down the basin and out via your ascent route - Photo #37, Photo #38
Option 2: Traverse right and ski Boxcar Couloir - Photo #39, Photo #40, Photo #41, Photo #42

Notes

Without snow above 11,200', it would be a loose mess. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Lizard Head Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.

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