Peak(s):  Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Date Posted:  08/01/2011
Date Climbed:   07/30/2011
Author:  djrunner
 Bilk Creek Basin  

We had just climbed Sneffels and hung out at the Ouray Hot Springs before driving up the road to the Sunshine Mesa Trailhead. By the way, this particular route was a good option for a Saturday. We saw one other person on the same trail as us until we reached the saddle between Wilson Peak and Gladstone Peak. The road up was beautiful with the tallest group of aspen trees I have ever seen. Image

We reached the trailhead, set up camp, ate dinner, and went to bed early. At 5:30 AM we had a nice sunrise. Image

Matt and I brought bikes to take out part of this trail. Until you reach Lizard Head Wilderness, bikes are allowed on the trail. In fact, the Wilson Mesa Trail is open to motorcycles. It was a nice ride and we killed two miles in 15 minutes. Image

However, since Jen just recently decided she would join us, she did not have a bike. She left an hour earlier and met us at the talus slope just before the log crossing. Check the water level. The log Matt is standing on does not have water flowing over it. Later on it did. Image

The trailhead is low in elevation. It is around 9,700 feet or so. This makes for a long ascend. The mileage one person reported was around 12 miles. I would believe that. As we gained elevation it finally became clear why it is called Lizard Head. Image

Travel through Bilk Creek Basin is beautiful! There are many waterfalls. Of course, waterfall pictures never turn out the same. I did take 150 pictures though. However, in the narrowing down to 30 images for the trip report, I had to take out some of the awesome pictures. So, if you want to see how beautiful it is, you will have to go for yourself to find out (or take my word for it). Wilson Peak finally came into view around 8:30 AM. Image

For this particular route, you follow the Lizard Head Trail into the nice basin. The trail eventually crosses the creak again and continues towards Lizard Head. Do not cross the creek. Instead look for a faint old mining road. This is what you want to take. It switchbacks up the mountain. When you think it has faded, look the other direction. It probably just switchbacked. We followed this road to the nice lake. Image Image

The lake was cool. It had blue paths in the middle of it where the water was flowing through. Image

From the lake be careful. The road heads to the right. This is what we continued to follow. It is the blue path. That was probably not the best path. We were stuck in steep, nasty talus for a long time. It was not ideal. On the way down we figured that following the middle is probably the best way up. There are no trails either way, but if you head up the middle it is nice solid rock. If you do this route, take the green path. Circled in black is not the saddle of Wilson. It is a cliff off of Wilson. Climb up this and you will just have to climb down the other side. That is why we skirted around it to the left. Image

There was good rock to walk on, but the snow was soft enough and was easier to walk through. It was not very steep either. Image

The problem with the route we took is as we got higher, the talus field got steeper and the rock looser. It sucked! This was by far the worst part of the hike. Image

After climbing as high as we safely could we decided to traverse across to the saddle. We should not have been this high to begin with. The rock was loose and the slope steep. The green is what we should have ascended. It was much better rock. Instead we struggled through the talus. Matt and Jen can be seen below. Image

We finally found something that resembled a trail and rejoiced! It was so easy to walk on after the loose talus. It was massaging to our feet. Image

Even though this next section is very steep, it was so easy compared to the previous two hours of talus. Looking at this, I said to Matt and Jen, “Here is where it gets fun!” They didn’t think so but followed behind me. We ascended this in 5 minutes and were ready to do the summit dance! Image

But it wasn’t the summit! This was the worst false summit I have even been tricked by. We peeked over the edge only to be welcomed by the final climb. I was first to see it and started laughing with despair. “You guys are not going to like this. Now it gets fun!” They kept asking for an explanation. There was no way to explain what they were about to see, so I just waited, laughed, and enjoyed their devastated expressions when they saw it. We sat on the false summit and contemplated going further. Our spirits were lifted, and we felt more confident when we saw a person walking down eating an apple in one hand facing down the mountain. We knew it couldn’t be that bad after seeing that. Image Here is a look back at the false summit. What made it so terrible is the fact that we had to down climb before climbing to the actual summit. Matt is closest, Jen is barely visible with a red helmet and blue shirt. Image

We made it to the summit right at noon. Image

I practiced my head spins at 14,000 feet! Image

Because of building clouds we did not spend very long on the summit. Here is a look on the way down. Image

This is the way we took down back into the basin. Notice the clouds. We slid/climbed down the crumbling talus field to the snow. The green route shows what is probably the most ideal way to climb. The way we descended would probably be too steep for climbing. It would be one step forward, two steps back. Just like the song. Image

Walking on the snow felt so good. It was soft, not too steep, and there was good run out. We slid down on our feet. We enjoyed the timing. Matt was getting worried about the clouds so he sniffed out every snow field he could and slid down it. We were making great timing! Image

Here is a look back at what we accomplished. The blue path is how we ascended. The green path is the better way to ascend. The red path is the way we took down. Now it is clear why the way down was much faster. Image

If you follow the snow fields and water runoff, there is much better rock. It was so nice to just walk not slide Image

I will post this picture of some columbines. They were so abundant around 11,000 feet. I have never seen so many, so big. They were gigantic. It made us forget about all the rocks in our wet boots, and we began frolicking. Image

Just before the log jam was an old train car and house ruins. The train car appeared to be held up by the oil drum underneath it. Image

I inspected the inside of the train car and decided it was not safe to enter. Image

However, the house was fine. Nothing unsafe about this. Image

We did receive a small amount of rain and got to use our rain gear. It was a light rain and no lightning. However, when we got to the log jam the water had risen. Remember the earlier picture where the water was not flowing over the log below Matt? Image

After crossing the river I noticed the rock stack below the tree. Can anyone tell me if this is naturally stacked or manmade? It seems only possible that it ended up like this because humans stacked it. We contemplated this the rest of the way down. Image

Matt and I found our bikes and were relieved. We sent Jen to get a head start since she did not have a bike. I offered a ride on the handlebars, but we decided against it. The bike ride out was the best way to conquer the last two miles. I was smiling from ear to ear! We got down and cracked a beer while we waited for Jen. She was not far behind us and showed up shortly. We packed the truck quickly because of the dark sky. It was just in time. The sky unleashed on us. It poured! The road to Telluride was flooding over. The mountain side was washed over the highway. I kept seeing signs warning if there is a flash flood to climb 500 vertical feet to safety. I was worried I might have to do this, but I did not bail out of my truck. It was a slow hydroplaning drive, but we made it to Telluride where we ate at a nice Mexican restaurant and reflected on the day’s journey.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great descriptions!
08/02/2011 03:58
Should encourage some people to check this route out. Looks like a blast.


Cool trip!
08/02/2011 04:14
I like your writing style and pics. Looks like you had a really great time!


great story!
08/02/2011 04:45
DJ - you did a great job telling the story and advising on how to do this trip. I think we may look into it now since you made it more clear that then route description on 14ers. Glad you all are safe!


Thanks for posting.
08/02/2011 15:21
Great alternative to the crowds at Navajo.


Bilk Creek
08/02/2011 16:17
Yes, I would recommend this route until the Rock of Ages trail is finished. The FS told me it would be opening around late August. It will replace the old Silver Pick Basin route since that is now closed.


More pix
08/02/2011 19:30
Thanks for posting DJ, TRs are great! I've got some really good ones of you guys happily riding down the trail. I'll try to get pix uploaded to something so I can forward them on to everyone.

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