Peak(s):  Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Date Posted:  07/26/2012
Date Climbed:   09/08/2011
Author:  highpilgrim
Additional Members:   Fishdude, sunny1, 12ersRule
 Wilson through the backdoor  

I'll first apologize for the obscene lag time since we did this climb until posting this TR. We did the climb last fall and while I thought it was TR worthy I let the winter be an excuse for not posting it immediately. Recently goaded by Milan, who I met on Eolus, and a number of others interested in the Back Way up Wilson, I decided that this was worth doing for the community. The part of the climb that should be relevant is the last third, from upper Kilpacker basin to the summit and that is the part documented here. The standard route on El Diente will provide route information on the lower part of the hike and has not been included.

A couple of general comments. We were interested in this climb as an alternative to the standard exposed crux on Mt. Wilson's summit. Imagine our surprise when we found ourselves in exactly the same spot from the opposite side of the mountain! Time to backtrack, and that's part of what's fun about climbing.

This climb is about the same in terms of difficulty as El D, IMO. Some loose, some exposure, some slick dirt, but overall about the same amount of challenge. The trail is less beaten down and more care should be given because of that but it's the Wilsons and they're supposed to move around!

The only area that bothered me a little was the large talus and boulders just before you get into the upper couloirs. This route does not get enough traffic to settle and compact it. As a result, very large blocks move freely and that's just not a personal favorite of mine. The images were all taken on the way down in early afternoon and things may appear a little different in morning light. That sounds obvious, but has an impact in my mind.

One warning: I would not climb this route if there has been significant rain. The unstable nature of the rock and the dirt that holds it together would be much worse if the soils were wet. I'd stay away after heavy rain.

Thanks also to the other members on this climb who provided some of the pictures.

The Route:
Mt. Wilson cannot be seen in the lower part of the basin as it is screened by the ridge from El D.
Wilson coming into view

As you climb higher it begins to rear above you but is foreshortened and not very impressive from a distance.
The summit appears

Start to aim for the left side of the drainage.
lingering snow fields in September

You will reach an area of large talus and boulders. Stay to the left and scout for a route through the initial steep terrain below the upper couloirs. There are several ways through this area. Take the path of least resistance.
The route into the couloir

The view from the area just above shows the couloir branching left with a large rock rib in the center.
View of the crossover from below

There are three options at this point. Left and up, takes you to the standard route crux. Right takes you to a class 4/low 5 headwall. The middle option, which takes you up and over the rock rib leads to easier ground above the headwall to the right.
Close-up of crossover

This view is up the steep, narrow couloir to the standard crux.
View up wrong couloir to standard crux

The terrain in this area is steep, but not a steep as the image conveys. This picture was taken while waiting for others to descend from above while in a safe niche.
steepness of terrain near crossover

The climb over the rock rib is not as hard as it looks but is easy to miss on the way up. There was no cairn. Pay attention to your right as you ascend.
climb up the rib

Once you've gained the top of the rock rib, this is the view up the gulley to the standard crux. It's not as steep as it looks.
view of upper couloir to standard crux

A view down from this area shows a steep drop to the left. Aim right on your descent. It is more obvious on the descent.
just above steep shelf, turn right

This shows the route from higher up and indicates where to start looking for the crossover. There are several ways across the rib, lower options were easier.
crossover from above

Here is a broader view, showing the relationship to El D and the connecting ridge.
view down couloir with El D and ridge

Another image from higher up the gulley nearing easier terrain around the summit.

Terrain just below the summit.
terrain near the summit

Looking down on a climber approaching the top.
climber approaching summit

Happy climbers on the summit!

A bonus view from the notch on the standard crux route.

An aerial view showing the route as a snow climb. I think this corresponds pretty closely with the TRs posted by Carl and Benners.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

 Comments or Questions
Doctor No

Really nice write-up
07/26/2012 17:51
I've thought about MW this way ever since seeing Diente from this side. It looks loose but fun.


Nice Report
07/26/2012 17:59
I actually descended Mt. Wilson with that route. I was in the process of writing an informative report about the west face, but now I dont have too!!! Good job. I don't know if its just me but I don't think the route exceeds class 3?


Well done, Pilgrim!
07/26/2012 18:24
Glad you dusted off, shook out the cobwebs, scrubbed off the mold to get it posted! You clean up well

Good job on providing valuable visual and route data on a C3 route of Mt Wilson.


Nice work Pilgrim!
07/27/2012 14:53
I'm trying to find a way to incorporate John Wayne and/or The Doors into this comment, but I'll just settle with nice job!

Mr.Pig looks lonely these days, I think he misses you Greg.


Thank you!
07/27/2012 16:04
This trip report answered all of my questions, as you know, I am heading there this afternoon and will try on Sunday. Greatly described and the poctures show it all!. I appreciate your help.


Thanks, all...
07/27/2012 16:39
Doctor No: It was fun. Do it if you get the chance.

Rcizzle: Yes, it was never more than class three. Little real exposure as well. Somewhat loose but that's the Wilsons.

Sunny1: Thank you. And thanks for embellishing some of my pics.
Good partners are everything.

49ersRule: Never enough. How about September? If only you'd do repeats...

jasayrevt You're welcome, have fun with Milan if you see him.

lordhelmut: Thanks, Brian. I had thought I pissed the sherriff off when I told him he wasn't my type. Maybe he was thicker skinned than I gave him credit.

Milan: You're welcome. Be safe and tell us how you do...


07/27/2012 20:58
Thanks a bunch for uploading this report, I'll be attempting with Milan this weekend. The pictures are extremely helpful!

Also, from the pictures it looks like there are boulders upon boulders that look like they are literally a flick away from being sent tumbling. Pretty spooky, is that the reality or is it not THAT bad? Of course I'll treat it like it is anyway.


Loose but not ridiculous...
07/27/2012 21:27
Tony1: The route is loose but I did not find it any worse than El D. Only the boulders below the difficult climbing were tenuous to me. Take your time and poke at rocks before you load them.


Good route and report
07/28/2012 01:34
Watch your top knot Pilgrim


Nice report!
07/28/2012 02:36
Well done, Pilgrim. It was a long but fun day


Et al.
07/28/2012 14:10
Planet54: You watch yourn. 8)

Fishdude: Thanks for your company on that day!


Wish I'd Had This on 27 July
07/29/2012 21:56
I did almost the same route on Friday, 27 July with two others. This is a great Beta, and will look a lot like one I am getting ready to post. Vort.


i heard
07/29/2013 18:29
The route has changed since last year. Best get back to Colorado and try again.


08/22/2013 02:44
great TR! I'm heading there this weekend and we were gonna hit El D > Mt Wilson traverse then descend on the sw side. so this gives us hope!

Very helpful
09/01/2013 14:35
Wanted to let you know how useful your trip report was for me. It allowed me to finish the colorado 14ers last Friday after 25 years. My hiking partner has some acrophobia so I knew he would not do the standard route. This new route is pretty straightforward and may well become the new standard route based on the number of climbers on this route on Friday.

08/06/2016 17:26
for pinting me to this report - great job finding the route. we'll see how it goes - mountainute

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