Peak(s):  Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Date Posted:  09/12/2013
Date Climbed:   06/17/2013
Author:  killawell
 First TR: Wilson Peak - Southwest Ridge  

Hey all,

Been lurking around the forum for a while and figured my first post should be a TR, so here goes: I was down around the Telluride area with family for about 4 days before my cousin's wedding in Aspen, and I was determined to make the best of it. My cousin Chase, my neighbor Graham, and I decided to climb Wilson Peak, a particularly iconic mountain for us since we had all grown up coming to this area every year to hang out in the summer and for skiing in the winter.
We awoke somewhat early and got ourselves to the Navajo Lake Trailhead by 6:30am. There was one other car at the trailhead, and, as we pulled up, we noticed a note pinned to the dash by a windshield wiper. Curious, we checked out the note which read:

Watch out! There is a marmot in your engine. Our dog went crazy trying to get it. We tried to remove it, but could not.

We were quite amused and quickly determined that if it was there, though there was no sign, we couldn't get it out either. So we began our trek, aware that our furry friend was probably having a great time in its new oily, metal home.
The Navajo Lake trail is beautiful in June.

Columbines. El Diente in the background on the left.

The trail to the lake went by very quick in the post dawn crispness and before we knew it we had arrived at Navajo Lake. We took a fairly lengthy break here and I screwed around with testing my homemade underwater camera housing. This was the first time testing it outside my kitchen sink, but it went well - no leaks. Want to keep this short and sweet, so if anyone is curious about how I constructed the device just ask in the comments. More than happy to share. The thing is bulky, though, and despite fitting into my backpack it was not comfortable, so I stashed it behind a boulder near the lake before we continued on up into the basin.
Navajo Lake. First time testing out my homemade underwater rig. Comment if you're interested in the details!

We then made our way towards the Rock of Ages Saddle, eyes on the clouds and weather developing.
Looking back towards Navajo Lake and Dolores Peak from the basin.

We made it to this old mining outpost near 13000ft, a small shack complete with a very old and rusty springy cot. We noted that this would make a suitable storm shelter and pressed on to the saddle, wanting to see the other side before making a decision about the weather. Chase was having a tough time with the altitude since he had come up 2 days before after spending a month at sea level for a Wilderness EMT course. He was struggling but in good shape and pushed through it to make the saddle.
Chase on the trail just past the Rock of Ages saddle.

We then followed cairns and a rough trail over loose talus to the saddle just below the ridge connecting Gladstone Peak to Wilson Peak.
Gladstone. Just too cool looking. Will be returning next summer to take it on for sure.

Right when I topped the ridge, there was a marmot right in my face, maybe 2 feet away. It ran off towards Gladstone, tail spinning in circles as they do. From here we came to the same conclusion as we had at the saddle: weather was OK. It was developing, for sure, but far away enough to provide a fair summit window.
Graham on a big rock spire just below the Wilson Peak - Gladstone ridgeline.

We then traversed a narrow, exposed section towards the home stretch. The trail continued up the ridgeline almost to the summit block itself. From there, 100 feet or so of class 3 scrambling remained. Graham had never done anything like this, so he followed my lead. The route finding was very straightforward and I'm glad we didn't take the alternative gully to the left. Looked less steep but much looser. The rock was quite solid for this area (now that I have Mt. Wilson and El Diente to compare it to..) At the time, however, I didn't have much to compare it to. You see, the only other 14ers I had done were many years before (Gray's and Torrey's) when I was around 13-14. This was my first tough 14er (first 14er as an adult at all) and at the time the toughest mountain I'd climbed. Despite this I felt comfortable on account of having done quite a bit of technical rock climbing over the past 5 years. Chase and Graham were both climbers as well and that surely helped with the fear factor and scrambling technique.
Chase giving it his all on the last 20 yards.

We summited around 12:30pm and were rewarded with some incredible views. Storms were breaking out in almost every direction but still quite far away. In any case, we decided we didn't want to be around if they came this way, so we resolved to get off quickly.
Chase and Graham on the summit.

We spent around 20 minutes on the summit taking photos and signing the register. I took a 68 photo, 2 layer thick 360 summit panorama with my 35mm lens, which I later squished in Photoshop into a square shape and then stretched onto a polar coordinate system to create a spherical planet-like panorama. Then, naturally, I Photoshopped it into deep space.
360 degree summit panorama warped into a planet in Photoshop.

Anyhow, we made haste getting off the summit. Turned out to be for good reason as we got dusted by a light June snow as we were just nearing treeline. We took a break at the lake, headed down to the car, and, when all was said and done, Chase checked his watch and reported a time of 11 hours, 6 minutes since leaving the trailhead that morning. Not bad for Graham and Chase's first 14er and first 14er getting back into it for me! Finished off the day with a nice cookout back at the cabin and a lot of stoke for many more big mountains to come. Get ready for a more intense TR coming soon with Chase and I's trip back to the Wilson group a month and a half later to climb El Diente and Mt. Wilson! Glad to finally be posting on! If you liked this TR and want to see more photos, please check out the same entry on my site (over twice as many photos ): Wilson Peak Trip Report

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

cool photos
09/14/2013 01:35
Thanks for posting! Pretty good first report.


09/14/2013 21:44
Glad you liked it. Many more where that came from and many more to come

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