Peak(s):  Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Date Posted:  01/08/2014
Date Climbed:   12/23/2013
Author:  Dad Mike
 Mt. Wilson - El Diente Winter Traverse  

Trailhead: Cross Mountain at 10,050'
Route: Slate Creek to Mt. Wilson's NE Face to El Diente via the Traverse (return over the same route)
Approach: 4.5 miles, 1400 feet to camp at 11,000'
Climb: 5 miles, 4100 feet
Hike Out: 4.5 miles, 400 feet

There isn't much information out there about a Wilson to El Diente winter traverse and I wanted to share my experience and some pictures. I tried to do this as a day trip in March last year, but underestimated the effort it would take to climb Mt. Wilson. I also wasn't confident with the time it would take me to do the traverse in winter conditions. I worried that it could take me as long as 3 - 4 hours in each direction and didn't want to get stuck out there in the dark. So I made the difficult decision to overnight it. Being cooped up in a cold tent for 12 hours isn't my idea of fun and I try to avoid it at all costs.

After a comfortable night in Montrose with Terri and Darin (thanks again for the pizza and movie) I loaded up the sled and headed out on the Cross Mtn Trail around 10am on Sunday. *see previous report for a description of this trail

This was my second trip with the sled and I was still working out the kinks. Here I tried to walk across the log...obviously that wasn't going to work.

Descended down into this open meadow to get to Slate Creek. This view is hard to beat...South Wilson, Mt. Wilson and Gladstone.

I set up my camp right at 11,000', next to some running water. I decided not to use because of how strong the smell of sulfur was. I don't know enough about that smell to know if the water was safe to drink so I didn't risk it.

The sun on my tent didn't last long. It was shady and cool at 3pm and dark at 5pm. I spent about an hour melting snow and then commenced my mental battle with the long, dark night. Here the sun is setting on Sheep Mtn to the south.

After a restless night, I was itching to get moving. I was out of the tent and heading up at 5:45am. The moon was pretty full and the first hour was awesome. Didn't even need my headlamp.

I love the mystery of this route on Mt. Wilson. You can't see the NE Face until you get all the way up the basin...almost directly under Gladstone's South Face. I got to this point just in time to have the aplenglow light it on fire.

Turning around, I could see the sun just starting to peak out over the Gladstone, Cross Mtn ridge

A little higher I could see the whole slope and Mt. Wilson's summit.

The snow conditions on this face were very similar to what I found in March last year. This face receives a lot of wind. The bottom half of the slope was nice and firm, even ice hard in spots. As you get higher, the snow gets more variable and I was constantly changing course to find the best snow. Last year I decided to get off the snow and take a rock route to the left of the summit. This time I stayed on snow all the way up to the saddle. Here is my line from the summit of Mt. Wilson.

I set a goal of 10a for Mt. Wilson. If I could summit before then, that would leave me plenty of daylight for the traverse. I summited at 9:30a and set my eyes on El Diente.

The traverse gets your attention right away with a steep climb down the top of the west couloir and then up and over the most exposed section of ridge. I decided not to take any pictures on the way out. I wanted to concentrate on the climbing and save the photo breaks for the way back. I stuck to the same route you would take in summer...down the couloir, up and over the exposed ridge, up and over the mellow ridge, down and around the gendarmes, back to the ridge, down and around the organ pipes, back to the ridge, through the notch, quick traverse across ED's north face, up to the ridge, summit! I was on top of El Diente at 11:35a...1hr and 50 minutes after leaving the summit of Mt. Wilson.

As you can see, the weather was pretty incredible. Temps were probably in the upper teens and there was a decent wind on top of and and the north side of the ridge. But you spend most of your time on the south side of the ridge, sheltered from the wind. The temperature difference felt like 30 degrees.

On my hike in on Sunday, I ran into Abe (fireonthemountain) and Kay (goingup). There were coming back from an attempt on Wilson Peak and told me they were going to try again the next day. I thought about them a lot and was constantly looking for them 2 valleys over. On the summit of ED I saw them for the first time. Here they are climbing up Wilson Peak's SE Face. It made me feel good to know that they were over there, getting after it, struggling up the peak, going for it. Amazing job you two. Can't believe we missed each other by 15 minutes on the way out. Would have been great to catch up and share stories.

Here are my pictures of the traverse from ED to MW:

Overview of the whole route. You can see the notch, the 2 areas you have to traverse and the 2 sections of ridge.

Climbing down a snow ramp on the south side of the ridge

Traversing under the organ pipes

Back on the ridge, looking at the traverse around the gendarmes

A closer look at the gendarmes, definitely the coolest feature on the ridge

The mellow section of ridge, your best chance to relax and enjoy the ride

Looking back at El Diente and Lone Cone from about the half way point

The rest of the mellow ridge

Here is the exposed ridge and climb back up to the Mt. Wilson saddle. The yellow line is the crux of the route. If there is a easier way up and down this part of the ridge, I couldn't find it. I would say it was 4th class, but felt 5th class with the ice and snow. If I had a rope, I would have put a fixed line in here for some additional help.

At the end of the exposed ridge looking at the last obstacle, a traverse across that snow slope and up the top of the west couloir. I don't think I could have found better snow conditions on the ridge. Given unstable conditions, the difficulty of the traverse would elevate quickly. Otherwise, I found the traverse to be pretty straight forward. The route finding was the easiest of the 3 I've done so far.

I didn't take many pictures on the way back to camp. I was exhausted and I started to feel a little muscle pull thing in my right leg. I got back to camp around 3pm. I was worried that my leg might get worse over night and didn't want to take any chances. I also had no interest in spending another night in that tent. So I packed up and started the long hike up and out of Slate Creek.

Warning...the hike back to the Cross Mtn TH from Slate Creek sucks. There is way more uphill then you remember and it seems to never end.

Here is the sunset from the trees. Not nearly as cool as the sunset that Kay and Abe were seeing from Lizard Head Pass. I'm jealous.

Got back to the car at 6:30pm and this is how I felt.

Thanks for reading. Mike

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
I Man

Hell yea!
01/08/2014 19:39
Great stuff. Thanks for the continued inspiration, though I'll never be at your level. Your pictures and insight will be very useful. Youve done some impressive stuff already so early in the season. Fastest ever finisher?? I'm calling it. Cant wait to see the season progress for you...and maybe try and keep up with you on a peak or 2 again


01/08/2014 19:43
As far as trip reports go, today is a good day.


01/08/2014 19:48
... what Monster5 wrote. Great pics, great write-up, great report.


01/08/2014 19:53
Great report and accomplishment, Mike, very impressive. So which winter traverse do you have left, LB>Blanca?


Nice job
01/08/2014 20:14
Great effort, great rewards.


01/08/2014 20:32
After reading Kay's report I was hoping you were successful and would put up a TR and this did not disappoint. Not something I will ever be up for in the winter more than likely but to those who want the traverse you included some very valuable beta.

Congrats and good luck on the 4th trav!


01/08/2014 22:13
That was a fun trip report to read Mike.



Awe yeeeeee
01/08/2014 22:43
I was so hoping you would do a trip report on this and it did not disappoint.

Excellent job Mike!


Ted(dy) bears
01/08/2014 23:38
I see Teddy Bears in your future. After watching that movie that night, I think maybe a Ted is what you need to accompany you on your trips. You know?! Ted could help you pass the hours in the tent and all that. Dani should pick up a couple, just in case.

Nice job Mike, and I hope the Bells traverse will give you safe passage one day.

Kevin Baker

Nice work
01/09/2014 04:40
Way to go, Mike! Very impressive times on a tedious ridge in winter conditions. You are blowing through those winter 14ers quick! Thanks for posting. Has anyone done the 4 14er traverse in winter?


well done
01/09/2014 15:40
great report Mike! nice to see that ridge up close in winter.


the pics!
01/09/2014 17:10
Well Done! Great trip report. I feel the same way about them long hikes where the way out is about going uphill. Not fun


holy s*#t
01/09/2014 22:27
freaking incredible, man! great climb, great report and I look forward to reading many more in the future


Get r done!
01/10/2014 18:45
Nice solid effort man and way to get it done. Looks like the conditions were perfect for it. When you want to do LB Blanca in winter, come have a beer with me and we can exchange some info for the 2 traverses!


01/10/2014 19:16
Mtnmicah, I'm pretty sure Mike has the LB/Blanca traverse dialed in. He's done it 3 times, and solo in winter. In fact, he's going to be my guide when I finally do it! (He doesn't really know that though!)

El Scooter

01/16/2014 18:00
Great report man!

Dad Mike

08/12/2014 23:13
I Man...Fastest finisher? Don't think so. I still have a long way to go and didn't Ralston climb 45 in one winter?

Tom Pierce...Bells Traverse. Tried a couple weeks ago, but bailed after summiting South.

D Baker...Teddy Bear. I love that idea. There's only so much I can say to myself.

Kevin Baker...I haven't found any information about a winter traverse finisher. So I'm going with that until someone tells me differently.


01/18/2014 20:20
This is freaking amazing

Summit Lounger

02/04/2014 16:17
Great trip report, and an even better climb. Congrats on another winter traverse under your belt. I'm gonna have to do the NE face of Mt. Wilson sometime in winter. The approach below Gladstone looks incredible.

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