Peak(s):  Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Date Posted:  10/22/2018
Date Climbed:   09/22/2018
Author:  JQDivide
Additional Members:   FoodieHiker
 Summit Picnic   

Wilson Peak

Wilson from the TH road.

We could see Wilson Peak on the drive in which amped up the excitement. The drive into the TH was a good 2wd road, with just one large puddle to navigate. There were at least a half dozen marked dispersed camping spots the last two miles on the way in. We had cell service at the TH, at least good enough for text messages.

The TH has a no camping sign, but like so many other times, we pulled in and parked with direct intent to sleep in the Suburban at the TH. We set up two chairs, tables and a Coleman stove for a quick kitchen. Staci went to work on dinner: a shrimp, tomato wine pasta. It was hot and delicious. I opened a bottle of wine. Camping and hiking doesn’t have to be all dehydrated meals and processed food. Enjoy the journey and splurge a bit at times.

We were surprised the large TH was empty. But before we went to sleep, three other cars pulled in. We got up around 6 a.m. I made coffee. Staci made breakfast: egg and sausage tacos. We had plenty. I offered food to the only other person in the parking lot that was awake. He declined.

Camp cooking and a bottle of wine.
Pancetta, shrimp, tomatoes and wine make for a great pasta topping.
Breakfast tacos in the making.

We set out with heavy packs at about 7 a.m. Ten minutes later I was heading back to the car because we forgot the blinis. How can you summit without those?

The TH was getting active with five hikers moving about getting ready. The trail was in good shape and not very steep as most of it was following an old mining road.

A rare trailhead photo

There were a few switchbacks in Elk Creek Basin and many of them had signage to direct hikers on the correct path. The sun was rising and sky was getting light. We had a nice view of one of the 13ers to the west of Wilson. We had the trail to ourselves as we made it through the forest and onto the rocky trail that switches basins. For those looking to backpack in, there is a good camping spot on the ridge that separates the two basins (37.87634, -108,01270). It sits at the curve in the trail just above 11,200.

Sunlight on the 13ers
A rocky trail above the trees in Elk Creek Basin.
Near 11,200: Elk Creek Basin
Lots of signage along the trail. On the ridge switching basins.

From here the trail heads into Silver Pick Basin. Still fairly level, it begins its transition to talus. Just like its neighbors to the south, Mt. Wilson and El Diente, there is a lot of talus. I could see our destination, which always adds to the enjoyment when I hike. We followed the mining road which also had some signage to keep hikers on the trail and off private property. Just below 12,200 we reached the old rock building. From here we went up and over a short, steep, and loose hill, where the path was now all rocks.

We took a break here. Put on sunscreen and grabbed a small snack. We weren’t moving too fast with our heavy packs, but the weather was great and we were enjoying the hike.

Near 11,300: Turned the corner and heading into Silver Pick Basin
Sun coming up over the ridge next to Wilson
Lots of rocks
A look at the road/trail.
The rock house
Ice in some of the water near the rock house
Trail is iffy just after the rock house as it goes up this loose slope.

But here is where our impression of Wilson Peak began to change a bit. Up above, high on the SW slope we heard rock fall. We heard more rock fall a few minutes later as we were about to begin the slope near 12,600. We looked up and saw a cloud of dust.

Two people passed us about this time. The trail on the slope had a few spots were rock fall had slightly covered portions of the trail. Based on what we heard, I wondered if this was from last winter, or sometime this summer. We took our time to reach the Rock of Ages saddle.

Near 12, 400: Heading to the saddle, more rocks
Near 12,700: Trail to the saddle from the slope
Great view of Gladstone, Mt. Wilson and El Diente from the Rock of Ages saddle

The saddle had a great view of Gladstone, Mt. Wilson and El Diente. I had hopes of possibly tagging at least one of the 13ers to the west, but after moving slow and figuring it was going to be longer day than predicted, I made the mental call that they would have to wait for another day.

The saddle becomes a short section of rocky ridge before moving under the Wilson slope and over to the Gladstone saddle. The slope is a rocky mess. There is a visible trail with cairns, but the rocks move. The steep slope is loose in a few spots and piles of rocks rest like a leaning game of Jenga ready to fall over. At one point I stepped on rocks on the trail and they all slid out from under my feet. I tried to quick step out of the spot, but Staci was moving slow in front of me. I put my hand on her back and yelled move. She didn’t like that little bit of pushing. She didn’t realize what was happening behind her, she thought I was just being impatient and bossy.

Above us, one person had decided to climb up the slope instead of heading over to the Gladstone saddle. He kicked a rock on us. We yelled rock for him. He also kicked rocks down on the couple who had passed us earlier. We learned about this when we met them on the G-saddle. We also met up with a group of guys coming down from the summit. And we ended knowing who they were. Again, a small world in this Colorado climbing community.

Looking Wilson and trail to the Gladstone Saddle from the Rock of Ages Saddle.
Rocky ridge
The rugged slope can be loose
On the slope looking back at the Rock of Ages Saddle and 13,450 B
Almost at the Gladsone Saddle, looking back at the slope, Rock of Ages Saddle and 13,450 B

Don’t go too high as you enter the first Class 3 section next to the saddle. We actually went down just a bit before we scrambled north across the section. It’s solid for the most part and we found several cairns to lead the way. Once across the C3, we followed a trail up the slope toward the false summit. At one point we went below a cairn instead of above, and ended up on a steep loose slope of scree. Not much fun.

Back on the cairned route, we moved up. Again, several piles of rocks that looked ready to fall. Not many people talk about how loose this peak and route can be. We had more rocks move on us, by others or from gravity then we had on most of the peaks in the Elks. We weren’t mentally ready for that on this peak. Mt. Wilson and El Diente were not this loose. Any others have this same experience?

A group coming up the Class 3 section next to the saddle.
Just above the saddle and the Class 3 section, dirt route and cairns lead the way
More rocks
Higher on the slope to the summit
Stuck in some very loose scree
At the notch before the false summit.

There is a cool notch before the false summit. Then up to the false summit and down the connecting ridge. There was snow and ice in this section. Not much, but enough to make footing questionable. With the steepness of this section, falling is not an option. We made sure that hand placements were actually hand holds, just in case our feet slipped. It took a few extra minutes to move through this section as we were being extra careful.

Once across the snow we moved up. Photo #18 in the Route Description has an arrow in the center. Where the arrow head is, is where you move up. But just to the left is a dirty gully which looks like the way up when you’re in this section. It’s not. Just take a moment to look around and it is a nice Class 3 scramble up. From here you’ll top out and move to another short C3 scramble to reach the top. We had a couple rocks move on us here.

At the false summit
Snow between the false and actual summit
Picking foot placement very carefully
Short Class 3 section before the summit
Class 3 section, almost to the top

We hit the summit about in about 5 hours. A bit slower than we anticipated. Those heavy packs slowed us down on the way up. But we didn’t care because the weather was perfect, warm with little to no wind and only a few non-threatening clouds moving around.

There were three other people on the summit, we said hello and moved passed them. We found a good spot and unloaded our cargo.

  • 2 Crazy Creek chairs
  • Checkered table cloth
  • Cloth Napkins (with rings)
  • Plates
  • A bottle of wine (cab)
  • Wine glasses
  • Spicy Tuna Sushi
  • Smoked Salmon blinis with sauce
  • Roasted Shrimp with cocktail sauce
  • Brie with raspberry chipotle jam and honey pretzel sticks
  • Parmesan Reggiano and assorted Olives
  • Crudités and Hummus
  • Bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • White Chocolate Mousse in dark chocolate cups
  • Cheese cakes with strawberry topping

It was absolutely delicious and worth the weight to carry it up the mountain. Best meal I’ve had on a summit, and better than most post-hike meals. We’ve done similar picnics on shorter hikes, but we’ll do this again for a 14er or 13er. Reaching the summit shouldn’t be the goal, enjoying the summit should be the reason to hikes these peaks.

We had more food than we could eat. During our planning, we assumed others would be on the summit and brought extra food to share. We did, feeding four other people on the summit. We hung out for about an hour, just enjoying the great September weather and the views of the San Juans.

A great place for a picnic
That's a lot of good food
She's awesome

We took some photos and began packing up after our lunch. This was nice, because most of the food was gone. I don’t care what size they are, cheesecakes are heavy. Not to mention all the plastic food containers. I was happy I didn’t have to carry the ice back down. (We stole our daughters insulated lunch box and stuffed it with the perishable food and a few small blocks of ice we made to keep the food fresh.) We didn’t finish the wine, so I stuck the cork back in it and saved it for later that night.

We headed down the Class 3 section and over to the false summit. A group of guys were about to make the drop into the snowy transition. From here we followed the trail to the Class 3 section before the saddle. We dropped down a bit lower than when we came up and actually went passed the saddle a few yards before realizing it. But not too far. We were back across to the Rock of Ages saddle in no time and where down to the old rock house. From here we could see a fire burning way off in the distance to the NW. Not sure which fire it was, but the smoke blooming up was huge.

San Juan views
One last look for today
Heading down from the summit
Lizard Head and some other San Juan peaks
Sneffles in the distance
Coming down the Class 3 section below the summit
Just below the summit
Coming down the Class 3 section near the saddle

We were down to the TH in about 3 hours from when we left the summit. This was a fairly fun peak, despite the looseness. The trail was easy because of the mining road. The Class 3 scrambles were fun and the top was steep enough to add some nerves. Add in the beautiful drive and the views from the summit, and this is definitely a Top 10.

From here we drove to Ouray, checked into a hotel I don’t want to visit again. It was more like a B&B, but a bit on the unique side, but not too creepy. Just way over priced, but it was one of the few rooms left in Ouray that night. A quick change and we went to the Ouray Hot Springs. Love the remodel and the adults-only hot pools at the top. After our soak in the hot pool, we went to dinner at Outlaw. It was OK, but the food on the summit was better.

Back below treeline and some of the fall colors dropping in

The next morning, we waited in line for the coffee shop to open. On the drive home, we took a short detour and had lunch at Bones in Crested Butte.

We don’t usually make a full weekend out of a 14er summit. But sometimes you just need to relax and enjoy what Colorado has to offer.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

10/22/2018 09:18
Joel - I am SO jealous! Makes my lox, cream cheese, capers and onion on a bagel seem SO pedestrian....


I wondered
10/22/2018 09:44
what the heavy packs were about but it is now clear. THAT'S the way to do it.

Regarding the Rock of Ages approach, my son and I had a mix of steep, hard snow (sideslope) and very loose rocks when we tried to go above the snow. That was our first time really needing crampons and ice axe and it wore on my nerves. Given your rockfall experience, not sure I would have liked that any better.

Thanks for the nice report and high target to shoot for in terms of 14er nutrition.


Are congratulations in order?
10/22/2018 14:37
Call me slow; but according to your checklist, Wilson Peak is the only peak left to be checked off...


10/22/2018 20:28
Loved the trip report... and the summit picnic!! WOW!!


10/23/2018 09:25
Jay... Lox and Bagels sound great, better than most of my hikes.
Glenmiz... a bit of solid snow could make this a better hike at times, but would suspect the drop between the summits, would be sketchy


Really cool
10/29/2018 11:49
Great choice of picnic! Nice write up!


That's doing it right
10/31/2018 20:57
Please let me know your climbing plans for next summer. I might just happen to try to show up on the same summit about the same time.

But don't tell anyone else, ok?

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