Peak(s):  El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Date Posted:  08/17/2019
Date Climbed:   08/14/2019
Author:  gmiller393
Additional Members:   johntmv
 Wilson Group from Navajo Lake!   

This is my first trip report on here, feel free to roast me in the comments as any feedback is greatly appreciated.

My friends and I first considered climbing the Wilson Group 14ers around Labor Day last year, before ultimately climbing the Lake Como 14ers instead due to weather. Since then, I’ve been thinking about them in the back of my head, hoping to get a chance to climb them. With a week off between work and the start of my school obligations, and with a climbing partner (my good friend Johnny (johntmv)) available and ready to go, my chance materialized. Even better, the weather forecast was looking good! I was pretty excited to attempt this group, as I ended up not attempting the Little Bear—Blanca traverse last year and finally felt ready to nab my first grand traverse!

Johnny and I set out from Boulder around noon on Tuesday, arriving at the Woods Lake trailhead around 6:30 PM. Immediately, we embarked on our hike to Navajo Lake, looking forward to a low-key 4.5 mile hike in. I was a bit under the weather after an eventful Monday night, so this hike felt longer than 4.5 miles, but the wildflowers were definitely pretty (photo #1)! Additionally, we were treated to an excellent view of the moon rising over the West Ridge of El Diente Peak (photo #2). All in all, we arrived at Navajo Lake around 8:30 PM, quickly made dinner, set up camp, and went to bed (as an aside, it was warm enough that Johnny comfortably slept in a hammock both nights).

Photo #1: Hiking through wildflowers on our way in!
Photo #2: The moon rising over the ridge of El Diente

Our alarms rang at 3:30 AM, and we quickly ate breakfast and set off towards El Diente Peak around 4 AM. Looking at the snowpack (or relative lack thereof) on the face of the mountain the night before and Wednesday morning, we decided to ascend via the North Buttress route. We arrived at the boulder field around 5 AM, and decided to wait for the sun to rise before beginning our ascent, given how critical route-finding is on this route. Once we felt we had enough light, we began.

Route-finding through the first five sections was pretty intuitive and fairly uneventful. The only thing I will note is that neither Johnny nor I could find the “obvious boulder” mentioned in section #2; however, this was not an issue in keeping us on route. Johnny took photo #3 of me on the “inclined catwalk” portion of section #5.

Photo #3: Making my way up the North Buttress route

After the tower marking the end of section #5 and the beginning of the summit pitch, things got interesting. To get to the next section of climbing (either the ledges or the steep climbing to the summit) we had to traverse about 15 feet of snow (photo #4). Given the steepness of the slope, neither of us felt comfortable doing this, ultimately, we busted out our ice axes and microspikes and climbed up about 15 feet of solid frozen-over snow, before traversing above the original snowpatch to reach the ledges (photo #5 shows the patch we climbed). We probably could have gotten away with not using the ice axes; however, they were definitely useful and it was nice to have the extra level of comfort.

Photo #4: The snow in our way
Photo #5: The snow we ended up climbing on

Next up was the ledges and the final push to the summit. The ledges was definitely a nervy bit of climbing, and the chimneys afterward lived up to their class 4 billing; however, this climbing was uneventful. It was definitely a spot where you want to take your time and test your holds, as with the whole day, but the exposure was not unmanageable. We arrived on the summit around 8:15ish (photo #6). It was here that we met a climber from the Kilpacker Basin side, Sawyer, who we would climb the traverse with.

Photo #6: Johnny (left) and I on the summit of El Diente Peak!

We spent a brief bit of time on the summit eating some bars and getting some photos, before starting the traverse to Mt. Wilson. The traverse to Mt. Wilson was definitely exposed, but clear and dry. We didn’t take many photos on the traverse, and mostly didn’t have issues with route-finding. I say mostly, as we initially missed the descent into the gully shown in photo #5 of the route description, but this was easily remedied after some backtracking. The climbing after the saddle just before Mt. Wilson was steeper than anticipated; however, it was manageable and did not exceed class 4. Still, we only sent one climber at a time, in order to manage the risk of rockfall.

The crux of the traverse was the summit ridge of Mt. Wilson. For me, this was the most exposed and nervy climbing of the entire trip. If you are not comfortable with high consequence, extreme exposure, difficult class 4 climbing then you should not attempt this route. We summited just after 10:30 AM, making our time across the traverse about 2 hours (photo #7). I was elated to have finally nabbed my first grand traverse!

Photo #7: Busting out the big smiles on the summit of Mt. Wilson! Thanks to Sawyer for letting us use the summit sign!

We spent a bit of time eating on the Mt. Wilson summit, before Sawyer embarked on his descent back to Kilpacker Basin. His plan was to hike out, and drive around to the Rock of Ages trailhead to climb Wilson Peak the next day. The descent off the Mt. Wilson summit ridge was on both Johnny and my minds, so we did not spend a lot of time on the Mt. Wilson summit. Downclimbing off the summit ridge was as spicy, if not spicier than the climb up, but it was manageable and over quickly.

The north face of Mt. Wilson was still holding quite a bit of snow—following the North Slopes route would have required crossing several steep snowfields (photo #8). To avoid this, we traversed above the first snowfield close to the Mt. Wilson summit, and then followed the ridge between the first and second snowfield down. This ridge was loose, and this climbing was tedious and time consuming. Once we were below this skinny snowfield, it was relatively easy to avoid any more snow. The downclimb off Mt. Wilson was the least pleasant climbing of the entire trip; however, once you are on the mountain you have to get down! We arrived in the basin below Mt. Wilson around 12:15 PM.

Photo #8: The view of the north slopes of Mt. Wilson and El Diente Peak

From the basin just below Mt. Wilson, there is a clear trail back to Navajo Lake. This hike was uneventful and tiring; we arrived back at our base camp at 2 PM. We quickly ate a bit, napped in our hammocks, and wandered around Navajo Lake. The number of groups camping at Navajo Lake roughly tripled between Tuesday and Wednesday night, so there were several groups of people to stop and chat with. After a long day that demanded absolute focus for most of it, we were both quite exhausted. We made dinner and went to bed just as the sun was setting, I think we both were asleep before it was even dark out.

We woke at 4 AM the next morning, and again quickly ate before embarking on our climb for the day (Wilson Peak) around 4:20 AM. Just as we reached the lake, Johnny realized that his CamelBak was leaking, and turned back to switch out his CamelBak for some Nalgenes. Given that I am the slower hiker and that it was only class two, I pushed on and waited for him at the turn off for El Diente peak.

The hike through the basin to the Rock of Ages saddle was uneventful. We lost the trail a bit in the basin just below Mt. Wilson; however, it was still easy to gain the Rock of Ages saddle. I didn’t keep a very good track of time for this day, as we were only ascending one peak and the weather forecast was clear, but I think we were at the saddle around 6 AM. From here we began our ascent of Wilson Peak. After the high exposure, high focus climbing of the day before, it was nice to have a comparatively mild peak to climb. Nothing about the climb of Wilson Peak was especially notable, but I would advise people to again test their holds and to be meticulous with their climbing. We reached the summit around 7:30 AM, and had it to ourselves; although we were joined on the downclimb by another climber whose name I didn’t catch (photo #9).

Photo #9: Johnny on the summit of Wilson Peak!

Just before the Rock of Ages saddle, we ran into Sawyer as he was beginning his ascent up Wilson Peak. We were excited to see that he had made it down Mt. Wilson safely and wished him good luck on his way! The hike back from the saddle to Navajo Lake was uneventful, and Johnny and I were both in high spirits after completing all of the technical climbing for the trip. This hike back also gave excellent views of Navajo Lake that I had not appreciated the day before (photo #10)!

Photo #10: The view of Navajo Lake!

We arrived back at our camp at Navajo Lake around 10:30 AM, and packed up and began our hike out to the Woods Lake trailhead. The trailhead description claims that the 400 feet you have to gain on your way out is “gradual,” but neither Johnny nor I felt that it was. That being said this hike was very beautiful and we were back at the Woods Lake trailhead at 1 PM. After getting some food in Grand Junction with some of Johnny’s family, we arrived back in Boulder around 10 PM to cap off a successful climbing trip!

Summiting El Diente and Mt. Wilson was undoubtedly the most rewarding payoff that I’ve had in my brief 14ers career. I think it was especially sweet to bag my first grand traverse after bailing on what would have been my first attempt on Little Bear roughly a year earlier. If you have a few days, good weather conditions, and a friend to send the climbs with, I can’t imagine a better way to destress and unwind than climbing the Wilson Group from Navajo Lake!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Snow Gear for Mt. Wilson
08/18/2019 20:02
Great report, thanks for writing it!

Some friends and I are planning to hike this group after Labor Day.

Would you recommend crampons/axes for the snowfield just below the summit of Mt. Wilson?

It's hard to interpret pitch from distant photos so your insight would be much appreciated.


No Snow Gear Needed
08/19/2019 13:09
Nope, no snow gear is needed. You can descend/ascend without traversing over any snow. See other recent trip reports and peak condition updates for more beta.

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