Peak(s):  El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Date Posted:  08/12/2020
Date Climbed:   08/08/2020
Author:  little_castaldo
Additional Members:   joemcglinchy
 Wilson Group including North Buttress and Traverse, from Navajo Lake   

Wilson Group Backpacking Trip


Partner: Joe McG (joemcglinchy)

Approach: Navajo Lake Trail

Base Camp: East Navajo Lake

Peaks: El Diente Peak via North Buttress, Mount Wilson via Traverse from El Diente and descent via North Slopes, and Wilson Peak via Southwest Ridge

Rocks: Tertiary San Juan Formation, Silverton Volcanic Group, Microgranogabbro, Granodiorite, and Porphyritic adamellite; ~3-30 million years old

Mileage: 23.9 miles

Gain: 8471ft

Hiking Time: 27 hours 15 minutes

Gear: 85L backpack for approach, 22L backpack for summits, helmet, microspikes, poles, rain gear, 2-person tent, bear cannister, hammock

Food: Clif Bloks, nuun tablets, snickers, Sour Patch Kids, Trader Joe's Summer Sausage, beef stroganoff, kathmandu curry, chicken gumbo, breakfast skillet, kodiak cakes maple and brown sugar protein oatmeal, backpacking smoked salmon, two coors light tall boys

(8/5 we drove from Denver to Gunnison and got some Zzzs at the Sherpa Western Inn)

Day One 8/6: The Approach

We left Gunnison at around 4am and made our way down past Telluride and up into the Lizard Head WIlderness. We parked at the Navajo Lake Trailhead and started hiking a little after 8am (at least I did...Joe napped for a quick 20 minutes to give me a head start).

Me ready for adventure!
Gorgeous meadows and first look at El Diente.
Dolores Peak

After an hour, I found a rock suitable for eating, and Joe caught up with me.

Mmmmm southwest chicken wrap!

The trail was a gentle slope and very pleasant until the last half mile to gain the lake.

Gladstone appears proud in the distance.
Yessss! We have reached the lake!

It was now time to find a campsite and set up "base camp." We opted to go around to the East side of the lake to reduce mileage on summit days...and to get away from the "crowds" of maybe 5-6 groups (really not that bad, although there was a rumor that a party of 12 was lurking somewhere...).

I nested.
Joe and I took turns jumping in the lake. Yes, it was cold, but refreshing after you ran back on to land.

Day Two 8/7: A Grand Traverse

We left camp the next morning a little after 4:30am. Breakfast was protein was actually pretty tasty and filling.

Orion comfortably resting above Gladstone Peak.

We followed our gpx and left the trail at about 11,800ft to hop over to the base of the North Buttress. We saw a group over on the North Slopes and another group on the buttress but already 1000ft up. We were very concerned about rock fall, but after a quick discussion, we decided we could start ourselves. The buttress angles from climbers right to left, so they were not even close to directly over us. Looking at the route, we were confident that anything dislodged from them would miss us by a few hundred feet.

North Buttress of El Diente Peak in the moonlight.
The route as we approach the start.
Looking back at Navajo Lake. So pretty!

There are several sections to the route - the first being the slabs, which were solid and fun. Then next came the Jumble and the Hump. The Jumble and Hump both were devious. Rocks and boulders were loose, so we went VERY slow and tested every single hand- and foot-hold. A little exhausting, but we still believe it was the better choice over the North Slopes route, as we heard rockfall more than once to the East.

Joe heading up to the slabs.
Slabs were a great warmup.
More slabbies.
Some relatively solid rock to climb.

I will say, when reading the route description, the photos of the "benches" were a little confusing to me. Everything looked like a pile of rocks. Well, when actually on the route, trust me, there are benches, and you know when you're on one.

There I am!

We got through the Jumble and the Hump. The "V" snowfield patch came into view.

Last portion of the Hump.
Joe making his way up the class 2-3 Hump. You can see Wilson Peak on the left.
Almost to the Ledge before the V.
After the Ledge, gained the inclined catwalk. Boy, can that man climb!! I used half zoom to make this look more dramatic than it was.

The inclined catwalk was the most solid rock of the day, which was a much need break.

Me getting over the last bench before the summit pitch.

We decided to forego the chimneys to avoid the loose rock at the top. We instead took the variation, which was mostly solid class 4 climbing.

Joe on the final part of the summit pitch.

Then we scrambled up the summit, where we joined a group who had gone up the North slopes and were in agreement it was not great in its current condition.

Us and the dogs taking a very happy summit photo on the top of El Diente, 14,159ft.
Either Joe only takes photos of me when I'm eating, or I'm eating all the time.
Wilson Peak and Gladstone.

And now...the best part of the of the great 14er Traverses! Super excited for this. I was going over the route by memory in my sleeping bag the night before, complete with little hand gestures and waves.

Joe ready to traverse the traverse.
Crossing the Organ Pipes.
Looking at the gendarmes (pronunciation?).
After the gendarmes (I can't pronounce it either), and some easy climbing, we had to downclimb and then upclimb.
The upclimb.
Spicy Narrow Section. Ah! Here's Trevor, cool dude we linked up with for the Traverse. We'd run into him on the Wilson Peak summit the next day.
Me being sassy.
Band summit photo!
So happy we forgot momentarily that our descent was expected to be pure hell. And oh it was.
Joe dramatically clinging to a block after we downclimbed the crux.
The North Slopes descent. Loosest part of the day. I would never do this again.
Looking back at the Traverse.

Well after almost 12 hours, we got back to camp pretty tired. It was time for beers, smoked salmon, and another dip in the lake. We then retired early to the tent for reading and rest.

Day Three 8/8: The Mountain that Coors Made Famous

We slept in until 4am the next morning (3:15am and 3:45am the previous nights) and had a lovely backpacking skillet scramble for breakfast. It was pretty good and filling. Then we started off for Wilson Peak; our third, and last objective of the trip.

The view behind us while heading up to the Rock of Ages saddle.
Mine ruins. Do you see Joe hiding?
The other side of the Rock of Ages saddle.
Wilson Peak as seen from the saddle.
The view of most of the route.
Looking back at Gladstone, Mt. Wilson, and El Diente.
About to downclimb off the false summit.
Climber on the summit pitch. Hi Bob!
Joe making his way up the class 3 pitch.
Joe waiting for me (we took turns to make sure we didn't kick any rocks on to each other).
More summit views.
Summit photo with our empty beers (after the 12-hour day on the traverse, we chose to drink them the previous evening).
Back down the summit pitch.
Bob on the false summit.
Back across the class 3 ledges.
So much fun!!

We stopped at Navajo Lake to break down our campsite and change clothes (best decision ever). And then we headed back down to the trailhead.

Much gentler than coming down from Willow Lake.
That's a wrap!! Look at those smiles. A job well done!

We were stoked to arrive at the car, and even more excited to grab a burger and tacos in Telluride. Then we made our way to Montrose for a hotel stay. Oh man did that bed and shower feel like the bees nees. Then the next morning (8/9), we made the remaining drive back via I-70 instead.

All in all, this was a great trip. We did learn some things - the rock quality on the North slopes of this areas is definitely suspect without snow, and we might want to climb that peak in the spring when snowfields can stabilize the mountainside more; 8 hours of class 3-4 terrain is mentally draining, and for the first time since trying class 3, I actually was looking forward to a class 1 trail; and finally, bring paper and a pen with you in case someone leaves their dogs at 12,000 with no water while they do an all-day hike and you want to leave them a note.

Thanks for reading!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59

Comments or Questions
Jack Brauer

Cutting edge fashion!
08/13/2020 08:30
Your shirts! Amazing.


08/13/2020 09:48
Thank you Jack!!

   Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.