Peak(s):  El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Date Posted:  06/26/2007
Modified:  05/13/2013
Date Climbed:   06/19/2007
Author:  benners
 Wilson Group in a Day (From Navajo Lake)  

Peaks: El Diente, Mount Wilson, Wilson Peak (San Juan Range)
Date Climbed: June 19, 2007
Group: Stu (marmotman) and Ben (benners)
Route: El Diente's North Face, traverse to Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak's standard from camp in Navajo Basin
RT Distance/Elevation Gain: 16 Miles, 7,300 Feet
Time: 30 Hours

Stu and I found oursevles free of time commitments and decided to head to the San Juans. Because they are so far from Boulder we figured we would stay for a while and make it a multi-day, multi-summit trip. Last August I hiked into Navajo Basin and attempted to solo all three peaks but due to weather and time, I was forced to leave after summiting El Diente. From that moment I knew I would eventually return and ever since I have been particularly eager to climb the Wilsons. So in typical "Jihad" fashion, Stu and I set our sights on summiting all three mountains in one day.

We hiked into Navajo Basin, leaving the TH around 6:00pm, and had camp established by 10:00pm. This summer we elected to try the dehydrated backpacking food you can buy at REI. It's sorta hit or miss with this stuff but for the most part it is pretty decent. After an excellent stroganoff/couscous combo, we hit the sack around midnight. We awoke to the cell phone alarm clock at 4:00am, had a quick granola breakfast and hit the trail around 4:45am. The ascent into upper Navajo Basin was snow free and the weather looked perfect for our long day out. Upon first glance of El Diente, we were a little disappointed to see so much snow as our initial hope was that we could avoid a snow climb but it seemed inevitable. We picked a line and began the ascent of El Diente's North Face.

Wilson Peak from the North Face of El Diente

We quickly ran into mixed snow and rock terrain and our pace slowed as more caution became necessary.

Stu at 12,500 Ft.

Upon reaching the ridge, we learned that there were many areas of the traverse which still held snow, including the final section of El Diente. We also noted that there were steps kicked in by an earlier party which we tried to stick close to for the remainder of the day.

Negotiating a ledge near the summit of El Diente

The final section of El Diente

We summited El Diente at 8:30am and took a look at the traverse. We had read about the traverse to Mt. Wilson and we knew that the snow would complicate things. Last August I found myslef in the same position on El Diente, gazing across the traverse at Mt. Wilson and I elected to save it for another day. On this day, we decided to go for it. The initial downclimb off of El Diente was possibly the most difficult section of the entire traverse. Looking back on it now this is because we did not follow the route correctly and as a result we found ourselves on a Class 4 downclimb.

The ridge, El Diente in the background

A few times we found it necessary to drop below the ridge to the south (right) side and traverse across and then re-gain the ridge. Unfortunatly when we did this we would routinely run into steep snow slopes with no other alternative but to cross them. This meant switching modes from rock to snow back to rock several times which became time consuming.

The "Organ Pipes"

The final section of the traverse requires that you straddle the ridgeline and then drop down to the traverse's low point before a steep climb up what we then considered to be Mt. Wilson's West side.

Stu on the ridge, Mt. Wilson looking closer and closer

After this pitch we connected with Mt. Wilson's standard route

The final pitch up Mt. Wilson was a Class 4 section of solid rock which lasted maybe only 100 feet. We summited Mt. Wilson at noon and met two guys, a guide and a client from Telluride, on the summit who had hiked into Kilpacker Basin and climbed Mt. Wilson's Southwest side. They can be seen in the previous Mt. Wilson photo about halfway up the snow couloir.

Stu (right) and I on Mt. Wilson's Summit

Looking back across the traverse

From the summit we considered possible routes over to Wilson Peak and decided that despite the snow, we should stay as high as we could to save elevation on the traverse to the Rock of Ages saddle. We spent a lot of time on the descent from Mt. Wilson.

The downclimb off of Mt. Wilson's Summit

We found ourselves wanting to stay off of the snow as much as possible which usually meant sacrificing elevation. We reached the Rock of Ages saddle by 3:00pm, took another look at the weather and decided to go for Wilson Peak.

The approximate route we ended up taking

The ascent of Wilson Peak was more difficult than we expected. The rock is horribly loose and rotten and there were bands of soft snow which needed to be crossed all the way to the summit. The route stays to the Southeast side of the ridge and gradually gains the ridge around 13,500 Ft.

Our route from halfway up Wilson Peak

The dotted line in the above picture marks where we were able to self arrest. Also our approximate route up El Diente can be seen to the right.

Negotiating Ledges on Wilson Peak

After a sketchy traverse across a field of soft snow near the summit, we topped out on Wilson Peak at 5:00pm. Much of the wreckage of the plane which crashed found its way onto the summit. We took a few pics and descended under the sunset, reaching camp at 8:00pm. To finish the day we packed up and backpacked out to the TH, reaching our car at midnight and capping off a 20 hour day (25 out of 30 hours on our feet); we were exhausted. We then spent the night in Telluride and headed off for Mt. Sneffels. On this same trip we ended up getting the Wilsons, El Diente, Sneffels, Uncompahgre, Wetterhorn, Handies, and San Luis over a 7 day stretch. The Jihad is underway!

A cross on Wilson Peak's Summit

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

that is
02/05/2011 00:22
one kickass trip report, such a sick area the Wilsons are.


You are...
06/27/2007 00:06
strong mothas... That is a sick agenda for one day. The call of the Wilsons is strong.


11/30/2010 17:28
Sick TR! That is a tall order for one day! Congrats! I can't wait to get back to that area for Wilson/ElDiente.


Nice job
06/27/2007 01:05
Great feeling to get all three in a day!


once again
01/19/2011 03:38
you've put one heck of a climb into a great TR. Those are some of the most useful photos I've seen in one for awhile.

Mark A Steiner

Outstanding effort
01/24/2012 20:07
Anytime I see a TR of the Wilsons it grabs my attention. Fine photography, too.

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