Peak(s):  El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Date Posted:  08/02/2007
Modified:  08/03/2007
Date Climbed:   07/02/2007
Author:  Ryk
 Wilsons & Sneffels - San Juans trip Part I  

I hooked up with Scott ( ) for part of his San Juan showdown. ( )
Scott's trip report is here: ( ) An ambitious schedule to be sure; I'm glad I was only there for just over half of the San Juans!

I met Scott at the Yankee Boy Basin TH sunday evening, 7/1, where we threw down our bags for the night. We got a not-too-early start for Sneffels the next morning. The weather was great and we were soon at the bottom of the snowfield on the south side of the peak.

South slopes of Sneffels

Scott on Scree col, looking down the main snowfield

Pretty much every morning that we climbed on this trip, the snow was hard enough to need crampons since we hit 'em fairly early. We climbed this northeast-facing snowfield to gain the ridge, then continued up the short northern couloir that gets you close to the top. We took off the crampons shortly before the top of the notch and continued on to the summit. The trip down was uneventful.

After lunch in Ouray, we drove to the Navajo Lake TH & hiked to camp just above the lake. I had done this hike before, but I'd forgotten the brutal switchbacks at the last part of the hike in.

The next morning, we got up fairly early, hiking up to the upper basin by headlamp. An hour later, we started climbing up El Diente's North Slopes route. I was surprised that there wasn't snow all the way to the bottom of the slopes. We found our way to the bottom of the snow, donned our crampons and headed up.

Part way up El Diente's north slopes route

The snow was kind of wavy, with slight ridges running up & down. With the sun rising to our left, the snow on the right side of these ridges was fairly soft, and the snow on the left side was pretty hard. So I aimed right for the middle which gave my crampons good purchase. It took us a while to get to the very top, including some mixed climbing. After leaving the snowfield, we scrambled on some pretty loose rock to reach the ridge. The rest of the route to El Diente's summit was trivial, dropping down a bit on the south side of the ridge, then going up a gully to get around some rocks.

We didn't stay on the peak for long, as we were anxious to begin the traverse to Mt. Wilson. We retraced our path most of the way back to the ridge above El Diente's south slopes, then continued with the traverse. Having climbed some of these peaks 12 years ago, I was amazed at how well cairned the routes were. In fact, on every single peak we climbed, route-finding was simply not an issue -- we just followed the cairns, as long as they appeared to be in the general direction of our routes. In a way, I found it to detract from the experience. You couldn't really feel as if you alone had summited -- you were certainly benefiting from the others who'd gone before you. On the other hand, this afforded us great success, with no route-finding problems leading to epic experiences.

Looking toward the 3rd class coxcomb just west of Mt. Wilson.

I found the traverse easier than I expected. At no point did I feel uncomfortable with the 3rd class scrambling. We followed Roach's description pretty well. Climbing up the 3rd class rock on the coxcomb was not as difficult as other descriptions might make it sound, but this is obviously subjective. However, once we got on the 4th class rock for the short climb to the summit of Mt. Wilson, I wasn't quite as comfortable. One or two moves were quite exposed and I found myself hesitating more than I thought I would. I'm chalking it up to Mother Nature handing me a defense mechanism now that I'm older & have two young kids.

Altogether, it took us 2:40 to make the traverse, a pace that we were happy with since we were taking our time. Coming off of Mt. Wilson, we down-climbed a slightly different route down, taking some ledges on the east side before connecting to the north slope. We didn't feel like it would be a good choice to tackle Wilson Peak also that day, so we started to pick our way back down to the basin. We passed by a finger of steep snow and tried to assess whether we could glissade it. I didn't feel comfortable trying it out due to no run-out at the bottom, so we climbed further down until we found a spot less dangerous. Though relatively steep, we were able to control ourselves well enough. We linked up several glissades for a fast trip down the mountain - an enjoyable energy-saving way to end the day's climb. We slogged back down the talus trail to camp & rested up for the next day's climb.

Our glissade route down from Mt. Wilson

The following day, July 4th, we got up early for the climb up Wilson Peak. We started just after 4:00 and we were on the summit by 7:15 or so. The route is trivial until you drop down the east side of the Gladstone/Wilson Peak saddle.

On the Rock of Ages saddle, looking at Wilson Peak's west ridge

From there there we again just followed the cairns which kept us close to the ridge. This was much easier than the talus-hopping I'd done on the same peak years ago. I was pretty delighted at how much easier it was this time around. We carefully crossed a couple of remaining fingers of snow up high, then crossed over to the north side of the peak and into the gully that takes you to the top. It was fairly crumbly, but not too bad as we carefully ascended. Once on top, you could see a lot of the debris from the previous year's airplane crash. It was disturbing to see personal effects from the crash gathered in a pile on the summit -- a reminder of how fragile life can be.

Me on top of Wilson Peak, with the Mt Wilson - El Diente ridge in the back ground.

After climbing back down the peak and back to our camp, we broke camp and hiked back out to the trailhead. The only negative aspect of climbing the Wilson group was that the very loose rock slowed us a down somewhat. You definitely had to test most of the hand & foot-holds to ensure they'd hold.

Part 2 of my tag-along with Scott can be found here:

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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