Peak(s):  El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Date Posted:  07/17/2008
Modified:  11/03/2009
Date Climbed:   07/12/2008
Author:  alanb
 El Deinte- North Slope Route partial traverse  

El Diente Peak North Slopes route & partial traverse
Party: alanb & lovenit
Mileage: 12 miles
Elevation gain: 7,145

Our day started at 2:30am hiking our way in to the Rock of Ages Saddle. The only notable portion of the first couple hours of hiking is that we passed a fresh pile of bear scat on the trail, which is always a good sign..;). The "warm up" hike to ROA saddle turned out to be more than just a warm up. There is still a lot of snow up there and the route is blocked in many places, so I'd recommend having at least an ice ax. This snow is also bullet proof in the early morning hours we managed not to slip or fall, but this was accomplished with some interesting balancing, hop stepping, and probably a lot of luck more than anything else. In hind sight we probably should have just put our crampons on and made our life easier. We still managed to hit the saddle by 6am and were able to catch the sun rising over the Wilson Peak Gladstone ridge.

In this picture you can see El Diente in the early morning light. The planned route was the prominent couloirs on the left of this picture- North Slope Route.
We made the base of the couloir at about 7am. The trip up the talus where it had melted out already was our first clue as to how unstable this mountain is. The run out was littered with freshly smashed rock chips and every rock, regardless of size, was unstable, which set the tone for the rest of the day.

We hit the snow and quickly donned crampons, helmet, and ice ax. The lower portion of the couloir had pretty descent snow and our crampons got a good bite. We made good progress up this portion. A look back down reminded us of the steepness of the slope and that the run out was bad news if we slipped.

You can see where the shadows still are in upper part of this picture where the couloir becomes more deeply inset. That is about where the snow conditions changed, it became much much harder, not to mention a lot slicker and slow methodical kick stepping was the name of the game from then on.

This is looking back across the upper portion of Navajo Basin at Wilson Peak. It is still holding a fair amount of snow although no crampons or ice ax are required as the slope is pretty gentle.

This is near the top of the coulior looking back down, its every bit as steep as it looks. We ran into one younger guy on this slope that had no ice ax and was stopping every few minutes to adjust his crampons, all I can say is this slope is steep and the snow is hard and slick, it's not a place to be without a way to self arrest and the run out if you slip is very likely fatal here.

Here is the first views of El Diente as you top out onto the ridge. It's an impressive sight and somewhat disheartening to see how far away it still was, especially after all the effort it took us to get to his point.

This is looking back down at the top of the coulior where you hit the headwall and climb left up to the ridge line.

A view looking the other way to the organ pipes and Mt Wilson's summit beyond that. I thought it looked pretty menacing and was already thinking about the traverse still to come, but I had to remind myself that the first order of the day was El Diente.

One of the rubble filled gullies you climb on the way to the summit. I didn't take many pictures along here. I do recall one section right before the summit that required either crossing a small snowfield or doing a semi challenging up climb to get around but other than that it was just lots of class 3 scrambling.

This shot is looking back at El Diente. The first part of the traverse is lots of class 3 scrambling and just takes a lot of time to pick the easiest route.

This is one of a few "more difficult" moves (up to this point) along the route. You have to hug this rock and reach around blind for a decent hand hold, and locate a toe hold that will allow you passage to wider ground. The drop off is probably 20-30ft ft but it's into a steep gully that has a runout over a cliff...yuck

From this point you made your way up to the ridge line, rock cairns are few and far between on this entire route but worth looking for as its very easy to get off route and into even more difficult climbing.

Looking back at the route just traversed. This picture pretty well sums up El Diente and the traverse, it's a huge pile of loose junk that seems to have no logical way of staying upright.

In this picture the cairn route crosses the upper edge of this small snow field. Lovenit was making his way across and stepped on some snow that was really just a inch of snow covering solid ice below. Both his feet slipped out from under him and he was left supporting himself by just his hands. He managed to recover nicely, but it's a good lesson to test every single hand hold and foot hold. It was certainly an heart stopping moment for both of us, as the view to where he would have fallen was not enticing.

This is shot of the ridge walking, it's a welcomed changed from the focused scrambling, but it is airy up there, wide but if you get near the left side the drop off will get your attention.

This spot was interesting. It's very narrow and the standard route has you go right over the top of these two. It's certainly one of the spots that we really took our time through and tried to stay focused on our next move rather than the view over the edge.

This is the 60ft class 4 headwall that if you come from the other direction most people repel off of. This picture does not show the enormity of this part of the climb well at all. It was sometime around 2pm when we got here and we stopped to eat some lunch and ponder our future. We had been up and hiking/climbing for 12 hours by this point. At the end of our discussion we came to the very difficult decision that we were no longer at the top of game, and climbing up this section required it. So we made the difficult decision to end our traverse at this point and leave Mt. Wilson for another day.

This is the couloir we down climbed and you can tell what lovenit thinks of having to go down it, not to mention not hitting the summit. Oh well, the summit will always be there.

We did have one interesting event happen as we reach the valley floor. A flight for life chopper kept circling the valley and as we all know that is NEVER a good sign. As it turns out they found a place to land near where our decent route was and our paths intersected. Thankfully they were there to pick up a girl had blown out her knee on Wilson Peak, and not anything more serious. Since we were headed back over the Rock of Ages saddle they asked us to notify the party where the chopper had landed.

We made the long hike back out to the truck and made tracks for Yankee boy Basin and Sneffels. El Diente may not be "officially" ranked but it is well worth climbing. I really enjoyed this mountain.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

07/24/2008 21:59
For another great trip and TR. I wished we could have bagged another summit or two, but feel like our decision to bail was wise.... THANKS AGAIN!!!


08/16/2008 17:55
Tks for the good TR and photos.
Helps me in my planning.

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