Peak(s):  Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Date Posted:  07/26/2009
Modified:  07/27/2009
Date Climbed:   07/22/2009
Author:  MountainMatt
 Solo trip to the Navajo Basin - Wilson Trio  

Knocked out three good ones!

El Diente, (traverse) Mt Wilson and Wilson Peak from the Navajo Lake approach.

Left Denver Monday afternoon for the long drive down to Telluride, but made it as far as Ridgeway and decided to call it a night. Headed up Owl Creek Pass for some quite sleep.

From there it was to Ouray and then Bullion King Basin for some sightseeing. It's a short drive but the views are great.

From there it was a connecting spur road to take the infamous Black Bear Pass into Telluride.

After filling up both the tank and the stomach, it was off for a peaceful 3 days at Navajo Lake.

It didn't take long to make the parking lot, just in time for a hellva storm. Waiting out the storm for the better part of 2 hours, it was time for the mucky hike up the Lake (starting around 3:00pm).

Everything was soaked and rain pants would have been a better choice, but I only received light drizzle heading up to the lake.

After almost 3 hours of sliding through mud, I made the lake with just enough light to set up camp, cook dinner, and say hi to the nearby residents.

Navajo Lake is quite the scene!

Thinking about the long day ahead I hit the bag around 10:00pm, but it didn't matter much cause all I did was toss and turn for the next 6 hours until I couldn't take it anymore and stuck my head out of the tent just after 4am.

The stars were nothing short of breath taking and after some quick water and food I was on the trail with some neighbors at 5am. These were my first 14ers of the season I was buzzing with energy and couldn't wait for what lay ahead on this solo adventure.

The group of 4 and myself made our way up the loose talus at a modest pace and soon the sun was shining on the valley below. No clouds or wind, and cool temps were perfect.

After another 15 minutes we were all looking at the north couloir of El Diente. The snow still covered about 60% of it and it looked like a fun accent.

Excited to get on the snow I let the slower moving group know that I was going to head up and do my best to tackle this beast.

The snow was ideal and I was thankful for making the decision to haul the crampons and axe up. It wasn't long before I was looking halfway down.

... and then all the way down. (near the headwall)

From the headwall the directions were very clear and the route is well marked all the way to the top.

I made the summit shortly after 9:00 and stayed about 15 minutes to take in the views and look at the traverse that lay ahead.

Not wanting to waste to much time I left the summit and made my way down the route hoping to pass the group of 4 coming up behind. Now it was nearing 10:00 and they were nowhere in sight. So I down climbed a bit and sure enough they were still make a slow but steady pace up the couloir. We chatted a bit and I left for the traverse, eager to see how this compared to other peaks I've been on.

I elected to take the lower route and down climb the extra 100 ft below the gendarmes, mainly because that's the only route I could see (and being solo I didn't want to take added risks).

Looking back

From there it was a climb back up loose scree to the ridge.

My best attempt to take a picture on the ridge

It's from here that things get fun/airy/scary/exposed, whatever you want to call it.

Looking at the narrows and summit

The decent to the saddle wasn't to bad, and I soon picked out the line that headed up to the narrows. I stayed to the center for most the class 4 climb and when I needed to I opted to go to the right.

There's a good anchor at the top if you brought rope.

From here it's the narrows, which were named appropriately. The exposure was noticeable, but the solid rock kept the head games from getting the best of me. Take your time and go slow.

Looking back

The last bit just below the summit was the worst for me. For some reason the difficulty started to get into my head and I took a minute to gather my thoughts and say a prayer.

Once again I elected to not add to the risk and went to the left around the harder lines. And at 1:15 I was sitting on one of the best summits I've been on. I was the first person to sign the log in 3 days.


I probably stayed on the summit longer than I should, but to be honest I wasn't excited to leave the summit and go back down the class 4.

I took a deep breath and continued down making my way slowly knowing if I fell no one would come looking for quite some time. Making it safely off the summit for me was more exciting and emotional than making the actual summit!

The weather was perfect with only an occasional cloud lining the sky. I made my way down the standard route thinking it would be the safest/quickest way possible (but I'm not sure it was the quickest).

I glissaded down about 600ft in some rotten mid-day snow and then took the boulder field back to the rock of ages trail.

Now safely in the basin I directed my attention to where the group of 4 were. The last I'd seen them was from the summit of Mt Wilson and I could spot one climber just below the summit of El Diente (around 1:30).

I was certain that they wouldn't do the traverse, but I kept an eye on both the coulior and the traverse. Continuing down the basin I never saw sight of them and then wondered if they made it back to the tents before me. So I continued down to the lake.

Stopping to take a picture of a columbine (every TR needs one pic right?)

Finally I made it back to the tent at 3:30. The good feelings melted away when I noticed that the other party hadn't made it back to the tent yet. Still being early I put the feelings away and kept busy for a couple hours.

Now going on 7pm and still no sight of them I started to worry. The sun was starting to get low and I was certain they didn't do the traverse... or did they. My head started to fill with unanswerable questions and I couldn't keep this to myself any longer. I didn't want to get overly excited, but I didn't want to leave people in trouble on the mountain either. "When should SAR be notified?" kept running through my head.

I talked to some people camping near the lake and we talked it out a bit. I figured the best thing to do would be wait until morning and if there were no sign of anyone, I'd call SAR the next morning when heading up to do Wilson Peak when I would be able to get cell service (it was that or walk the 5 miles back out and then drive to Dunton where I could make the call).

8pm... no sign of them. 9pm... no sign of them. 10pm... no sign of them... I was beginning to think I'd be the last person to see this party of 4!

FINALLY, at 10:45pm a single head light appeared a mile away at the saddle and I began to head up the trail to meet them. I was greeted by the father/son (Mike's) and they were out of water, but in good condition. They informed me the others were moving behind them slowly. I made my way to them as well and they were glad to see me and in good health. What a huge sigh of relief knowing all were heading back to camp safe and sound. They had an 19 hour day climbing El Diente!!!

Back at the tent I met Kim (ksegasser) whom I would pair up with to climb Wilson Peak in the morning.

That night I slept much better.

The alarm went off at 5:15am and at 6:00 I was heading up the talus once again with Kim ready to summit Wilson Peak. Our pace was steady and we were making our way up the upper basin in no time. Before I knew it, the rock of ages saddle was in full view.

Looking back at the lake.

It wasn't much longer until we were at the saddle looking at the mighty Wilson Peak.

We dropped our poles (which the marmots took advantage of) and went across the class 3 to the main trail.

The trail is well marked with cairns (when in doubt, look higher) and we had no problem finding our way to the false summit.

After a couple minutes of careful planning we descended just enough to make it to the steep scramble below the summit.

Looking at the summit

Kim coming across

Looking up the crack area

Kim coming up behind me

NOTE: Keep an eye out for this rock. It's where we took a left and then the rest of the ridge to the summit was pretty much effortless.

Looking down the ridge

Making the summit at 9:30 we took in the views in the perfect weather. In no hurry to go back down we stayed on the summit for an hour until other climbers started to show up.

Summit Log

Crappy handstand (Kim made me do it)

Heading back down was no worse than going up. We were in no hurry and the steep down climb was uneventful.

Kim on the false summit

In no hurry we made our way back to the tents and rolled into camp around 1:30pm. I was more than happy with making all three summits this trip with the blessing of the pristine weather.

We began to pack up and at 2:30 we were headed for the parking lot.

Looking up Killpacker Basin with El Diente gleaming in the background

With the cars in sight a huge smile came across my face. We loaded up and headed off to Telluride to find the biggest cheeseburger in town (which happened to be at the Corner House).

After staying the night at Alta Lakes (highly recommended!) I made my way over Ophir Pass and then Engineer Pass to Lake City and home.

Alta Lakes

Engineer Pass

I guess this is a pretty lengthy trip report. I figure going solo, I needed to share the adventure with someone! (Hope you don't mind.)

These mountains live up to the hype.

Cheers, Matt

 Comments or Questions

07/27/2009 12:16
photos and great trip report. how thick was the snow on el diente? i am heading up this week and am trying to figure out if i need to bring crampons with me... sounds like it


07/27/2009 14:18
Thanks. The snow was still pretty thick, I‘d atleast bring an axe, but you may be able to go without crampons in a week. It‘s melting pretty fast.


tx for taking so many pics!
07/27/2009 15:36
I‘m climbing Wilson from Bilk Basin this coming weekend. It was great to get some more views of the ridge. That is the SW ridge, right?


standard route
07/27/2009 17:10
Yep that was the SW ridge heading up from Rock of the Ages.

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