Peak(s):  El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Date Posted:  08/03/2009
Date Climbed:   08/02/2009
Author:  Wentzl
 El Diente - West Ridge revisited  

Last week I posted a report of getting stormed off the El Diente West Ridge. Since pictures of the lower part of the ridge are posted there, I will pick up this report where that one leaves off. The only new information I have is that when approaching the West Ridge, the Roach guide suggests going to the West end of Navajo Lake and doing a long gradual traverse over scree to the ridge proper. I did that last week and didn't care for it. A nice alternative, and one that took about 30 minutes off the time it took to get to the ridge, is to go just about 1/10 of a mile past the trail intersection with the Woods Lake trail. A sign here says 3/4 mile to Navajo Lake. The trail descends steeply for a while after the sign. When it levels out, look for an animal trail to the creek, cross and head straight up. In a short while you will come out of the trees and be on the scree just slightly east of where you want to be.

On this attempt we camped again at the Navajo Lake trailhead. In our usual fashion, we got an early alpine start, about 7:30 a.m. The day seemed like the weather would cooperate, but by 11:00 there were some nasty looking clouds about and we ducked behind a ridge while a brief snow squall passed by. Seeing mostly clear skys to the west, but hearing thunder to the east, we pressed on.

The first real difficulty was bypassed dropping to the N side of the ridge past one of the very few cairns marking this interesting route. This was one of the trickier sections where trying to stay on the ridgecrest turned out to be unwise. After a while we scrambled around to the S side again and found this lovely section to climb.


After this section there was some very interesting climbing traversing right on what might be the most technically challanging bit. I brought a 100' length of 7 mil rope and a couple slings for anchors and used it several times to belay Elly past some of the steeper pitches.

About 1/2 way througth the difficulties of the ridge we took these pictures looking both ways.

Looking back gave a nice sense of accomplishment.


But looking ahead it seemed like there was much more to be done. In fact, from here the climb went quite quickly and it was much less difficult than it appeared.


For the most part the route stays on the S side of the ridge. There is a very prominent gray gully. Once you find yourself here you are nearly finished. Access the ridge by this gully and finish on the ridge proper or just to the N side. The next image is looking down this gully.


And then from the same vantage looking back down the ridge.


And looking up toward the summit after exiting the gray gully.


When you see the dayglow green moss it is an easy scramble to the top, just a few minutes away.

Elly on the summit with Mt. Wilson in the background.


And me looking a little too relaxed.


I had done the traverse from Mt. Wilson to El Diente years ago and descended the North Slope of El D. so this would be the first time going the other way on the ridge. I remembered most of the route, but had forgotten the descent at the end before getting to Mt. Wilson. Getting up from the low spot between Mt. Wilson and the El D traverse proved a little trickier than expected, especially since we were not prepared for any snow travel. When we finally did top out and could look across to see Wilson Peak I realized I had left my camera somewhere down below. I will remember the route better now, having done that 300 vertical feet three times in succession.

At 5:30 p.m. we decided we might as well get on top of Mt. Wilson again. It was only about 10 minutes up from where we would begin our descent back into Navajo Basin.


It turned out to be a beautiful evening. Here is a look back at the descent from Mt. Wilson from high up in Navajo Basin.


This next picture has nothing to do with the climb, but I thought it was cool.


Heading home past Navajo Lake.


And a final look up at the West Ridge of El Diente.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Good Job Guys!
11/30/2010 17:20
How would you compare El Diente's West Ridge to the ElDiente/Mt Wilson traverse?



08/03/2009 17:08

Thanks for the comment/question.

The traverse is grade III and I would say it is an easier III. The West Ridge is a solid IV and getting anywhere offroute you will easily find yourself on 5th class rock.

The West Ridge took about three hours once we accessed the ridge, the traverse about 2.

In short, on the traverse, you would have to try hard to fall. On the West Ridge you have to try hard not to.


Nice Job!
08/03/2009 17:28
Looks like a blast! I am heading up there this week and was thinking of going up Kilpacker and then traversing and descending the north slope of Mt. Wilson. Can you help me out with the snow conditions? I wonder because you mention not being prepared for snow travel, is the north slope Mt Wilson gulley carrying snow and require crampons?


North Mt. Wilson
08/03/2009 17:46
I didn‘t spend enough time in Kilpacker to say what you will find there. As for the North Slope of Mt. Wilson, we kept our feet dry on the descent from Mt. Wilson. AVOID the temptation to descend the gullies that appear as the obvious way down. Instead, traverse high on Mt. Wilson ridge following cairns all the way till you overlook the Wilson glacier then go down parallel to the Wilson Glacier. Don‘t get on the snow, but angle always to climbers right to find a good trail back to the Navajo Basin trail. Doing this we went from the summit of Mt. Wilson to the trail in under an hour and never set foot in any snow at all.

There was a fair amount of snow in the gully.

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