Peak(s):  Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Gladstone Pk  -  13,913 feet
Date Posted:  09/10/2009
Date Climbed:   09/06/2009
Author:  Nathan Hoobler
 Wilson Peak with Gladstone thrown in  

Wilson Peak and Gladstone Peak
Navajo Basin
September 5-7, 2009
Nathan and Bob

Bob (aka cruncheweezy) and I planned a trip to Navajo Basin over Labor Day Weekend to see how many of the Wilson Group peaks we could climb. Forecasts noted the remnants of a tropical storm and 50-60% chance of rain, snow, hail, and thunderstorms every day. But, why not give it a go?

It's a long drive from Colorado Springs, but we broke it up by staying at a KOA in Gunnison on Friday night. (I'll forego the details of why we stayed there, but it involved kittens...really!)


There's a fantastic view of Wilson Peak (left) and 12er Sunshine Mountain on the way to the trailhead.

We started hiking around 11 am and (after a quick sprint back to get forgotten poles) were on our way. One note about this trailhead: We saw three marmots in the parking lot as we arrived, which made us wonder about the safety of the underside of the car. Thankfully, when we returned two days later, nothing was damaged.

The hike in was beautiful, with many wildflowers, mountain views, and verdant green slopes. Rain started a little afternoon along with some distant thunder. As we arrived at Navajo Lake to search for a spot, it was more than sprinkling, but less than a downpour.

We found a site above the lake and pitched the tent. We soon found that we were camped near fellow members, including d_baker and others whose usernames I'm forgetting (sorry, guys!). We heard their story about climbing the North Buttress on El Diente and traversing to Mt. Wilson, the route we hoped to climb the next day. Here's a good picture from Bob of the North Buttress from camp:


It started raining later that night and continued until after 4:30 the next morning. We headed up the trail at 5:30 am and soon saw that the night's moisture had resulted in a lot of snow on Mt. Wilson and El Diente. We weren't ready to deal with those conditions and elected to climb Wilson Peak instead.

Here's the standard route up El Diente:

And the snow on Mt. Wilson:

We headed up the standard route on Wilson Peak through the upper reaches of Navajo Basin. Finding some mining equipment, we considered alternate means of transportation.

As we reached the Rock of Ages Saddle, the cloud ceiling was still parked around 13,700 feet.

We also ran into d_baker and his partner Calvin around this saddle, along with another climbing team of Rick and Joe. d_baker headed up first and we followed shortly after. The last 1/2 mile or so of the hike was covered in some snow, ice, and general wetness, making things a little more interesting.

The final climb from the false summit to the actual summit was made more interesting by all the extra moisture. Things still felt reasonably solid, but progress was slower. We followed the bootprints of d_baker and Calvin.

Me on the summit with d_baker appearing out of the fog.

After a few short minutes on the summit checking out the summit log, we headed back down.

It felt good to get off that icy third class section.

We tried stacking rocks on the way back. Bob was better than I was.

We both had fun on the short third class section just before the small saddle on the ridge to Gladstone.

When we reached the saddle, Joe and Rick were waiting for us. Joe was looking for partners to traverse the ridge and climb Gladstone. The weather looked good, so we figured...why not? More fun third class. We'll get a traverse in this trip one way or another! Here's a look at the whole route:

Much of the traverse along the ridge before the peak climb has great scrambling on reasonably solid rock. For more challenge you can stay on the ridge crest most of the way, which makes it 4th or even low 5th class.

To save time (we think), we headed down the left (east) side of the ridge across mostly 2nd and 3rd class terrain. Across this section, we noticed two other climbers headed up Gladstone. We also witnessed the biggest rock fall that I've ever seen in the mountains, with multiple refrigerator and desk sized boulders crashing into Bilk Basin snowfields. Scary!!

After witnessing the enormous rockfall, we elected to stick mostly to the ridge. After most of the traversing was over and the climb up the peak proper began, the route stayed on the crest, with a few small variations to the left (east). There are a few loose blocks in this area, but not as many as I expected. Or maybe we just moved over them quickly enough to not notice the wobbles.

From the top of Gladstone, you could see an interesting view of the upper section of the route on Wilson Peak. (Bob was much better at taking these sort of landscape overview shots than I was.)

The ridge scrambling was mostly enjoyable and certainly made up for not doing the standard Wilson traverse.

We descended a steep gully off Gladstone's ridge to hit Navajo Glacier.

We were treated to great views of the Wilson traverse. We'll be back...

The gully was directly under the Gladstone ridge...which made us think about rockfall from descending climbers. We tried not to linger in the gully, despite the awesome surroundings.

We crossed several small snowfields on the way to the mostly buried Navajo Glacier. Many of these huge boulders/blocks were wobbly, so it was hard to proceed with too much confidence.

The rocks got even bigger as we bypassed the glacier.

After passing the glacier and joining the standard route down Mt. Wilson, we finally hit the upper portion of Navajo Basin. As we hurried down the basin, we were racing another rain storm headed up the valley. Still, it was after 2 pm and we couldn't believe the weather had held off this long, considering the forecast.

Another view of the North Buttress route on El Diente.

The arrow shows our route down Gladstone. This route was probably faster than scrambling back down the ridge to a lower gully. Considering the loose rock we found, it's hard to recommend the route, but I'm not sure if it's any worse than the other ways down.

That evening, we joined Joe and Rick for dinner and chatting, played a few rounds of Pass the Pigs in the tent, and went to sleep. It was great to not have to get up early so we sleep until after seven the next morning.


After a quick breakfast of eggs and cheese, we headed out. Bob once again showed his penchant for photography at Navajo Lake:

For much of the trip, we were talking about the West Ridge route on El Diente. I was fascinated by this route since I enjoy ridge scrambling. Studying the ridge on the way back, we noticed what appeared to be a trail along the bottom on the ridge. Maybe this is the way to approach this route from Navajo Lake. (Maybe I need to do some more research.) The route looked pretty tough any way you slice it.

After exploring the waterfalls just off the trail, we made it back to the car and our long drive home. It was a terrific weekend, despite a little weather-changing plans. Thanks d_baker and crew for the route advice and great bootprints. Thanks Joe for suggesting the climb and great stories about other peaks. And thank you Bob for terrific companionship, awesome photography, and a fun weekend all around!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

so that‘s where you went!
09/10/2009 12:45
I was wondering where all of you guys went to...
the Gladstone traverse did look interesting, but it wasn‘t in the cards for me on this weekend.

It was nice to meet you guys.
Nice report & pictures.


Great Photos
09/10/2009 20:13
I hope to do a similar route next summer. Thanks for posting!


That route looks like a blast...
09/11/2009 01:07
Great photos and narrative of an area I know little about. Thanks for the report!


Great pics
07/07/2016 17:01
And route!

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