Peak(s):  Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Date Posted:  06/01/2010
Date Climbed:   05/30/2010
Author:  jf32
 Wilson Traverse  

Memorial Day Weekend Mission: climb El Diente and Mt Wilson

The game plan was to get to Navajo Lake Friday night and have a few days to attempt these peaks. Our intended approach was parking at the Kilpacker Trailhead and joining up with the Navajo Lake Trail for a 6 mile or so backpack (which I wrongly thought was only 4.5 miles). The trailhead is dry but we had the pleasure of hiking in an additional 2ish miles due to an suv blocking the road. The trail is probably half dry and half covered in snow drifts. Due to a number of factors (most notably the two just mentioned) the hike in was both longer and harder than we thought and we camped roughly 1.5 miles from the lake Friday night.
Arriving at the TH - EL D in view

Snow drifts on the hike in

On Saturday morning we got a pretty late start and leisurely made our way to the lake. We arrived at 11am. I dumped my pack and grabbed my climbing gear and decided to head on up into the upper basin to scout out conditions and if comfortable and safe get high on a mountain. I was not expecting much departing at this hour and I did not have any illusions of a summit. That changed when I got into the upper basin and saw that the North Buttress on El Diente was dry. I decided to climb up and have a look around. It was fun climbing on the buttress and I made quick work of it. I got to a point roughly 100ft below the summit and had to decide if crossing a sun exposed snow section with some dropoffs was worth the risk of getting the summit. I chuckled to myself (as this was not the first time El Diente denied my access this close to the summit) and made the relatively easy decision to head down. At my high point on the buttress I noticed and followed some boot tracks to discover (in the new to me sense) a route up the mountain that linked a few couloirs. It seemed like an easy, quick, and safe way to ascend El D in the early morning hours. I named the gullies 1,2 and 3 (yea creative) - Gully 1 was the lowest and accessed from the basin. You ascend that and cut right into gully 2. Gully 3 (not visible from the upper basin) angles left toward the summit. It was a full on snow climb from the upper basin to the summit (skiable from the summit for those interested). This was to be the route of attack on Sunday. I high tailed it back to camp and counted the hours until my 3am wake up. I was very anxious to get some climbing in.

Some pics from Saturday:
Looking back at the lake

From the upper basin - it shows El Diente and the 2 routes I tried on it. The rock buttress left of center and 2 of the gullies

A better look at the gullies (center - Gully 1 lower and Gully 2 connects off to the right)

The terrain on the buttress - large relatively solid blocks

High on the buttress looking down

more buttress fun

First glimpse at the ridge leading over to Mt Wilson

Last 100 ft of El Diente - summit can be accessed via that gully on the left (with boot prints) or across snow and up rocks

Sunday the alarm went off and I was chomping at the bit to get high quickly so I wouldn't have to worry about the sun making the snow unstable as the traverse was now my only realistic option of getting both peaks this trip and I was concerned about descending Mt Wilson later in the day. As I was charging in an attempt to gain as much time high with solid snow my partner wasn't feeling it. He demonstrated quite a bit of drive making it to roughly 13,900ft on El D before calling it quits. I made pretty steady (but rather tedious) progress up the gullies and made it to my high point from Saturday a little after sun up. I followed the boot track up a gully and was at the summit. Nolan was in sight for most of the climb up and I waited for him on the summit for 20 minutes or so with a view where I could see the last few hundred ft. When he didn't show or respond to my calls I correctly guessed he turned back.

I enjoyed the traverse. I kept my crampons on the whole way (they were needed roughly 60% of the time). I'll let my pictures do the talking here.

Wake up Wilson Peak

The snow gully that turned me around on Sat - The last few feet before El Diente's summit

The Shadow Traverse

Looking down at my high point on the butress

deep breath - ridge traverse time - with the prize - Mt Wilson on the end

traversing below the organ pipes

Looking back at El Diente - gotcha

another fun obstacle to traverse around

some ridge running

The last bit involves a sharp dowclimb and then upclimb (the crux?) before traversing over to the left snow gully - hitting the summit ridge

The upclimb (crux?) - my first thought was left but that failed miserably so I went up to the right - success

soo close

Some summit shots from Mt Wilson:

Atop Mt Wilson!!

My finisher off yonder

Lizard Head

Fortunately I was not alone on Mt Wilson and was able to get a decent summit shot (and assurance that the snow should be good for at least another hour or 2). It was the same couple who had put in the footsteps on El D the previous day - thanks guys for tipping me off to that route. I hung out for a few minutes and began my descent. My camera died here and I wasn't able to get any shots of Gladstone or Mt Wilson but I enjoyed the views nonetheless. I made it back to camp (after a detour in the upper basin) by 12 and was more than ready for a nap. We opted to hike out on Monday in order to enjoy one more night in Navajo Basin. The hike out was a lot more pleasant than the hike in even though I was exhausted. Thanks to the 2 guys who gave us a ride back to our car.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nice meeting you on the summit
06/01/2010 14:24
I‘ve got to run to work right now, but I‘ll try to send you the shots from near the summit this evening. Great weekend in the Wilsons, we‘ve taken to calling the line on El Diente the ”Luttrell Line” after Easyrider, but I‘m sure locals have climbed and skied it before and we just don‘t know the name. One of my favorite lines to ski or climb all-time.


Memorable trip
06/01/2010 14:39
Nice report, John. That‘s a great snow line on El Diente. Next time I will bring/eat enough food to power me to the top.


Great TR John
05/02/2011 14:23
Nice shots. Glad to see one of Lizard Head too, hope to get down there soon. Have fun on Wetterhorn. That will be an awesome one to finish on.


Nicely done
06/01/2010 15:51
Like the straightforward write-up. Good job on that traverse! One to go...


Great read
01/19/2011 03:38
Nice job scouting your way. The pics tell your traverse tale well.
I hope Wetterhorn‘s even more satisfying for you.


06/01/2010 17:26
What a great solo ridge traverse report (photo #17 is really nice) ... good luck on Wetterhorn. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


That damn truck
06/01/2010 18:28
We were the two 4Runners at Kilpacker. We seriously thought about yanking that truck (from AZ with bald tires) off the road. It was gone by Saturday night.
Nice job on a solo Mt. Wilson.


Thanks Guys
06/01/2010 20:37
Frank - It was my pleasure meeting you and Brittany up there. Whatever name that line gets it‘s a fun one. I‘ll pm you my email address so you can send the pics my way - thanks for that.

Nolan - wish you could have made it man - probably smarter to turn back.

Carl - looks like you guys had a blast on sunshine,redcloud, and handies - good luck on Lizard Head - that mountain looks intense

Joe, Matt, and Presto - thanks for the comments - looking to take it easy on Wetterhorn on a bluebird morning in July some time

Ryan - yea - that truck sucked - I was real happy to see people driving the road on Monday and had no qualms hitch hiking back to my car.


06/01/2010 22:11
I loved that traverse, but I was a little too freaked out to take out my camera. Thanks for capturing the details.


Goodluck John
06/01/2010 22:50
I agree, Wetterhorn is a fine peak to finish your journey on. Sorry I couldn‘t join, but RMNP is the only place in the world that could ever take priority over the San Juans (or free Chipotle). Glad everything worked out for you down there, lets get out on some scrambles this summer. I‘ll email you a few of my set dates thus far.


Sweet traverse!
06/02/2010 01:23
Awesome to get that traverse on the solo! Well done and documented! Good luck on your finisher!


Strong work!
06/02/2010 02:59
Congrats on getting the summits & traverse - awesome job!


Thanks again
06/02/2010 19:02
Kim, Yog, Nancy - Thanks for the kind words guys. It was a good time up there.

Brian - No worries on missing out on the fun - I‘m sure the park kept you plenty entertained. This trip definitely got me back in the mood to do some exposed scrambling - looking forward to getting out

Easy Rider

06/03/2010 21:05
Nice work! That looks like a good day. Certainly more successful than my attempt on the traverse... Killpacker seems like a good way to get in there late season. Did you descend Wilson into Killpacker, or roundabout through Navajo?

Frank, glad it went this time, because I would have felt really bad about my beta. I bet you guys were thinking I was just blowing smoke signals. Easier to put the puzzle together from the top down I think.


Navajo it was
06/04/2010 21:35
Easy Rider - as a secondary beneficiary to your beta - thanks. I descended into Navajo (as that was where we were camped) although I believe Ryan‘s group got Mt Wilson from Kilpacker (i‘m guessing I saw their ski tracks while i was up there)

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