Peak(s):  El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Date Posted:  07/01/2010
Modified:  07/04/2010
Date Climbed:   06/26/2010
Author:  globreal
 Apprehensive about El Diente  

El Diente Peak: 14,159 Route: Kilpacker Basin (South slopes)
Crew: Paul (paulperea), Eric (lostsheep5), Gary unclegar, Britt (globreal)
Climb date: Saturday, June 26, 2010
Start Time: 3:08am
End Time: 10:45am
Total Time: 7 hours (total hiking/climbing/summit time)
Trip Length: 12 miles (14 1/4 miles if you add the approach the night before. This does not include the hike out because we went on to Navajo Lake to climb Mt. Wilson next.)
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet approx.

I wasn't going to take the time to write this report up but, after all of the requests for beta, I decided to go ahead and do it. (I posted a summit photo on Kevin Hayne's Memorial page which sparked all the questions. Maybe this will help some of you heading to do this peak in the next week or two.)

We decided to take the Kilpacker/South slopes route due to two recommendations...Steve Gladbach and Gerry Roach's 14er book, Colorado's Fourteeners, From Hikes to Climbs. Both suggested this route on the south side of the mountain was the safest and easiest. Ok, maybe so...but, I didn't think this was an easy route! (Maybe not to technical, but still, not easy.)

I had wanted to take the Kilpacker TH, but after some persuasion, we opted to go in via the Navajo Basin TH which is 2 miles further down Forest Service Road 535.

We packed in Friday afternoon (June 25) leaving the trailhead just before 5pm. During our 2 mile hike, we were treated to a nice view of El Diente off to the northeast.

Our approach was under cloudy skies which had decided to drop some rain on us. It IS the San Juans after all which is (my understanding) notorious for afternoon thunderstorms during the summer.
photo by paulperea

We made it to the Kilpacker trail junction in pretty good time and turned right. We went down to the Dolores River where we wanted to camp for the night. However, we found that the mosquitoes down there were terrible! So, we backtracked back up a bit to camp up in an open area away from the water. The other two tents were off in the trees to the right.
photo by paulperea

The next morning our alarms went off at 2:30am as our goal was to be on the trail as close to 3am as we could make it. We were planning to do the traverse from El Diente over to Mt. Wilson and Gerry Roach in his book states, "...this is a bad ridge to be trapped on during an electrical storm." So, at 3:08am, we were out of camp and on our way.

We got off-trail down in the forest being in the dark and all, as my GPS doesn't have the trail in it that goes up the Kilpacker Basin. And ironically, today I spoke with another person who didn't summit El Diente last month because they lost the trail in this forest when it was still under snow. This could be a warning for those looking to hike this route in the dark or when the ground is covered with snow. So, we just bush whacked east and up-creek, as I knew we were trapped in this giant, mountain surrounded basin and would eventually get to treeline.

I have to admit, I was a slight bit worried about what the weather was going to do as the sky was veiled in clouds. And to have this much humidity in the air at this early hour is not usually a good sign...even though it was nice seeing the moon peaking out underneath those clouds.
photo by paulperea

This is Gary when it was approaching first light and had broken out above treeline.

And then came the alpine glow on the peaks off to the west. What a beautiful scene to embrace at this hour. And just think....most people just sleep through these displays every morning.

Looking east we were approaching the back end of this giant horseshoe of the Kilpacker Basin. Directly above me (Britt) is the summit of South Wilson, which is another, non-ranked 14er, listed on And please note all of those snowfields. Even though it is almost July, there are still many of them left.
photo by paulperea

The time eventually came where we had to turn left or north, and begin the steep climbing. This photo doesn't show it but there were several snowfields along the way. Our next goal is to climb to the base of that cliff band at 13,500. Eric and Paul are leading the way.

This is view back (west) toward El Diente once we reached the base of the cliffs. Pictures flatten out these mountains, and this view was really impressive! And did you notice...all those clouds had dissipated. Yes! Maybe the weather is going to cooperate!
photo by paulperea

And as I said at the beginning, this is not an easy route. It's really quite adventurous.
photo by paulperea

Paul here is enjoying the spectacular view to the southwest.
photo by lostsheep5

Here I come below the cliffs hiking the rocky road. And I've got to say, this is a fun route...not to technical, not to exposed, not too easy.
photo by paulperea

The last part of this south-facing slope is this steep gully...straight up to the saddle. From what I understand, this is also where the north-facing route reaches the saddle. From here, it's a left turn to the west now on the north side of the ridge. If you enlarge this photo you can see Eric and Paul in the gully.

Once on the saddle, you are privileged to the most inspiring view (R to L) of Mt. Wilson, Gladstone Peak, and Wilson Peak. This here is worth the price of admission!
photo by paulperea

After heading west a short ways you must pass through this notch (camera looking back north-east.)
photo by paulperea

Here is a wide shot showing Wilson Peak in the background.
photo by paulperea

And the view from just past the notch shows the summit just above. Here is Eric reaching the top and Paul right behind. It was about 7:45am (4 hours, 45 minutes) when we reached the summit. This was longer and harder than I anticipated.

The view is beautiful looking back down into the Kilpacker Basin and on out to the southwest.
photo by paulperea

And the view to the west isn't to bad either.
photo by paulperea

Here is our summit shot with all 4 of us being successful today.

Now, I'll be honest...this had been a difficult 10 days prior. I was a friend of Kevin Hayne...not only from climbing with him over the past year and a half, but I had taken him under my wing so to speak in mentoring him. I had helped him make his video on his Bell Cord incident and was going to work with him on some other projects as well, as I had grown to see the character of this young man. I mean, he was a really good guy who loved God and wanted to make the world a better place. So, to be honest, not only did I have a heavy heart over Kevin's death, his fall on Little Bear really made me apprehensive about climbing some difficult peaks.

Now, when the time came to descend at 8:30am, none of us were really "feeling it." The thought of the traverse just didn't seem appealing to any of us. And the warning in Roach's book..."Consider the weather carefully before launching." It was hard to believe that black-bottom clouds were already forming this early.

So, we all discussed what to do and agreed we would make a decision to-go or not-go, once we got back down to the saddle where we either went for the traverse or headed down into Kilpacker Basin for camp. Once in the saddle, this was the view over South Wilson.

All four of us made the unanimous play it safe and head down to camp. And man, the feeling was a swell of relief! For those of you who are Christians know there is what is called "the leading of the Holy Spirit." It's like where God is quietly speaking to you. I think we all heard from God at that moment that we didn't need to push it. And it felt good to listen to Him!

Once back down in the basin, below the ridge, the steep gulley, and those cliff bands, there are some snowfields to glissade! Gary and then me.
photo by paulperea

So, for those wanting beta, still take an ice axe for the south slopes from the Kilpacker Basin. I think you'll be glad you have it so you can glissade and self-arrest. If you are climbing from the Navajo Basin on the northside, you'll need to take both your ice axe AND crampons. The snow gets very hard-packed overnight. This is Gary taking the easy way down.
photo by paulperea

This time of year the snow runs out down lower and so it's back to our feet and hiking again. But that's okay, there are views to take in during our slower travels.

And one of the blessings of not taking the traverse is that now we are not in a hurry. We actually took our time to sit and stop and enjoy it. What a novel idea!
photo by paulperea

And getting back down next to Kilpacker Creek, we looked back and got to see the view we missed hiking in under the cover of darkness.
photo by paulperea

And finally back at camp at the Navajo & Kilpacker trail junction, Gary stops and takes a look at where we had just come from....4,000 feet above us!

Like Paul Harvey would say in his radio program...."and now, for the rest of the story." The day before it was time to leave Colorado Springs and head to the San Juan Mountains for this climb, I was reading in my Bible. (Remember, I was apprehensive about climbing after Kevin's death.) Well, lately I've been reading through the Psalms and this is the ACTUAL verse I read where I believe God spoke to me:

Psalm 118:17
I shall not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the Lord.
(New American Standard version)

Thus, I decided to "climb on." (A rock climbing term used with ropes and a person belaying you.)

I do not know why Kevin fell and died, and why some of us are allowed to live. Only God knows why. I do believe I know where Kevin is today because of His belief in Jesus Christ. The verse that was presented at his funeral that had become like his "life verse" was this:

Philippians 3:13
Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward - to Jesus.
(The Message version)

So, if you have read on any of the threads about Kevin and you've seen the word "onward," now you know, "the rest of the story."

Onward and upwards!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

07/01/2010 12:31
Looks like you have been hitting it hard so far this year.


nice tribute, Britt
07/01/2010 12:59
And thanks for the report. I‘ve been thinking about the N buttress route, but now I‘ll be considering this one, too.


Wonderful Words
07/01/2010 14:24
Thanks for sharing a great report on an exciting route. The good words were a nice icing on the cake.


Excellent Britt
07/01/2010 14:45
I really appreciate you taking the time to put this TR up. I think a lot of us, me included, have been struggling with some apprehension about climbing since Kevin‘s passing.


Scripture ...
07/01/2010 14:58
Nice report, Britt. I remember many years ago before a climb, I had opened the bible at our camping spot wanting to read a scripture before we started climbing. It was the first climb we were doing after returning back to Colorado from my grandmother‘s funeral. Not really knowing what I was looking for, I went to the front of the bible where there were ”topics” and related scripture. I found the topic ”travel” (which was what we were getting ready to do) and was directed to the following verse: ”I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121) That chapter ends with ”The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Not only was it appropriate motivation for our climb that day, but it was the favorite scripture of my grandmother (and it was on the front of her funeral program). God spoke to me that day and, in a way, it all came full circle. Thanks for sharing this report with us.


well done
07/01/2010 16:41
Fantastic TR! You write such excellent, heart-felt trip reports..Always a pleasure to read them.
Much less secondary but I am headed there tomorrow so I appreciate the beta.


Thanks Britt
07/01/2010 16:56
Britt, I just connected the dots as to who you are. I‘m Ben, you worked with me on producing videos about Romania a few years ago. Very nice report, and moving in light of the accident. I actually shot and edited a video about a dicey mid-May Little Bear climb, but I‘m going to wait to post it out of respect for Kevin and his loved ones. Thanks for posting this, and I‘m sure I speak for many people you‘ve mentored when I say thank you for introducing me to story telling through film, which is now my focus in life.


Very nicely done!
07/01/2010 20:11
And great TR/photos too! Nice job getting it. I certianly understand your apprehension after Kevin‘s passing as I was the same say. It goes to show your inner strength after such a tragedy. Well done all of you.


replica of 2008
07/01/2010 23:31
Its pretty crazy how that same exact weather pattern chased us off Wilson Pk (literally) and cancelled our plans of a traverse over to Gladstone (at 10am no less) and then the same thing happened the very next day on top of El Diente when we were contemplating a traverse to Wilson. As we were descending, a rock the size of a small fridge almost snapped my leg in half. Reflexes and a very loud scream from above by my alert climbing buddies saved me from an assured SAR rescue with ugly clouds closing in. Even a wise decision to call it a day didn‘t keep the mountain from letting us off easy. Even if one doesn‘t believe in a god above, nobody can ignore the power of the mountain gods or the forces of nature surrounding them. On a good day, they can give one a unique amount of joy. On a bad one, I‘ve never seen a force so powerful and angry.

Eagle eye 1

Way to praise
07/02/2010 04:36
Awesome trip. I love those mountains, just finished Wilson on 6-5-10. Had to contend with a lot of snow. I have to tell you, it‘s nice to see other climbers not afraid to share their faith.

To me God created the mountains for all of us to enjoy. It‘s nice to see you know that. Way to go. Maybe we can all hook up some time and enjoy them together.


07/02/2010 15:47
Thank you so much for posting the TR after all. This will help us on our attempt this sunday.


07/03/2010 02:39
Thanks for writing this up. Just got back from an extended week of hiking/climbing that started with this peak and the report is already done! I think you captured the climb very well. I personally felt great about not traversing.

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