Peak(s):  Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Date Posted:  07/04/2010
Date Climbed:   07/04/2010
Author:  globreal
 Mt. Wilson and a Lesson Learned  

Mt. Wilson Peak: 14,246 Route: North Slopes from Navajo Basin (Standard)
Crew: Paul (paulperea), Eric (lostsheep5), Britt (globreal)
Climb date: Sunday, June 27, 2010
Start Time: 3:00am
End Time: 11:00am
Total Time: 8 hours (total hiking/climbing/summit time)
Trip Length: 6.5 miles (to/from Navajo Lake) (not including the hike out)
Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet (just from the lake to the summit)

Hopefully this TR will benefit those looking for beta or first-timers into this area...

After climbing El Diente from the Kipacker/South Slopes side Saturday, and not doing the traverse, we decided to pack up camp and move around to Navajo Lake on the north side of these mountains. This would put us in position for a Sunday morning climb of Mt. Wilson. Gary (unclegar) found himself without medicine that he needed and decided to head back to the car. After a full day of climbing El Diente, hauling our heavy overnight packs up to Navajo Lake at 11,100 was tough!

The views at the lake were worth it. And now, there are NO mosquitoes at camp! Image
photo by paulperea

photo by paulperea

photo by paulperea

And for those of you climbing El Diente, Mt. Wilson, or Wilson peak for the first time from Navajo Lake, this is what you can expect...much of this hike is a talus tromp!
taken later in the day on our descent

How many of you have experienced high-altitude, early morning nausea? I haven't had this in quite some time, but this morning, I guess from sleeping at 11,100, it came on. (The things we endure to bag these peaks, huh?) At least there was a beautiful alpine glow over Wilson Peak to look at.

Once you get to the far east-end of the basin, you eventually turn right (south) and start heading uphill. Take note of two upper snow couloirs. You do NOT want to take the left gully but the one directly above Paul and Eric. If you take the left route....well, I'll show you a photo from the ridge later.

This slope turns really steep. Can you see Eric up high? His hand is touching the snow directly in front of him. My personal suggestion...take your crampons for this north-slope route most of the year!

As we climbed higher, the sun made it's way lower into the basin. This is looking west back down at Navajo Lake.
photo by paulperea

Eric and Paul make their way up to the top of the ridge. Now, you see all that's loose and dangerous! We all agreed, this is the worse rock any of us has ever climbed on. I just brushed a small rock (the size of one of those mini-refrigerators,) with my arm and it took off to the basin floor! As Eric put it, "you need to walk as gentle as a kitten."

Once reaching the crest of the ridge, you can see Lizard Head Peak off to the south-east.

And remember that left couloir? If you took it, this is what would block you from the summit which is behind us.

And speaking of behind us, a little higher up you reach the north-south running ridge with the summit of Mt. Wilson a little to the south. This is the view at the top of a gully coming up from the Kilpacker Basin.
photo by paulperea

This is the south-facing view up to the summit. And as you can see, this very first section has a good bit of exposure. It's this last section that this route gets it's Class 4 rating from.

We had carried up a rope and some protection, and so we used it on this first little crossing on this final section up to the summit..
photo by paulperea

Taken on the way down, here is another shot of this section we had to cross. Eric didn't feel the need to use the rope, but since it was still there, I decided to tap into it. I mean, why not?

This is Paul, topping out on the summit. I had gotten off route a bit and ended up to far to the east and Paul followed me. This made this last jaunt, pretty much sheer vertical and probably close to the Class 5 rating. You are better off sticking to the top of the ridge and not traversing around to the east like we did here.

The skies were completely clear which gave us a wonderful view along the ridge over to El Diente.

We all signed the summit register on this peak as Paul goes first.

Eric, enjoying the moment on the summit of Mt. Wilson.

And we wanted to honor our friend and fellow climbing buddy, Kevin Hayne, with a group shot in his memory.

This is the last part of the east-west ridge coming over from El Diente...just before the ridge turns south. If you choose to do the traverse from El Diente, Steve Gladbach suggested not climbing this last part of the ridge, but dropping below it and coming up that gully shown in photo 12.

Now back on the descent, I think this photo best shows what this Class 4 section is made of. We're not in Kansas anymore!

To return, we had to go back up over that rock where the rope is and go left...with full on exposure below. After it's all said and done, the rope took up a lot of time and it was probably overkill, but it was nice having the protection on that one spot. Thanks Eric!

Back down in the basin, you can see the two snow gullies that go up to just below the east-west ridgeline. Remember, don't go up the left one...take the right one!

Now, about that lesson learned. We did some glissading down those really hard snow fields....but not after hiking down a least half way. The top part was to hard and steep to feel comfortable glissading. But as I was glissading down, going pretty fast, within a nano-second, my ice axe was ripped out of my hands! GONE!
Praise God had had put the leash around my wrist and was able to quickly retrieve it and self-arrest. Otherwise, I would have speed quickly down into the rocks at the bottom. And I promise you, as fast as I was going, I would have suffered broken bones at minimum, probably even internal injuries, and possibly even death!

When I got to the bottom, I explained to Eric and Paul what happened. Eric then pointed out that I had my leash on the wrong wrist. It should have been on my downhill wrist (near the bottom of the ice axe) so the leash was pulled taunt. This tight leash would help protect the axe from being ripped out of my hand. Ah, ha....that makes sense! One more lesson learned from my "little buddy." Thanks Eric.

Paul and Eric leading the way home.

Our camp is in those trees on the far side of Navajo Lake. We made it back there just before 11am. Eight hours is longer than most will need for this round trip. However, we used up a lot of time messing with the rope, and we took our time since the weather was nice.

We were packed up, and on the trail hiking down just after 12 noon. Since Paul wanted to try to get back to Denver around 10pm, we made up for our lolly-gagging from earlier in the day and hiked from the lake to the trailhead, with full packs mind you, non-stop in 1:45 minutes. That was pushing it and my ankles were feeling it.

When it was all said and done, none of us regretted not doing the traverse. Doing each of these two peaks separately was more work, but that's okay. We were safe and made it back to our homes and families...just what we prayed for before both hikes.

And it's interesting, I talked with Presto on the phone yesterday and she mentioned this verse....just what I had read the day before. I feel it sums it up for this trip.

Psalm 121:1-2
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
If you had told me there were no mosquitoes at the lake I would have been the first in line to move camp. Looks like a very difficult mountain. Glad to hear you were able to recover the axe. Hopefully I‘ll be as successful as you guys in bagging it. Congrats to all!


07/05/2010 00:48
That‘s a great account of a classic climb. Great pics, interesting and informative writeup. I‘m determined to go back there some day to finish the traverse and Mt. Wilson. I believe the gully in photo 12 is the ”exit route” back into Kilpacker Basin. D‘ya remember any impression as to how tough it looked? Pretty tame compared to the summit ridge, I‘ll bet.


Nice TR!
07/05/2010 01:04
I love your TR‘s Britt!


Blue Bird Day on Wilson!
07/05/2010 04:33
What a day guys - great photos, and in honor of Kevin a nice touch - all the more memorable! KG


Nice work guys!
07/05/2010 14:07
Thanks for the Beta. Putting up some excellent TR‘s this summer. Onward!


Yah Brit!
07/05/2010 14:39
Good on ya‘ll! Heading that way in a week and not looking forward to the talus...would‘ve been happy had you removed it all for us. Thanks for the close-ups of Navajo Lake!


Nice job fellas!
07/05/2010 15:30
Well done guys! What‘s next on the agenda?


Note to self...
03/04/2012 18:31
Don‘t bring rope on any standard 14er route in the summer, it is time consuming and can knock off loose rock... Great report Britt!
The summit pitch kinda disappointed me though. Guess it didn‘t hurt that much, 10 lbs of extra gear gave me an extra work out .
Good luck in Chicago Basin!


Tough right?
07/06/2010 00:00
Tough summit huh? In May we did it by climbing directly on the ridge, as Bill detailed in the route description; he said it is spicy, it is!


Gettin‘ after it!
07/06/2010 03:00
Nice job, Britt, Eric, all!

Put those newfound 5th class skills to work, bro!

: )

(Kevin, my dear young friend, may you RIP.)


Good thing...
07/06/2010 03:56 have an experienced climber like Eric looking out for you guys! What would you do without him? :-)) Congrats to all of you on an excellent peak - one of my favorites. I actually wrap my leash around my wrist a few times when I glissade, to keep it within hand‘s reach in case something happens. Glad you all got down OK :-)


Snow slopes
07/06/2010 14:08
I descended that snow slope - didn‘t ascend it b/c did traverse from El Diente. I remember thinking I would be in huge trouble if I lost my ice axe. Foolishly I had no crampons. Could not keep my speed down on the glissade. Kept having to self-arrest. Took forever to get down trying to kick step hard-packed snow. That leash may have saved your life


05/02/2011 14:23
for the beta you provided last week and this great report. Ben and I wondered if you guys had stayed around to get Mt. Wilson after El Diente and were glad to see your names in the registry Saturday morning.


Loose rock indeed!!
07/06/2010 17:23
I agree. The rock is TERRIBLE! There are some quotes on the summitpost page that claim the rock is worse than the bells and little bear. Congrats on a truly spectacular summit!!


Very Nice ...
07/06/2010 20:55
Another stellar report and photos from you, Britt (and Paul). Always enjoy seeing Eric (are you going to finish up this summer?). 8) Keeping you in my prayers on your Chicago Basin trip. Take care and happy trails!


nice work!
11/30/2010 17:28

We did the traverse on Saturday, bummer we didn't run into your group.

Mt wilson is pretty wild, huh?


I think we saw you guys descending into Kilpacker from mt wilson, just missed you as well.


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