Peak(s):  Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Date Posted:  07/30/2010
Date Climbed:   07/30/2010
Author:  doggler

 Doggler's Revenge - Wilson Peak from Navajo Lk TH  

Wilson Peak - 14,017' - SW ridge from Navajo Lk TH
Date Climbed - 7/30/2010
Climbers - doggler
RT milage - 16 miles
RT gain - 5,000'
RT time - 5h 28min (3h 14 up, 2h 14 down)


Lets face it: mountains are pretty freaking great. Most of us surely daydream about them while at work and lose a little sleep as we rehearse a route or two in our heads. I'm no different. This summer has been journey after journey for me, and I can't tell you how fun it has been. However, for the better part of a month, a dark pall appears over my head when the words "Wilson Peak" are uttered. Why?

1)Twenty days ago, I found myself atop both El Diente and Mount Wilson. An unfortunate circumstance kept me from topping out on Wilson Peak, too. I live in Colorado Springs. Even with time to travel over the summer, I still think the Wilsons are a LONG WAY away! Making another trip like that, while enduring stretches of road that I've seen all too many times before, takes some motivation.

2)I hate loose talus and scree. I'd venture to say I hate it more than most folks, because you can't really run on most talus or scree. Needless to say the crappy talus capitol of Colorado's fourteeners happens to be the Navajo Lake basin. Heck, lets take it further...that entire mass of mountains is just a large dump of rocks teetering atop each other.

3)The recent passing of Peter Topp has been on my mind this week, as I'm sure it has been for many others. I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering why we do this dangerous pastime, and wonder if it's really worth it.

Needless to say, I found myself quite unmotivated and unexcited to "check off" Wilson Peak.

We left on Wednesday afternoon from the Springs and pulled into the Kilpacker TH parking lot before sunset. Why Kilpacker? Quieter, prettier, and a few decent spots to pitch tents. It rained most of the night, making it harder and harder to find motivation for the impending climb.

I needed to get a run in on Thursday, so I went on the road from Kilpacker to Navajo TH, up the Navajo Trail, over to the Kilpacker cutoff, and back to the Kilpacker TH. For those of you who are runners, I highly recommend this loop! That is, if the underbrush isn't soaking. Dark clouds hung around through sunrise, and by late morning, rain was already coming down intermittently.

We revised the plan. Instead of hiking up to Navajo Lake in the monsoon and risking a not-so-fun time all soaked, we decided to just stay put at Kilpacker, head into Telluride for a bit, then I would do the climb from Navajo Lake TH as a dayhike on Friday.

Approach to Navajo Lake

I was up at 4:30 and ready to start running up the trail at 5:30. Fully expecting an all-around miserable day full of rain, wet bushes, scree, talus, and fog, I began to get mad. Thus, I found the fuel to carry a strong pace that persisted throughout the day. I put the headlamp away and found myself at the seemingly abandoned lake at 6:45.

First view of Navajo Lake, looking due east

Navajo Lake to Rock of Ages Saddle

Thus began the rocky part of the morning. I switched to running whenever the terrain got softer, which wasn't often.

Much of the trail through the upper basin looked like this

This place had been getting a lot of precip over the past couple of weeks, and it showed. Most of the grassy areas above timberline were sponged to the max, and water trickled just about everywhere it could, trying to find a stream.

Looking up towards the Rock of Ages saddle

Mt. Wilson(L) and El Diente from below the Rock of Ages saddle

Just before the saddle was some old mining equipment. This wasn't no Mt. Sherman, though!

Old mining stuff

Anyone remember the Indiana Jones arcade game?

Looking north towards the Silver Pick Basin (from ROA saddle)

I hit the saddle around 7:45. Minutes before that, I caught up to yclimber(?) and her man(forgot your name, oops!) They were enjoying themselves.

Rock of Ages Saddle to Summit

The traverse from ROA saddle to the Wilson Peak/Gladstone Peak saddle was unpleasant. The rocks were large, loose, and sharp. The quality of rock vastly improved past the Gladstone/Wilson ridge, though.

Looking E towards Wilson Peak's SW ridge (from ROA saddle)

an old mining shed, just east of the Wilson Peak/Gladstone Peak ridge

Lizard Head

Looking back towards very loose, crappy stuff and the ROA saddle (from Wilson/Gladstone ridge)

My gamble to wait for better weather and this in a day seemed to have paid off, as blue covered more sky than white. From past the Gladstone ridge, I began to find enjoyment in the climb. The rock became more and more solid, while the need to class 3 increased to a level that satisfied my urges. I began to (gasp!) enjoy myself!

Looks like a stairway to hell or something to me


I summitted alone at 8:45. The summit was strangely warm and windless. I didn't spend much time on top; just enough for beef jerky, Nutter Butters, and a few healthy pulls from my Camelbak. I found the names of last week's 14er crew in the register and paused for a moment before beginning my descent.

I'm no angel

You're an idiot if you don't wear one of these in the Wilsons

The return

I was surprised to had made the summit in the time I did, which kind of motivated me to see how quickly I could get back down. Unfortunately, photo ops were everywhere.

Send your kids to summer camp!

Cairn, bird, rock

I almost jumped into Navajo Lake

upper portion of the Navajo Lake trail

Lower navajo Lake trail

There was a volunteer group putting in culverts, bridges, and such all over the lower basin. Good thing and I much appreciate it, because that trail gets extremely muddy when wet!

I got back to the TH at 10:58, feeling strong and ready for the Pikes Peak Ascent. I had managed to not only get my weekly long run in but grab an elusive peak while I was at it.

Looking back at the Navajo Lake TH


I wasn't a fan of the Wilson group. Usually, "hard" and "fun" have gone hand-in-hand (i.e Capitol, Pyramid, the Needle, etc). These peaks just didn't appeal to me the way others have.

I much preferred the rock on El Diente's south slopes to anything in the Navajo basin. It's a shame more people don't do that route.

The lower Kilpacker and Navajo Lake trails are gorgeous. For those of you who have spouses and such who aren't way into the extreme stuff, getting them to hike around those trails would be an easy sell.

I'm running out of peaks to climb! Only Longs and Bierstadt to go. (wait, there are mountains under 14,000'?)

Happy trails!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Indiana Jones Picture
04/18/2014 19:27
The Indiana Jones picture made me LOL. 2 more to go you can probably do both of your remaining peaks in a day the way you run! Hey there is a challenge.


Fun report.
06/02/2011 14:57
Thanks for the fun report and nice pictures. I agree with Paul. The Indy pic was great.


Nice job!
07/31/2010 12:07
I have been waiting forever for conditions to be just right to snap a shot of my Brocken Spectre! (#16) I'm sure I could get Amanda up into the Navajo Lake area it looks enjoyable.


Great Pics!
07/31/2010 17:18
Ditto on Kilpacker and South slopes route to El D. The view of El D. rising above the basin and lower falls near the campsites is special. I met a friend of yours ”ezbils” at the campsites and we discussed your episode that made you miss out on Wilson Pk. earlier. Thanks again for TR.


Good luck on the ascent!
08/02/2010 04:09
Great pics that make me want to return. I went in there about a week after you and Patrick to do the traverse. After the traverse, I went right down into Kilpacker basin from Wilson and really enjoyed it. There was some great low angle snow for a good bit of it. Thanks for the reports, they have been very informative.
Alsrun-Let me know if you want to have a go at Long's.It's right in my backyard.


Good work
08/02/2010 14:56
Good to see you are still having fun. We met at Pizza Hut in Buena Vista after the group climb of Sherman this spring. Nice trip report of a cool hike!

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