Peak(s):  El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Date Posted:  08/25/2010
Date Climbed:   08/24/2010
Author:  emcee smith
 Long day, but quickish on the traverse  

El Diente and Mt. Wilson via Traverse

Note: I was focused quite a bit on the traverse, so the report is lacking some photos.

A few of my friends were working to finish the 14ers this week, with the Wilson group as the last three. It seems that a summer traverse via the "safest" routes leaves interesting decisions about camping, timing, etc. We decided to attempt as a day trip from the Kilpacker trailhead. We agreed on a 2:30am start.

The approach into Kilpacker basin was straightforward. There was quite a bit of moisture on the plants, and they pressed into the trail, getting our legs wet. I was trying to go light, so I planned to filter water above the first waterfall. There is a second waterfall up there, and I left the trail to filter a bit below there. I probably walked 1/8 mile over to the creek (traversing) and had to gain a few hundred feet back to the trail (straight up). Turns out that very near the exit from the basin, the creek is quite close and I could have filtered there with much less hassle.

The trail thus far was relatively easy to keep, and the cairns were visible with a good headlamp. The left exit up the slopes is at a smallish flat area, probably the area filled with snow in Bill's photo #15.

The initial trail up the east slope was pretty well marked and traveled. I was glad to have a good headlamp, as there was some searching for cairns, but they were there. It also helped to have a full moon, as we could see many of the features all the way up the mountain.


We wound our way up, left, right, and left around the rock features and over to the red rib prior to the gray gulley. Up to this point, the trail was rocky and a bit loose, but no different than many other 14er trails and not difficult at all. After rounding the red rib, we began to ascend into the gray gulley. Here is was steeper and looser, and we all felt this was the first real place to mind rockfall. We spread out across the slope and all ascended semi solid ribs.


Climbing the gray gulley gave us a preview of the next few hours of our day. Mostly solid rock, with some loose pullers and loose rock on top. We called out loose rock often, but made our way up under the cliffs with no problems. We saw somebody coming off El Diente, so we were quick to get up to the route.


Traversing across the south side toward El Diente was mostly fun. There was some scrambling, but mostly just carefully making way across the loose rock

We all thought the gully back to the ridge was loose, and we all stayed very near the right edge where the rocks seemed a little more locked. Here we are coming out of the top of the gully onto the ridge.


There was a lot of wet dirt on the north side, and I thought that this was the toughest part of the climb to El Diente, just because of the loose nature and no real way to avoid it.


Above this area, we were at the top, arriving at about 7:30 am. We quickly rested, and were on our way in about 15 minutes. Here is me relaxing just off the summit


So now officially on the traverse, we made our way back down the north side, and here we are dropping into the gully back down the south side.


Some of the loose stuff we were crossing on the south side; I believe before crossing the gendarmes

I didn't get any photos from the gendarme crossing, as my hands were full. There were cairns marking a route; I presume the route, but there was plenty of exposure. We made our way around and were soon on our way back to the ridge.

The long easy stretch of ridge was a welcome relief; it was easy and wide enough that mostly I didn't need to put a hand down. We came to the downclimb before the crux.

Again, no photos from climbing up the crux, but we stayed in the gray rock depicted in Bill's photo. The next few shots are us topping out on the ridge and climbing the ridge to the top. The left exit depicted in Bill's route seemed pretty key.

Up on top, and now across the narrow area. Some of the rock on top was loose (surprise), and the exposure was considerable. Most of my way across this area was using all fours, except for Dan, at least for the photo.
To me, all of the downclimbs on the traverse were challenging. It seemed that we would walk up to the end of the ridge and it would drop away into nothing. Without climbing up, we were guessing on the easiest way down. All of the ways that seemed right were doable. Here is Dan coming off the narrow ridge.

Looking back on the area where you drop to the north of the steep rock

From here, you could cross steep dirt, as shown in Bill's photo #38. Since the dirt was wet, we went high and right back up to the ridge line, then dropped down into the saddle. This seemed a bit more secure.

The gully up to the summit ride was uneventful and we soon found ourselves climbing the final bit of ridge. The ridge was narrow and steep, but anticlimactic after the traverse.

We went through the crux without recognizing what we were on. We all went left. Finally on the Summit of Mt. Wilson, Andrew (left), Debbie, and Dan. Andrew and Dan only lack Wilson Peak to finish.

We traversed in about 2 - 2.5 hrs. We didn't say on Mt. Wilson long as we were hoping for the trifecta. Coming back down the summit ridge.

The downclimb sort of along Mt. Wilsons NE ridge route was nasty. We were all spread out, which was good due to loose rock, but we never really found the trail until we were on the green headwall. This took us a long time, and by the time we got up to the Rock of Ages saddle, weather was coming in so we had to turn around.

This was a LONG day; we were all somewhat dazed when we got back to the car, 15 hours after beginning. I am not sure a camp would have been worth it given the route we chose. I am glad to have these two peaks behind me; they were probably the top on my worry list after completing Little Bear earlier this summer. All that I heard about the loose rock was true; we took great care to identify and avoid the pullers and spread out when the loose rock was unavoidable.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nice work
08/25/2010 16:07
We did the exact same thing: no camp, day-trip from Kilpacker. Much more enjoyable. That's a fun traverse, isn't it? Too bad El Diente's such a crumbly mountian. Only a few more for you!


Nice work!
08/25/2010 16:15
You're really getting after it! I'll bet you're close to finishing?

Enjoyed the photos and the write-up!


Good Job!
08/25/2010 16:22
Glad to hear you guys avoided much of the nastiness on those mountains!

So are Dan and Andrew going to make a separate trip to get Wilson P this year? It would be nice if Silverpick trail opened soon too!


Great work!
08/25/2010 19:25
Wasn't aware the traverse had cairns! Aren't the views from El Diente just awesome!? Good shots of Kilpacker to El Diente. I've always wondered what the rock looked like.
Nice work getting this done in a single push but wow, 2:30am. That's brutal!


Finishing this year?
08/26/2010 14:20
Nice job, Mike. Are you going to try to finish this year?


Nice job.
08/26/2010 19:53
I did the traverse on Aug 21 from camp at Navajo Lake. We went up the Northeast Ridge Route and did Mt. Wilson first and then traversed over to El Diente. Route finding was problematic if not difficult - obvious where to go, but not not so obvious on how to get there safely, given the loose rock. You were 110% correct to stop with weather concerns - these peaks are no place to be in weather. I think Mt. Wilson and the traverse is underestimated by many - not me, having done it!

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