Peak(s):  Gladstone Pk  -  13,913 feet
Date Posted:  09/09/2010
Date Climbed:   09/04/2010
Author:  Papillon
 The Seduction Line  

Date: 2010-09-04
Peak: Gladstone Peak
Tale of the Tape: 17.7 miles and 6440 vertical (backpack into Navajo via Woods Lake)
Partner in high-altitude crime: wooderson

I was somewhere near Placerville last Friday, my Honda Civic exhaling a slow churn of dirt, dust, and vulcanized growls. I had several things going my way as the Labor Day jailbreak began to unfold - wooderson in shotgun, backpacks at the ready, a trunk full of IPAs, and the sounds of Tattoo You coming through the dashboard jet-engine loud.

We arrived at the large, circular, latently cruisy Woods Lake TH around 5. I don't know what it is about Woods Lake but the place seems like it would be an after-hours magnet for all things that go bump in the night. Windowpane voyeurs and grope artists. Chronic hippies and sophisticated vandals. Washed up sleight-of-handers and full-blown weirdos. There's even a secret-knock bathroom nearby for those on the lascivious nod. In short, it has possibilities.

We made quick work of the approach to Navajo Lake and pitched on a small clearing on the northwest side. The basin was surprising desolate for a holiday weekend, with the exception of a few barking dogs and some illiterati who chose to build a bonfire within pissing distance of the lake. Nice.

Gladstone stood silver-screen majestic in the distance and we felt like patrons at a drive-in theater in some dead-end town. Although we had no popcorn or cozy upholstery, we didn't have any baggage or obligations either - just some Jimmy Johns subs, several cans of big red sticky Gordon, and that magical and unquantifiable freedom that allows one to take a crack at a big San Juan peak seemingly on a whim.

We sat and ate and contemplated in silence.

Papillon: I think we can do it in six hours round.
Wooderson: That ridge looks pretty long. I hope you're right.

Eight hours later and we were on our way, headlamps guiding us through the willows and across the seemingly endless talus. We took the spur to Rock of Ages and made the climb to 13,000 and beyond. I felt more comfortable gaining the Wilson Peak-Gladstone ridge via the class 1 and 2 trail versus rolling the dice with any of the half-dozen pinball gullies that empty into upper Navajo Basin. The last thing I wanted to deal with in the early morning hours was a loose rock and scree orgy. One geologic tilt in any of those gullies and it is game over.

Gladstone Peak checks in at 13,913 feet - 87 feet shy of the seduction line. I figured our chances of encountering anyone along the Gladstone ridge were basically zero. No people, no breezy hostess pie wrappers, no forgotten carhart jackets, minimal cairns...

So we sized up the ridge and pondered our futures. Beta on the route was a mixed bag. Stay on the ridge. The ridge is loose. Watch out for the falling refrigerator-sized rocks. It shouldn't take you more than an hour. Don't even breathe on the wobbly baby grand piano talus near the top. Are you sure you want to do this? Best to stick to the Sawatch, kid...

The ridge got cliffy in sections and the terrain pushed us down toward Bilk Basin. The further we dropped, the looser and more obnoxious the rock became. We side-hilled for what seemed like an eternity and finally reached a notch in the ridge where the real climbing commenced.

We had about 400 feet of vertical left. I thought we could make quick work of it. But there were now patches of snow to contend with. Looseness of hand and foot holds became a reality. I found myself zigging and zagging, trying to keep wooderson out of my fall line, trying to identify a landing zone in case I came off, all the while leery of the piano talus somewhere above ready to play chopsticks on my forehead. It was madness.

Conversation fizzled and this was our last exchange until we topped out:

Papillon: This route blows.
Wooderson: Piss and moan.
Papillon: I just want to get up and down in one piece.
Wooderson: Piss and moan.

Views of both Wilsons and Lizard Head were pretty unreal from the summit. I checked the register and noted the usual suspects. One entry asked "How do I get down?" and I was thinking the same thing. But it all worked out in the end.

It took us eight hours tent to tent. I don't know where the time went. We encountered many people on the way back to Navajo Lake. Have you ever noticed the blank idiot stare you get when you are in the heart of 14er country (Navajo, Willow, South Colony) but your objective is some low hanging fruit? No sooner has the name of the peak left your lips and people are going all bovine on you, drool included.

Can't imagine what it's like for the single guys. The frisky devotchkas are waiting with their patriotic pedicures, coppertone shoulders, and do-me smiles. But you didn't penetrate the seduction line. You might as well have a meatball stain on your polypro tee and a piece of oregano between your teeth.

It's a cruel world.

Standard route?

The Last Picture Show

Dolores Peak

Gladstone Peak

Pinball gullies (photo taken 2010-08-14)

The ridge

Hero shot


El Diente and Navajo Basin

She's my little rock n' roll...

I'm worried, yeah I just can't seem to find my way...

Hey sugar, I'll take you to the top...

Mount Wilson

Wilson Peak and the route back to Rock of Ages

The descent

Blank idiot stare

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

That solitary yellow arrow...
02/05/2011 00:22
matches your new avatar. I agree - 6 stars. Sometimes the fewest words tell the whole story when those words are sharp as a surgeon's knife. And the hook - that seduction line - ties everything up nice and neat like surgical sutures. Nicely done.


Creative Writing and Climbing
09/11/2010 05:01
Sweet TR on this sweet climb. You've quite a flair for the pen and the summit. A fine and dandy adventure well worth repeating. Thanks for sharing the fun and joy of it -- and the great pics. Climb on!


Screw the Mosquitos, just stick to the ridge
09/10/2010 18:08
That sidehilling face climb route looks brutal and I'm glad you got it done and came out laughing. Looking forward the Ice group and some ice cold beer with you two this weekend.


Thanks for the comments...
09/10/2010 20:25
Kevin and Matt - looking forward to some sawatch spice this weekend (I think), beers before and after are a given.

Britt - congratulations on your achievement, you are a classy guy. I will look for you on the 13ers.

Darin and Doug - support from experienced climbers means a lot, thanks.

helmut - we could probably scare up some trouble on Evans if we tried, looking forward to RMNP, I hope it is still a go. Little Papi says hi, we should hoist a few the next time you are in town...


Hahahaha ....
11/30/2010 17:28
That last photo is a "keeper" fer sure ... I'm assuming you've got a Gordon in one of your hands that we can't see. 8) . I cannot imagine how unenjoyable that sidehilling must have been for you two. Another notch in the old belt buckle, eh? Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


09/09/2010 22:48
I can't wait to visit that area, nice TR!


A great 24 hours...
09/10/2010 04:06
Presto - thanks for your encouragement, I read that you were one of the ”ridge riders” before I left. And yes, that sandwich I had on grizzly was pepperoni, provolone, and pickle. However, I have been known to shake things up and exchange the pickles for banana peppers.

Jason - I think you will find Navajo to be right up your alley. I've been following your progress for two summers and feel your enthusiam is a breath of fresh air on this site. I also feel you would be a welcome addition to the 13er circuit. If you need any info, don't hesitate to ask.


Working Double Time...
01/19/2011 03:38
...below the seduction line. You two are having a phenomenal year, getting some of the most coveted summits in the state.
I hope you'll be fully back in the ring for another swing at the Apostles traverse this weekend.
RIP, Humpty Hump. I hope you're down, because the Underground will do the sound on the 4x4 portion in Winfield on Sunday, for sure.


You have a gift....
11/30/2010 17:28
I'm mean that is some prose...

”No people, no breezy hostess pie wrappers, no forgotten carhart jackets, minimal cairns...

So we sized up the ridge and pondered our futures. Beta on the route was a mixed bag. Stay on the ridge. The ridge is loose. Watch out for the falling refrigerator-sized rocks. It shouldn't take you more than an hour. Don't even breathe on the wobbly baby grand piano talus near the top. Are you sure you want to do this? Best to stick to the Sawatch, kid... ”

Love it!

Way to get, and way to write up a hard to get to peak!

Doug Shaw

I like your style, Dude.
09/10/2010 09:07


I like your stye too
09/10/2010 15:07
Nice TR.
6 stars for the creative writing style.

I think I'll save Gladstone for a snow climb. ;)


Better stick to the Mosquito kid....
09/10/2010 16:04
You describe those twinky rappers kind of like tumbleweed blowing through a ghost town in a Clint Eastwood western. Atleast thats the first image I could conjure up. Keep em coming Kevin, good stuff, you could probably make Evans sound interesting....from the parking lot to the summit.

If you think those blocks were teetering on Sadstone, goodluck with keeping your psyche in check on Ice. That mountain is a quagmire (but a rewarding one at that).


Thanks, man.
12/13/2010 18:41
I love this report. It's the one to which I always return when I need a little Colorado fix. Thanks for getting out there and writing about it with style for those of us who can't.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.