Mount Wilson

snow East Face
Difficulty Class 3 
Snow Steepness: Moderate 
Ski/Board: Advanced, D9 / R3 / IV  
Risk FactorsExposure: High
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: High  
Commitment: High  
Start10,040 feet
Summit14,256 feet
Total Gain4,900 feet
RT Length12.00 miles
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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This route should only be climbed with consolidated snow, in spring or early summer. Climbing this route in mid-winter could put you in deadly avalanche conditions.


From Telluride, follow Colorado 145 to Lizard Head Pass. Continue 2 miles SW to the trailhead on the north side of the road.


From the popular Cross Mountain trailhead, follow the Cross Mountain trail through an open area and into the forest - 2 and 3. Continue northwest ( 4 and 5) for approximately 1.75 miles to reach 11,100'. Turn left, leave the trail, and begin working your way west through the forest. Your goal is to reach Slate Creek without losing too much elevation. Instead of dropping directly to the creek, continue northwest, contouring through the forest but staying above 11,000' for over a mile. Along the way you will have to make a few small creek crossings, which may or may not be snow-covered - 6. After the final creek crossing, near 10,900', exit the thick forest and continue northwest where the trees finally start to clear. Near 11,000', you'll get your first view of 13er Gladstone Peak and the east side of Mt. Wilson - 7. Leave the trees to intersect upper Slate Creek - 8.

Turn north and follow the obvious drainage up an easy headwall to reach 12,000' and a spectacular view of Gladstone Peak - 9. Continue north toward Gladstone, picking your line based on snow coverage and loading on the sides of the basin - 10, 11 and 12. If you're goal is to climb Boxcar Couloir, the entry is off to the left, near 12,400' - 13. If not, continue north-northwest toward Gladstone ( 14) until you reach 12,900' where you can finally see Mt. Wilson's east face, to the west - 15.

Pick your line and continue west-southwest toward the east face - 16 and 17. As you approach the difficulties of the east face, locate the summit and a small couloir which leads up to Wilson's south ridge - 18. This "south couloir" is the key to gaining the ridge, just below the summit. It also avoids the exposed, Class 4 terrain on the standard, north side of the summit block. Climb steepening snow to reach the defined couloir, near 13,800' - 20. The angle of the couloir exceeds 40 degrees but does not exceed 45 degrees. Climb approx. 350' ( 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25) to reach a col on Wilson's south ridge - 26.

From the col, you can see some of the final summit pitch - 27. Drop 10' into a gully on the west side, turn right at a large rock and climb the final, 150-foot pitch - 28 and 29. This is the crux of the route and holds some loose rock but the difficulty does not exceed Class 3. Summit views - 30, 31 and 32.


Mt. Wilson is rarely skiable from the actual summit. To ski this route, return to the col and ski the couloir and upper east face - 33, 34, 35.
Options below 13,700' - 36
Option 1: Continue down the basin and out via your ascent route - 37, 38
Option 2: Traverse right and ski Boxcar Couloir - 39, 40, 41, 42


Without snow above 11,200', it would be a loose mess. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Lizard Head Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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Caution: The information contained in this route description 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 route description 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 route description 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.

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