The Wilsons!

Where To Go Women's Corner For Beginners Training/Fitness About Us  
The Gear Guide Fun Products Alpinistic Tales Links/Webcams Contact Us 14erFun Home  

Many of those who read this are aware of the Silver Pick Basin access issues. There is a very wide range of opinions regarding controlled access and private land ownership in and near wilderness areas. Indeed in Colorado we are a bit spoiled. In most other areas of the world and even many in the U.S. people have to pay to climb mountains whereas here, we consider it our right to do it for free.

Rusty Nichol this…I’ll NEVER pay that…summit photo flipping the bird here…quit whining and just pay there….blah…blah…blah…yada…yada…yada..................

WE WANTED TO CLIMB THE WILSONS!!


WikiMapia Satellite Image of the Telluride/Wilson Massif area

On Monday/Tuesday (July 10th, 11th), I noticed a massive high pressure system building that would block the monsoons from getting any further north than central New Mexico. We decided that this would provide a rare window of opportunity to climb all day in southern Colorado without any threat of dangerous storms. We packed up and headed toward Telluride to go after the summits of Mt. Wilson and Wilson Peak in the San Miguel Mountains (a sub-range of the San Juans).

On the way there, we took this shot of Mt. Sneffels (14,150 feet) late in the day which confirms the weather patterns we were hoping for...

After car camping at about 10,400 feet among hoards of mosquitoes and flies we awoke at 5:00 am and hit the trail by 6:00 on Friday, July 14th. A 6:00 am start would normally be a bit late for an endeavor of this magnitude but we decided that with the weather the way it was, we could climb for 14 hours safely, if need be. 4.5 miles brought us to the top of Rock of Ages Saddle where we got our first view of the infamous Mt. Wilson / El Diente Peak connecting ridge...

Our first objective of the day was Mt. Wilson, the peak on the left of the above photo. We had to lose about 600 feet of elevation into Navajo Basin and then follow the route indicated by the blue line in the photo below. The red line marks the variation that we used for the descent...

After hiking and scrambling up the shoulder to about 13,200 feet we reached the beginning of the major snowfield on the face. The snow conditions seemed quite firm so we opted to climb on snow instead of on loose rock. The snowfield steepened to about 50 degrees by the top and consisted of a layer of firmly frozen snow covering up patches of genuine alpine ice. The front points of the crampons were all that we could kick in and we could only get about 2 inches of the shafts of our ice axes in so there wasn't really any belay. As the face steepened we actually opted to bury the picks of our axes into the ice and use them as handholds...more of an ice climbing technique. We were serenaded by almost constant rock fall off of El Diente and the connecting ridge. This was an expedient, yet quite exhilarating 800 foot snow climb. Here's a shot looking back down the snow/ice field...

From the top of the snow and ice we packed away our ice axes and crampons and scrambled 100 feet or so to a daunting notch at 14,000 feet. From the notch, 3 burly, class 4 moves with serious exposure over the last 100 feet took us to the roof of the San Miguels, the second highest peak in all of the San Juans, the summit of Mt. Wilson (14,246 feet).

Having the summit to ourselves, the nature of the climb and the effort involved all combined to make this a very special mountain for us. One of the guidebooks calls Mt. Wilson a reclusive test piece for true mountaineers. Here's Debby, looking west toward the Utah desert and enjoying a supreme sense of accomplishment...

From the top we commanded a view of Gladstone Peak (13,913 feet)...

Lizard Head Peak (13,113 feet) ...

and across the connecting ridge to El Diente Peak (14,159 feet)...

Our next objective of the day would be Wilson Peak with upper portion of the route shown in red...

But first we had to descend 1800 feet back to Navajo Basin and then hike up 600 feet back to Rock of Ages Saddle. As mentioned above we chose a different line for the descent off of Mt. Wilson. We made this choice because of the icy conditions on the snowfield. Instead, never setting foot on snow or ice, we cautiously made our way down sharp, heinous volcanic scree...

Although loaded with loose rock and thus quite nerve wracking, the descent route was probably never quite class 3. After cooling off in the stream in upper Navajo Basin, we hiked back up to Rock of Ages Saddle (13,000 feet). After a short discussion, we decided we had left in us an attempt (at least) at Wilson Peak. We stashed our ice axes, crampons, climbing rope, harnesses and slings under some rocks and started up. The upper route offered a lot of traversing steep, loose slopes and therefore was pretty unpleasant for weary climbers. The final pitches were even steeper (no harder than class 3), but finally on the ridge crest and thus on more solid rock. Wilson Peak's summit was far less meaningful for us as there were about 10 other people up there and our exhaustion was beginning to outweigh our enthusiasm.

On the descent...

We ran across The King on his throne...

The clear skies finally did give way to some clouds late in the afternoon. Here is the last view looking up at Wilson Peak...

Arriving back at the trailhead at 6:00pm, the numbers added up as follows:

12 hours
13 miles
6300 feet of elevation gain
class 4 rock
50 degree snow/ice
2 of the most challenging of Colorado's 14,000 foot summits.

This was one of our biggest days ever.

The next day, we enjoyed a very leisurely morning in Telluride and storms were building over the high peaks by mid-day. We were so happy that mother nature gave us the window of opportunity that she did.

©2007 14erFun.com. All Rights Reserved.       Disclaimer