Wanting to leverage some travel, I decided to attempt 5 of Colorado 14ers across several days in mid July 2009: San Luis, Sneffels, El Diente traverse to Mt. Wilson and finally Wilson Peak. I got all but the traverse climbs and felt good about it.
Click on any picture to enlarge it.
I met one of my regular 14er partners, Robert, at the Navajo Lake trailhead south of Telluride on a late Friday afternoon. I had climbed Sneffels earlier that day and made the drive over from Ouray that same day. We hoisted our 50lb packs loaded with gear for many scenarios and began the beautiful hike 4.5 mile to Navajo Lake
The trail to Navajo Basin is quite remote and meanders through beautiful wildflower meadows and through tall, dark pine forest all while gaining 2,000 feet at a more or less gentle angle - well until the 900' climb from a river basin!
Navajo Lake is another one those large alpine lakes tucked underneath towering walls of scree and inspiring Rocky Mountain high peaks. I am not a fisherman but if I were, or a fish, this is the place to be. We found a flat spot to pitch our tents and turned in for an early night. I was fully pooped after the early morning climb of Sneffels, the three hour drive and now the hike to the lake.
Morning came early as I was enjoying my sleeping bag but I knew we had a long day ahead if we were gong for the traverse. Robert and I left the site and soon found ourselves looking up at El Diente Peak and the traverse over to Mount Wilson. The first leg was a few hundred feet up loose scree then onto a 45 degree couloir of snow. It was clearly a 12 hour day.
We then looked in the direction of Wilson Peak, a class 3 climb that was still several miles away, perhaps a total climbing day of 8 hours. The issue was we both had to make an 8+ hour drive back on Sunday for appointments on Monday. So with all this, we abandoned our plan for the traverse and took off for Wilson Peak.
I was still somewhat pooped thus moved slow but steadily. Eventually we found ourselves on the saddle between WIlson Peak and the looming 13er, Gladstone Peak. The rest of the climb from the 13,200' saddle was across a sloping rock ridge that connected to a false summit then the true summit.
As we began the ridge climb, we both took pause for different reasons. Robert felt the exposure and I was just tired. We paused and talked it through for a few minutes and returned to the saddle to regroup. Soon other parties arrived dressed from full climbing clothes with ropes and pro to female climbers in tank tops, loose shorts and running shoes - I preferred the latter :) at least as an observer. However, one thing became clear, we needed to get this done.
So with our mojo back we returned to the climb. It took much less time than we had imagined and after about an hour we were at the false summit.
Wilson Peak is what a mountain should look like - it is tall, stand alone, a bit complicated up top and pointy. This was climbing a 14er!
The route up to the false was an easy 20-foot climb on loose rock. We had seen other people standing on it and not moving so we knew something had to discourage climbers from moving on to the true summit. Once on top, it became clear. First you must downclimb 50' through some low class 3 tumbled rock, complete with minor exposure, to the base of the true summit. Then regain that altitude and more through climbing strong class 3+ rock to the summit complete with some significant exposure.
We did just that and soon were enjoying the rewards of our mojo and commitment to not stopping. The views were great but the feeling of satisfaction were better. I know this is not a tough climb or the toughest climb I have ever done but I liked the fact that I kept going. Yes, I was proud of myself.
Wilson Peak is simply fun. It reminds me of the nearby Wetterhorn with a long approach that gains a sweeping ridge then ends with a interesting rock climb to a flat summit. Highly recommended for everyone - even in your running shoes!