"...all that is carried along
by the stream's silvery cascade,
rhythmically falling from the mountain,
carried by its own current--
Pope John Paul II
Wilson Peak , Mt Wilson and El Diente in 3 days.
5 guys, 4 days, 3 peaks, 2 camp sites, 1 memorable experience.
Back in April of this year an old high school friend of mine sent me an e-mail asking if I wanted to hike some 14ers with him and his friends. Frankly, I've been focusing on my road bike a lot lately and was planning to do the Copper Triangle that weekend and thought that the trip was not going to work out. As it turned out the Copper Triangle plans kinda faded so I e-mailed my old friend and said “I'm in! “
His plans were ambitious Wilson Peak, Mt Wilson and El Diente in 3 days! Whoa - not sure I'm up for that but – I'm game.
We started at the Navajo Basin Trail head at mid afternoon on Wednesday after a long drive from Denver.
5 guys set out for Navajo Basin, roughly 3 ˝ miles away and over 2000 ft of elevation gain with heavy packs.
L- R John, Rick, Marty, Jim, Ralph
After a long hike with a tough pace set by John we reached the basin and set camp.
Picturesque place to camp
Then the fog rolled in
Scene from "The Fog"
The next morning we set out for our first objective – Wilson peak!
First light on the way up to Wilson Peak - 13er behind us
The trail is very easy to follow up to the saddle then our little episode began. Between the 5 of us we probably had over 100 14er summits and Ralph has done them all. But just as Gerry Roach says in the 5th Classic Commandment of Mountaineering “ Expect to go the wrong way some of the time.”
Debate - discussion - Votes - decisions.
We went from the saddle – east to the small saddle between Gladstone and Wilson Peak, then back. Then back to the small saddle again, turned around and were discussing, voting and debating which way to go. When we saw some climbers who were descending and they showed us the right route. Probably lost over an hour. But – We ulitmately went the right way.
Alright already - We're going this way
After some tough class 3 climbing on the south side of the ridge they up to the peak – boom we're there. Goal #1 achieved!
Round the bend after the second saddle then up!
Wilson Peak Summit Pic
Originally, we had hoped to do both Wilson's the first day. But the combination of the delay at the saddle and then rain, hail and a couple of claps of thunder. We did the right thing and headed back to camp.
Spent a nice evening after dinner at the lake.
Panorama of the lake at Navajo Basin
4 guys hanging out 1 behind the camera
Day 3 – Mt Wilson and the Class 4 move at the top.
Early morning start around 5am. John hiked out to meet up with his wife. So we're down to 4 hikers.
The day before Ralph and John spent some time going part way up to Mt Wilson while Rick, Jim and I went back to camp. Good thing because they scouted the early part of the route and it gave us confidence to hike quickly up the mountain. Mt Wilson is not that difficult early on. The trail is fairly well marked and the hiking is a Class 2+ but the last 100 ft is a different story.
Let's go to Mt Wilson
If the crux were in a rock gym or in a quarry with 5 to 10 ft of fall below you, 99.9 % of climbers would zoom straight up the crux without a thought. But at 14,000 feet with hundreds of feet of air between your butt and mother earth. Its a whole different story. Just GO! The summit of Mt. Wilson is by far the smallest piece of real estate I've been on yet at a summit. Not a lot of room.
View of the ridge from Mt. Wilson to Wilson Peak
Wilson Peak Summit Pic
I had packed an alpine rope, webbing, biners and a belay device and was prepared to lower the group from the summit past the crux, but just by chance we ran into another climber at the top and he lowered us all past the crux. No pride here. I roped in and down climbed and glad to have the extra safety. Thanks
guy who lowered us
We hiked down to camp. Packed up our stuff then hiked that afternoon to Killpacker basin. In Gerry Roach's own words “ an enchanted place.” And he's right.
Truly an enchanted place
Little later start – we're hiking by 6am. But it's a long hike. We camped about 300 meters from the intersection of the Killpacker trail to the basin and the spur that leads to Navajo basin trail. El Diente or Bust!
El Diente looms
Going up past several waterfalls and fields of wildflowers before the treeline is an easy hike. But the last 150 meters to treeline is straight UP! As some hikers we'd passed earlier in the trip said “ very UPPITY”
Image #17 (not yet uploaded)
After treeline you have to contour along some long stretches of screefield – like walking on dinner plates. We made the upper Killpacker basin and took a breather.
Upper Killpacker basin
Then we pressed for the summit. Somehow Ralph and I got off the standard trail and ended up one of the gullies where there was some very steep loose gravel and rocks. Not the best decesion and I was damn glad when we got out of there. Ralph and I made the summit about 40 minutes ahead of Jim and Rick but the wait at the summit was awsome. The weather was warm and no wind to speak of.
El Diente Summit Pic
The descent was very careful. At one point we had to cross the top of the gully that Ralph and I had mistakenly found ourselves on and there was a party of 5 or so climbers on their way up. We had to be uber careful not to kick rocks and we communicated very well with them to keep everyone safe.
Lots of slipping and sliding on the descent thrue the scree and on the trail just below the treeline Seriously steep stuff.
We took lots of pictures in the wildflower fields on the way down.
Then once back at camp everyone rushed to take off their boots and put their feet in the stream next to camp. What a relief!
Nice little pic to cap the day
maybe the best flower pic of them all
Well then – it's now ~2:30 in the afternoon. We break camp. Hike to the truck, drive to Telluride for baby back ribs and prime rib special then head back to Denver.
We reached Denver at about 2am on Sunday morning
What a day.
So, 1 memorable long weekend, 2 camp sites, 3 14ers. 4 days of backpacking, and 5 guys. One old friendship re-kindled and 3 new friendships established.
Pretty good week if you ask me.