Saturday 6/23 – Wilson Peak & Gladstone
Sunday 6/24 – El Diente North Buttress, traverse to Mt. Wilson
Monday 6/25 – Hesperus Mtn
Time to take on the furthest 14ers from our homes: The Wilsons.
My buddies Chris (ChrisinAZ) and Aaron (spong0949) were game for a little Juan-in-San-ity, so we drove out Friday, with a quick stop in Telluride for our last warm food for a few days. Little did we know there was the Bluegrass Festival in full hippie. Weird, I thought. Didn’t we just LEAVE the Boulder area?
We camped amongst all the mosquitoes at a site near the Rock of Ages TH, enjoying watching them consider entering the force field of bug spray around our entire bodies.
2:40am came quick; Wakie wakie, let’s Rock!
4:00am - On the Rock of Ages trail, all locked & loaded with the big packs. I must say, both Chris and Aaron make me feel like a yuppie with all my nice, comfy gear. They do this stuff with what I consider basic junky gear. Beasts. Maybe I should stop opening every REI & Patagonia magazine I get in the mail. ;)
Along the hike in, there were about 7 or 8 snow fields to cross; some short, some steep, some sketchy, some sweet.
Chris crossing some snow
It was pretty windy, blowing Aaron around with his “sail” of a backpack. The trail was less distinct in some areas closer to the RoA saddle, and unable to spot the trail, we went up a hill straight on. I recommend looking around for the actual TRAIL to avoid being like this idiot:
Me going up a slippery slope
8:15am – Rock of Ages saddle. Oh yeah. These views are worth the hike in!
Classic view of Daddy Wilson and The Loose Tooth
We dropped our big packs, then loaded all food/aromatic items into our day packs (to avoid any trouble from Bucky-Toothed marmots) and headed off for Wilson Junior.
On our way up Wilson Jr., I was sure to peek South at my next objective for later on:
Climbing Wilson Jr. got more and more exciting. Go around the first hump to the Jr.-Glad saddle, ascending traverse to the ridge, then scramble to the top.
Aaron (left), a couple other climbers, and Chris (just left of center) gaining the ridge
Chris & Aaron enjoying some class 3 Wilsons warm-up
10:25am - Wilson Peak summit! “Okay, get out your Which Wich bags.” (I wonder if anyone has taken a picture with a Which Wich bag on all 58 of the 14er summits yet…?)
We enjoyed the perfect weather atop a fine San Juan summit, then headed back to the Jr.-Glad saddle at 11:55. Here, Chris and I planned to tackle Gladiator while Aaron returned to the Rock of Ages saddle to retrieve his big pack and set up camp in Navajo Basin.
Chris and I were off at 12:00.
Chris sidehilling on the ridge
The rock toward Gladstone got sketchy quick. Test your holds, and test your footing. These Papa Rocks WANT to come down on you.
12:45pm - After 45 minutes of torture trying to side-hill, Chris reported that he’d rather pass on this one. I still had some hope left in me, so Chris agreed to watch me for a bit while I continued on the ridge. I decided to stick to the ridge from here on out, which was a good idea. I think the Lizard agreed.
The infamous Lizard Head
Along the Gladiator ridge
A lot of the time I noticed the ridge would require exposed scrambling. Having heard of a climber fatally breaking loose some of the mountain on the West side, I stayed away from that side whenever possible. This was definitely a fun ridge that demands your full attention.
Narrow ridge climbin’
About 2:45pm – Ahh, the summit. This one felt good, so I let out a blood-curdling “WAAAAHOOOOOO!” A couple climbers on Mt. Wilson returned the victory shout.
You aren’t dead… thumbs up!!
The Lizard’s face lights up. For some reason, I feel like switching to Geico.
After signing the register and taking a couple pics, I wanted to get back to my friends, both now in Navajo Basin. I had to return to my pack at the RoA saddle, and I didn’t feel comfortable trying to descend one of the sketchy gullies. So, time to retrace my steps on the ridge!
I ran out of water about halfway back along the ridge, and I felt dehydrated fairly quickly. But, I was somehow able to muster up the focus to be safe all the way back. Thank you, God!
5:30pm – The moment I had been looking forward to: back to the Rock of Ages saddle, and safe terrain. But, a slight damper that I hadn’t expected: I caught Bucky the marmot with his pants down, chewing up my new big pack! “HEY!!” was all I thought to shout, and he ran off. But the damage remained.
Bucky. Photo: Chris
I wonder if Geico sells Marmot insurance?
After groaning about that for a minute, I was still able to wear my pack without it busting, so I headed down to where Aaron and Chris were camped, and arrived at 6:30pm.
The next day’s agenda: The El Diente – Mt. Wilson traverse. Aaron didn’t feel comfortable going for this yet, so he hung out at camp and slept in, being bored I’m sure, while Chris and I went for it.
4:00am – Chris and I woke up, noted that we slept fairly well, then headed off toward El Diente’s North Buttress at 5:00am. As the sun peeked out, I enjoyed the silhouette of the previous day’s ridge adventure.
Wilson Peak to Gladstone ridge
This was a very exciting route, with some exposed climbing on loose rock. Definitely not an easy 14er… in fact, Chris and I wondered why it’s rated so “easy” by most people on the difficulty rating chart. Chris compared the "sketchiness factor" to be close to Capitol's.
Chris scrambling on an exposed ridge along the North Buttress
Up. One move at a time.
We chose to give KeithK’s “alternate” route a shot at the top: To head right onto the gray rocks instead of go up the chimney, as we were concerned if there was snow in that area. The gray rocks were slabby and sometimes hard to find a good hold, but hey; it’s El Diente!
Chris approaching the summit
9:15am – The cap of the Loose Tooth! Boy it felt good to be up here.
As we snacked and enjoyed the summit by ourselves, we made good conversation with all the flies on the summit. I didn’t know this, but they are peakbaggers too!
Flies on the Tooth
10:00am – We departed for Daddy Wilson. Only one snowy spot to deal with, wasn’t bad at all.
Chris coming off El Diente
The first 2/3 of the traverse was unbelievably easy. We were walking and chatting most of the way. A few sections of easy scrambling kept it fun.
Chris scrambling on the South side of the ridge
11:20am - We came to the crux of the route: The Wall.
On the left: our route up The Wall.
We followed the obvious line up The Wall and enjoyed the slabs and loose rock of these peaks.
Looking up at The Wall
Chris in action
When we came to the chimney, Chris found a great way onto the ridge by veering left when in the chimney.
Chris negotiating the chimney area like Spider-Man
Once up The Wall, some exposed ridge remained. We felt pretty used to this so far this trip, so it was 2nd nature. It’s like Jim Gaffigan’s description of going up an escalator: “Suh-WEET! All I gotta do is keep my balance!”
We climbed the short, loose gully to connect with the standard route on Daddy Wilson, made quick work of some ridge climbing, and came to The Mt. Wilson Block. “It’s SO exposed!” “You’re like, hugging this giant rock over 2,000 feet of drop!” “Last time I was here, I had to turn back at this part.” All these other people’s experiences with The Block rang in my head as I went around the right side to meet face to face with “the hard way” up this thing. I scoped it out, grabbed a hold of it, put my foot in the crack on a step, and was up. Umm, what?! Cake, dude.
Chris and I topped out at 1:00pm, a solid 3 hours of traversing. Compared to what we’d heard, this was slow, but we went at our own safe pace. Better safe than… dead!
We could hear thunder in the distance to the West and North, so we snapped our Which Wich pics, some scenic views, and trucked on down.
Descending was pretty basic. We crossed two snow gullies with care, but other than that, just the loose crap you’d expect on these peaks. It got easier and easier as we got lower, and the thunderstorms never came over us. Flippin’ sweet! And as we were about halfway down Daddy Wilson, we made sure to peek up at the first accomplishment of the day: El Diente’s North Buttress route.
The Loose Tooth’s North Buttress route is outlined as the right edge of El Diente here
Even though we were both out of water by now (I still hadn’t learned to bring enough, haha), we made it just fine back to camp at 3:30 and filtered some fresh, cold water from the river. Sooo replenishing!
5:00pm – Aaron, Chris and I were packed up and headed up to the Rock of Ages saddle, glanced around at our weekend’s work, and we headed back to the car by 10:00pm.
Chris and Aaron were kind enough to take turns driving around to the Hesperus trailhead. We arrived there at 2:00am, after a bear spotting.
7:00am – we woke up refreshed, and were on the trail by 8:05am.
Thanks to Chris’ bushwhacking navigation skills, we made it through the forest and started up Hesperus’ class 2+ loose scree slopes. It sucked on the way up, but Aaron and I looked forward to descending this stuff.
11:30am – Summit of one of the Four Sacred Peaks of the Navajo! Two Navajo areas this trip, nice. We enjoyed our Little Debbie Boston Cream Rolls, and talked to the flies on this summit as well. I didn’t know this, but they are 13er baggers too!
We headed down at 11:55am, our feet very excited for our last descent of the trip. Chris didn’t want to descend the loose scree so he went a longer way around, but Aaron and I thought it would be fun. Aaron descending Hesperus’ loose black sandy scree gully:
Yes, that was like the BEST WAY EVER to descend a peak!!!
2:30pm – CAR. “How about some Mexican food in Durango, guys?” “YES.”
Midnight – back in Longmont, and after a quick shower, bed time, baby. Personally, I dreamt of a new dinner dish: Backpack-chewin’ Marmot Stew. Would anyone else like some?
Aaron, Brad, and Chris
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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