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Route #2) Mt. Wilson - Northeast Ridge  


Difficulty:  Class 4 
Exposure: More serious exposure that could result in serious injury or death if you fell. Moving past the area will require some scrambling or short technical moves.
Summit Elev.: 14,246 feet
Trailhead Elev.: 9,350 feet
Elevation Gain: From Rock of Ages TH: 5,300 feet
From Navajo Basin TH: 5,100 feet
From Navajo Lake: 3,200 feet
From 12,300' in Navajo Basin: 2,000 feet
RT Length: From Rock of Ages TH: 11 miles
From Navajo Basin TH: 16 miles
From Navajo Lake: 6.5 miles
From 12,300' in Navajo Basin: 2.25 miles
Trailhead: Navajo Lake
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Author: BillMiddlebrook
Last Updated: 11/2014
 
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County Sheriff: Dolores: 970-677-2257
County Sheriff: San Miguel: 970-728-4442
National Forests:  San Juan, Uncompahgre
Wilderness Area:  Lizard Head
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Trip Reports (118)
Ski/Snowboard Trip Reports (7)
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TH:  

From Telluride, drive south on Colorado 145 to Lizard Head Pass. Continue south for 5.1 miles and turn right onto Forest Road (FR) 535. Drive 4.1 miles on the 2WD dirt road to a large meadow and junction. Stay straight on 535 and pass the Kilpacker road intersection at 5 miles. Drive another 2 miles (7 total from CO 145) to reach the Navajo Lake trailhead entrance on the right. Turn right and continue for 0.1 mile into trailhead parking area.

Route:

From the Rock of Ages trailhead:
Follow the Silver Pick Basin Approach to Rock of Ages saddle. On saddle, Mt. Wilson comes into view to the south - Photo #1 and Photo #2. Leave the saddle and follow the trail south down to the upper end of Navajo Basin.

From the Navajo Basin trailhead:
Follow the Navajo Basin Approach toward the upper east end of Navajo Basin - Photo #3. Near 12,200‘, the end of the basin and the turn-off to Mt. Wilson is finally visible - Photo #4.

Near 12,300‘ and just above the stream, leave the trail and descend to the bottom of the basin to reach the base of a shoulder that stretches up to Mt. Wilson’s northeast ridge - Photo #5, Photo #6 and Photo #7. Cross the stream and begin the hike south up onto the shoulder.

The hiking is relatively easy and there are some trail segments and cairns along the way. Photo #8, and Photo #9 were taken on the lower half of the shoulder. Near 13,400‘, reach a large buttress on the shoulder - Photo #10. If the area is free of snow, you may notice that the rocks on the buttress are covered with green lichen. The easiest way to gain the buttress is to climb directly up its flat face. Reach easier terrain just above 13,500‘ and continue up the shoulder. Near 13,600‘, reach the bottom of a broad area that may hold a snowfield extending up to the northeast ridge. Photo #11 looks back on the route from this area.

The northeast ridge is above but don‘t climb to the ridge just yet. You want to angle right and make an ascending traverse over several rock ribs and possibly some snow fields. Look carefully for small cairns that lead across this rugged slope. If you climb too high, crossing the rock ribs becomes more difficult and will involve Class 3 and 4 moves. It may be very helpful to study the maps and photos before crossing this area. Photo #12 is a view of El Diente Peak during the ascent. Continue crossing the ribs and snow (seasonal) while gaining some elevation along the way - Photo #13 and Photo #14. Photo #15 was taken near 14,000‘. Near 14,100‘, intersect a long gully that runs up to the top of the northeast ridge - Photo #16. Climb the gully (Photo #17) to reach the ridge crest - Photo #18.

The remaining route involves some Class 3 scrambling and a few Class 4 moves on the summit ridge - Photo #19. Continue to up to a notch, turn left and follow the narrow ridge toward the summit - Photo #20. Just prior to the summit, you will finally reach the crux of the climb - a set of rocks which block easy passage to the summit - Photo #21 and Photo #22. Climbing to the left is the easiest way around the difficult section to the right requires an exposed Class 4 move which may be uncomfortable for some climbers. Taken beyond the crux, Photo #23 shows a climber tackling the crux head-on. After passing the crux, scramble a bit more along the summit ridge (Photo #24) to reach the summit - Photo #25 and and Photo #26.

Alternate way to climb the summit block:
From the ridge crest at the top of the gully, turn left and hike down about 20 feet. Turn right before a large, slanted block (Photo #27) and walk up to the base of the summit wall. Study the wall to find a route which angles up to the left and ends near a couple of pointed rocks on the summit ridge - Photo #28 and Photo #29. Climb to the top and turn left to reach the summit. This variation avoids the Class 4 crux on the top of the summit ridge but, overall, involves more difficult climbing.

Notes:   

Route finding above 13,600' takes some time. Be careful not to gain the Northeast Ridge too soon or go past the gully that leads to the notch below the summit block. 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 Lizard Head Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.

 

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