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Route #4) El Diente Peak - South Slopes

Difficulty:  Class 3 
Exposure: Moderate exposure along the immediate route. It should be avoidable with some slow hiking or scrambling.
Summit Elevation: 14,159 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 10,100 feet
Elevation Gain:From Kilpacker TH: 4,300 feet
From 10,800' in Kilpacker Basin: 3,700 feet
Round-trip Length: From Kilpacker TH: 12.25 miles
From 10,800' in Kilpacker Basin: 4.25 miles
Trailhead: Kilpacker basin
USGS Quad.: Dolores Peak
County Sheriff: Dolores: 970-677-2257
County Sheriff: San Miguel: 970-728-4442
National Forest:  San Juan
Wilderness Area:  Lizard Head
Author: BillMiddlebrook
Last Updated: 11/2014
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 5 miles on the 2WD dirt road to reach the signed, Kilpacker trailhead entrance. Turn right and continue 0.1 mile to reach the parking area and trailhead.

Route: Follow the Kilpacker Approach to reach 10,800’ where you have a great view of the waterfall. Follow the trail as it zigzags up through talus towards a small grove of spruce trees - Photo #1. Reach the trees near 11,000’ (Photo #2) and pass below before climbing steeply through willows to reach the talus fields below El Diente’s west ridge - Photo #3 and Photo #4. Near 12,200’, hike over a couple of small bumps - Photo #5. Then traverse another large talus field (Photo #6) and turn a corner to reach 12,600’, before the east end of the basin - Photo #7 and Photo #8. Stop here and search for cairns that lead off to the left.

Taken near 12,600’ and near the center of the basin, Photo #9 may be one of the most helpful photos in this description. It shows most of the route up the south slopes. In short, you must zig zag up the slopes to reach some cliffs, traverse left and then climb (Class 3) to reach terrain just under the "Organ Pipes" along the El Diente-Mt. Wilson connecting ridge. Locate the turn and follow loose trail segments up past rock outcroppings (Photo #10) before turning left above 13,000’ to reach a large rock on the right - Photo #11. Pass the left side of the rock to reach a gray talus field near 13,200’ - Photo #12. Turn left and continue towards the cliffs above - Photo #13. Before reaching the cliffs (they have large, black water marks on them), turn left and continue west on the talus - Photo #14.

As you traverse below the cliffs, aim for the bottom of a rib of red rock up to the west, near 13,500’ - Photo #15 and Photo #16. Taken from the basin below, Photo #17 is another view of the area. Next, you’ll need to ascend through some confusing terrain to reach the base of the "Organ Pipes" - Photo #18. After the red rock rib, immediately ascend some gray talus for a bit and then traverse left below more red rock outcroppings to reach a gully containing gray rock. This is a confusing area and it’s very helpful to find the gray gully because it climbs directly to the "Organ Pipes" - Photo #18 and Photo #19. Once you locate the gully (13,700’, Photo #20), climb good rock to reach the "Organ Pipes" and the point where you join the North Slopes route out of Navajo Basin.

Turn left (Photo #21) and scramble across mostly-solid rock as you pass directly under the "Organ Pipes." If you take the easiest way across, you will likely encounter a set of parallel rocks that almost form a chimney - Photo #22. Climb through this area and continue toward the base of a small gully that leads back to the ridge - Photo #23. Enter the gully and climb toward the ridge crest - Photo #24. The gully contains some loose rock and dirt, but it’s not too steep - Photo #25. Reach the top of the gully at a small notch on the ridge.

Cross to the north side of the ridge and turn left to see the next section of the route - Photo #26. Climb onto some rocks and soon the route becomes more obvious. Your next task is to traverse along the side of the ridge to reach the small notch seen in - Photo #27. Drop a bit, scramble over to easier terrain and climb into the notch (Photo #28 and Photo #29) where you can finally see the end of the route - Photo #30. Drop a few feet into a dirt gully and scramble up to the summit - Photo #31.

Notes:     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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Route Photos: (Did you know?)
Photo #1 Photo #2 Photo #3 Photo #4 Photo #5 Photo #6 Photo #7 Photo #8 Photo #9 Photo #10 Photo #11 Photo #12 Photo #13 Photo #14 Photo #15 Photo #16 Photo #17 Photo #18 Photo #19 Photo #20 Photo #21 Photo #22 Photo #23 Photo #24 Photo #25 Photo #26 Photo #27 Photo #28 Photo #29 Photo #30 Photo #31

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