Peak(s):  "South Wilson" - 14,110 feet
Date Posted:  01/19/2018
Date Climbed:   04/22/2017
Author:  TakeMeToYourSummit
 Sleep is for Suckers: A Successful South Wilson Summit Descent   

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I've had a lengthy amount of time thinking about writing this report... and for that I'd like to thank you all for your patience. Also, before I forget, I'd like to thank Ryan for a few of the photos in this TR, moneymike for always giving me ideas (or encouraging ones I already have), & jmanner for heckling me into writing this (albeit rather late!). It wasn't that I wasn't excited to sit down & write this; it's more that starting with this trip - I was out every week in the backcountry (sometimes 2 or 3 days a week) splitboarding, hiking, & climbing in the lovely mountains of a stellar place called Colorado. This continued until I hit a deer on the way to a TH early one morning in the beginning of November. Then came the need to spend more time with the wife... we even managed to sneak down to Chile for 2 weeks in early December. Even with the slow start to the resort ski season - I found myself procrastinating (I put the "pro" in procrastinate)... but I digress...

A long time ago... errr last spring in a mountain range far, far away (it is the San Juans after all)... wait, wait, wait! Didn't the franchise make an Episode 3.5? Oh right! So in a set of daring adventures we used the Force & forced ourselves up the Wilsons with minimal snow! Wilson Peak was climbed the summer following the retreat from South Wilson. A year later we returned & finished what we'd started... errr had meant to start but hadn't gotten around to yet; Wilson's Rotten Tooth Traverse!
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A fun scramble off Wilson Peak.

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Taking a walk on the wild side - Wilson Traverse summer of 2016.

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A second encounter with Wilson Proper.

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So Ryan... this is that cliff on South Wilson's backside I was talking about...

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This revisit to Wilson & a bit of snow play lower brought it right into the beginning of Episode IV!

And so the story continues... some of the original Shredi were unable to make this mission. I turned to a Shredi apprentice, Ryan, to accompany me on this journey. He'd done a few 13ers with me; including a few backcountry board trips - he'd proven the Shred was strong within him.
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When Elk couloirs are good... they are really good! Sidecountry this awesome should be illegal. Red Devil did not disappoint!

Setting out for South Wilson this go was going to be a push. My usual San Juan Shredi Stronghold was unavailable - thus it became a "daytrip". Some of the gear came together very last minute... as the fates would have it - an axe & crampons would be borrowed from Master Shredi James & used by Ryan. Ryan had to relocate from one employee housing unit to another while the unit was renovated. This led to us finishing his move the same night (Friday) we would set out for South. After that, a market run, and fueling the truck up; we were ready to begin the voyage to the land of Wilson. We arrived at the trailhead around 3AM. Fifteen minutes later we were heading up the mountain as two snowboard zombies... we'd had no sleep since Thursday night.
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Civil twilight on our objective.

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We are just as high as we need to be for sunrise.

Leaving the Cross Mountain Trail relatively close to the designated route up Mount Wilson was fairly easy - we brought a GPS app for this trip. Ryan had brought snowshoes as his form of flotation. The snow was solid enough this morning that those stayed on his back. I even opted just to carry my splitboard; it kept me at the same pace as Ryan & with some of the uneven & often sidehilling terrain - seemed to make the most sense. We did wait too long to get the axe & crampons out... one short steep section near treeline almost had us slipping down a slope, off some small cliffs, & splashing into a semi-frozen Slate Creek - a certain end of our adventure up this mountain.
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Gladstone - always a strong presence up here.

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Traversing under a few cliffs southeast of South Wilson.

We stashed gear just past the last trees along our route under the southeast face. Our goal was to traverse over to the south-southeast face & head up it's mellower angles. We'd considered climbing straight up the southeast face, but it was Ryan's first time using an axe & crampons & the evidence of previous wet slides made us want to minimize our time in the "danger zone".
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His first time using an axe or crampons... he picked it up rather quickly.

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Other high friends across the way.

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Wilson trying to distract us with another frozen waterfall.

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This slope looked highly rippable.

We hit the south ridge around 12,200' & immediately felt the steepness increase. Most the terrain from here to the summit is relatively mild (grain of salt), but with the possibility of rotten snow or rotten rock giving out from under you & sending you careening down the mountain was enough to keep you wary.
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Now on a lower section of the south ridge.

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One bowl to our west.

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Ryan taking the lead for a bit.

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Dinner plates & unreal views!

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The summit pitch comes into view.

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Stoked to be closing in on his highest use of the Shred.

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This angle of point 13,777 makes it look very prominent.

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Making my way up one of the last pushes.

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A very snowy Sneffels & friends.

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Views west toward Dolores & Middle.

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A glimpse of one of the steeper climbs of the Wilson Traverse.

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Almost there!

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This summit meant a lot to me. I also realized it was Ryan's first 14er! I kindly let him have the honors of topping out first.

On the summit I felt happiness like I hadn't felt in quite a while. Making the top on the second attempt was acceptable for a remote peak of this caliber. Yet, in this situation lies a quandary - if I were to "DNS" (did not summit) all my peaks first try, would I in turn always enjoy the redemption even more? The few peaks that have taken that second try have so far confirmed this... I still think I'd rather make them the first go - if possible! Also playing with our emotions was the lack of sleep... we refueled our bodies & prepared for the fun run to come!
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El Diente to...

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...Wilson Traverse.

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This is where my 2015 couloir climb would have topped out... damn, steep!

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I think I can barely see where I called it on that day.

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Such beautiful mountains.

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Hey Wilson Peak joined the party!

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Eastish...

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Southeastish...

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The Hesperus group to the south.

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The rock is red enough up here to make a couple boys from the Elks feel right at home.

The top of the line was rock free & had corned up nicely. Below safe point #1 the upper face & the lower face are separated by a choke. It's not crazy narrow, but it does provide the steepest turns of the run. This is also combined with the exposure from the cliffs you feel on both sides of the choke.
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A look down the inital descent.

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Ryan working down the first section.

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Speeding in to safe point #1.

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Slashes below the "choke".

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Spring corn... very satisfying.

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A look back at the line thus far.

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A solid backcountry partner.

Back at the gear stash - a surprise is waiting for us! It turns out a Rogue Rock escaped the upper reaches of South Wilson. It bent one of Ryan's trekking poles & smashed one of the leather straps on my snowshoes (on loan to Ryan). Sacrifices to the mountain gods - I'd suppose.
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A zoom on a wet slide from a previous day.

Ryan's battery on his phone (our GPS app) had died on the summit. We'll surely find our way back through the Forest of Suckass just fine... it's my third time here & we just came through this morning. Wrong. Admittedly, this wasn't my worst detour through the area. In fact if I had realized that point 12,038 wasn't part of Black Face we might've been on track a bit quicker. The silver lining? The lines we found this time might have been the most fun tree riding I've experienced yet in this area.
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An outstanding view from a break in the trees.

Back at the truck - we cracked beers & got out of the heavy, wet gear. Now to figure out where to crash for a few hours - there was no way to drive home on zero sleep in 36 hours. I should also mention - I rarely get 8 hours sleep. That said - I cannot recommend climbing mountains on no sleep! I knew the Blue Lakes TH road should provide a quiet spot for us to tilt our seats back for some z's. Upon arrival - private property for the next 7 miles! Okay, I'm awake (enough), let's do this! About 5 miles in we hit significant snow... Decision time! We gambled that encountering an angry land owner was a lower chance than me sending the truck off the road trying to continue home. We woke up about 3 hours later, with kinks in our necks. Continue onward was the verdict. We did a good job swapping off driving & keeping one another awake. Thankfully we made it safely back to El Jebel; Ryan's spot. Sleep came easy, the next day was a casual drive the remaining half an hour home. Ryan made for a wonderful partner in this endeavor & I'll pull this paragraph I used on the FB album over here. It captures his true essence: "Ryan, you are truly gifted with the ability to learn things quickly! Not only was this your first year snowboarding; this trip was your first time using crampons & an ice axe or even climbing a 14er (unranked as it is)! Thanks for signing up man!"
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The stoke is alive & well in this one.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
jmanner

Finally...
01/19/2018 13:37
you wrote it! Great read. Thanks for writing it up!


Trotter

wow
01/20/2018 08:13
you really nerded up a trip report brad Looks like fun


TakeMeToYourSummit

RE: Comments
01/24/2018 13:49
John - Thanks & you are welcome! We will have to get up a mountain one of these days.

Brian - You know it! Yeah it was fun! I'm hoping this winter can still recover for similar fun this coming spring (the San Juans look bleak right now!)!



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